‘Gone Girl’ author ‘poured a lot of pain’ into HBO’s ‘Sharp Objects’ with Amy Adams

July 5, 2018 GMT

Amy Adams may have five Oscar nominations, but it’s still startling to watch the former Chanhassen Dinner Theatre actress and bubbly princess from “Enchanted” commit so deeply to her dark side in HBO’s “Sharp Objects.”

Adams plays Camille Preaker, a newspaper reporter forced to revisit her traumatic childhood when she returns to her hometown to investigate a string of killings.

Premiering Sunday, the miniseries is based on a novel by Gillian Flynn, who knows a few things about defying expectations. Her book “Gone Girl” became a movie sensation in 2014, galvanizing women hungry for a conniving antihero to call their own, while sending a shiver up the spines of callous men in the same way “Fatal Attraction” did three decades ago.

Flynn, 47, a Kansas City native and former TV critic for Entertainment Weekly, chatted last month by phone about finally seeing her debut novel come to the screen, with a former Minnesotan bringing her character to life.


Q: All three of your novels take place in the Midwest, as does your screenplay for the upcoming movie “Widows” with Viola Davis. Is that because it’s a region you know or is the setting integral to the stories?

A: Probably more of the latter. It’s an underused region for storytelling and it’s kind of entertaining to play against type. People think of Midwesterners as kind of cute, ignoring the undercurrent of violence that has taken place there.

Q: Your Midwesterners are also deeply disturbed. Where does that come from? Is everything all right?

A: I’m OK. Thanks for asking. It comes from my imagination. Every person has demons. Women spend a lot of time bottling up rage, especially women of my generation.

We’re still not there yet. People still haven’t gotten comfortable with the #MeToo movement. It’s like, “You can have your march, but enough already.” I’ve spent a lot of time swallowing my anger. Camille is a particularly extreme case of that, going back to face what happened to her and her family. Every person has a mystery if you go back far enough.

Q: Did “Sharp Objects” finally get the green light because of the times we are living in, or because of the success of “Gone Girl”?

A: It was probably a little bit of both. “Gone Girl” showed everyone that dark, unlikable, problematic women can make people a lot of money and everyone likes that. I’m not sure Hollywood was ready before that. Books always get there more quickly than film and TV do.

When “Sharp” came out in 2006, I got an agent and hoped for a bidding war. Instead, it got crickets. It was by no means a big seller. After the success of “Gone Girl,” I resisted selling “Sharp” for a while. I didn’t want it to become Camille just reacting to boos and scares.

Q: When you’re writing a novel, do you have images of people you know, or even actresses, in your head?


A: Camille’s story is not autobiographical, but I poured a lot of my pain in there. But I certainly was not picturing my face and I never think about a particular actress. That’s very dangerous. You may start writing toward that actress and picking up her mannerisms. That being said, in a strange way, it felt like this project was waiting for Amy to show up. She slipped into Camille’s skin so beautifully.

Q: Early in her career, Amy was known for lighter roles. As a movie fan, when did you notice that she could handle darker material?

A: I always thought she had these lovely qualities and an angelic voice. Then came “Doubt,” “The Master,” “Arrival,” “Nocturnal Animals.” Those are certain pieces that showed she was marching steadily in this direction.

Q: In interviews you and Amy have done together, I’ve noticed that you both got quite emotional. Has it been hard for you to revisit this character 12 years after you created her?

A: That’s surprised me, but I suppose it has all reminded me of the pain of my youth, when I felt like I was screaming underwater. I’m very protective of Camille. To see her land safely at home after so long and have Amy do such a wonderful job is sort of lovely and a vindication.

Q: Your work has only been interpreted by male directors. Any chance that will change soon? Have you thought about directing yourself?

A: I would love to direct. I’ve got a TV series I’m trying to get up and I’d love to direct a piece of that. But I don’t want to stop writing. I was in the writers’ room for this entire miniseries and I still love doing novels.

Q: All your stories so far have been so dark. Is there a romantic comedy in your future?

A: I would love to do something lighter at some point. Don’t count me out on that.

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