Come on, Illeana, you didn't fall for James Costa. Someone as beautiful and powerful as you doesn't fall for a faggy art dealer. Okay?
~ James Costa/Martin Asher to Illeana Scott

James Costa, whose real name is Martin Asher, is the main antagonist in the 2004 film Taking Lives.

He is portrayed by Ethan Hawke.


Costa is first seen as a teenager under his real name, Martin Asher, where he meets another teenager named Matt Soulsby on a bus. When the bus breaks down, the pair decides to hire a car instead, but during the drive a tire blows. Matt attempts to change it while Martin comments on how they are both of a similar height, moments before pushing Matt into the path of an oncoming truck. He then leaves with Matt's guitar, singing in a similar voice to him while walking away.

Over the next twenty years, Asher begins murdering countless victims across North America and assuming their identities. Meanwhile, he is being investigated by an FBI profiler named Illeana Scott and a police team she has been assigned to work with. Asher, now posing as an art dealer named James Costa, is recognised by his mother while travelling on a ferry to Quebec City. Despite believing her son had died nineteen years ago, she informs a city official that she's convinced the man she saw was Asher and that he's highly dangerous.

Scott meets with Costa after he claims to be an eyewitness who saw Asher murder his last victim. Costa draws a picture of Asher, allowing the police team to track down the killer's apartment within the next couple of days. Once there, they are led to believe that Costa is Asher's next target and therefore make it a top priority to protect him. At the same time, Scott and Costa start developing feelings for each other as they begin spending more time together, although Scott intentionally keeps her distance while she's still on the case.

Costa becomes involved with a drug dealer and art thief named Christopher Hart, to whom Costa owes $80,000. Hart confronts Costa in his home and threatens him over the money, but Costa shoots and kills him. When a police officer hears the commotion and comes to investigate, Costa pretends to fight with Hart's body (who is believed to be Asher). Costa then shoots the officer and flees in a car with Hart, closely followed by Scott who believes Asher has kidnapped Costa. Following the chase, Costa crashes his car and Hart is believed to have died in the collision. With Asher now believed to be dead, the case is closed and Costa succeeds in seducing Scott in her home. After making love, Scott is called down to the morgue where Asher's mother has come to identify Hart's body. When she realises that it's not her son, it becomes clear to them that Asher is still at large. Asher's panicked mother flees from the morgue and is pursued by Scott, but fails to reach her before she enters a lift. Inside the lift, she comes face to face with Costa, who brutally kills her with a knife. Scott finds the blood-soaked Costa and deduces that he is the real Asher, though he manages to escape before the police can catch him. Asher catches a train headed east of Montreal and phones a distraught Scott to taunt her, not long before she is fired from the FBI after admitting to having consensual intercourse with Asher.

Seven months later, Asher tracks Scott to her new farmhouse in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and breaks into her home. Scott, now seemingly pregnant with Asher's twin boys, attempts to escape from him but Asher subdues her, revealing that he has stolen all of the firearms she had kept hidden within her house. Asher tries to convince Scott to live with him so they can start a family, but Scott stubbornly refuses and is beaten by Asher in the process. After a brief struggle, Scott grabs a pair of scissors and attacks Asher, but he uses them to stab Scott in the stomach. However, Scott is apparently unharmed by this and immediately plunges the scissors into Asher's heart. Bewildered, Asher witnesses Scott remove a prosthetic pregnant belly while explaining that the past seven months have been a carefully planned trap. Moments later, Asher finally perishes, putting an end to Scott's case once and for all.