10:15am PT by Lacey Rose
'Sharp Objects': 10 Things to Know About HBO's Murder Mystery Series
If all goes as HBO has planned, its latest murder mystery, Sharp Objects, will land with the kind of prestige splash that its last one, Big Little Lies, did a year earlier.
Already, the limited series — based on Gillian Flynn's novel of the same name — is drawing comparisons, in part because of the visual stylings of Lies' Emmy-winning director Jean-Marc Vallee, who helmed every episode of both series. Mad Men writer Marti Noxon serves as Sharp's showrunner, while five-time Academy Award nominee Amy Adams produces and stars as Camille Preaker, a deeply wounded newspaper reporter who returns home to her hometown to cover the murder of one young girl and the disappearance of another.
Ahead of its debut, which got the THR cover treatment in late June, here are 10 things to know about the hotly anticipated series.
1. A handful of people expressed interest in adapting Flynn’s 2006 novel earlier on, but most were more interested in doing so as a horror flick. That idea didn’t sit well with Flynn, who’d only incorporated a murder mystery into her story as a way to push through her character study. “I wrote Sharp Objects because I wanted to write about Camille,” she says of her deeply wounded lead character, “and I hid that inside of a mystery to trick people into reading about women and violence and women and their rage and how that looked and how that looked among three different generations of women.”
2. It was showrunner Marti Noxon — then of Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce and Unreal — who urged rights holder Jason Blum to let her reconceive Sharp Objects as a series rather than a movie. She wanted the story to have the room — in this case, eight hours — to breathe, and she foresaw an uphill battle for Camille in film. “Film is still very old fashioned,” says Noxon, “and difficult female heroines are just not an easy sell unless they are wearing a cape — and even then, they’re not an easy sell.”
3. Adams took a lot of convincing. “They approached me when I was in the middle of working on Arrival, which was such a different character and a different story for me,” she says. “So, wrapping my head around committing four or five months of my life as an actress to this type of character was something that I was hesitant about just because of my previous relationship with television.” Ultimately, it was Noxon and Flynn who sold her, in part with their offer to have her be a hands-on producer as well as star.
4. Per multiple sources, Jessica Chastain was another name bandied about for the role of Camille.
5. It was Adams who lured director Jean Marc Vallee, with whom she’d been working on a now-shelved Janis Joplin biopic. Vallee admits he was thrown when Adams first sent him Flynn’s novel and the pilot script. "I've never read a book like this before, and I was so surprised that [Amy] was willing to do this," he says. "Amy? Our sweet Amy would like to play Camille Preaker? I called her back and I was like, 'You sure you wanna do this? I don't know how to accompany you there. I've never met, never seen, never known anybody like this.'"
6. Sharp Objects was pitched to premium (i.e. Showtime) and streaming (i.e. Amazon) networks as a package, with Vallee, Noxon and Adams all in place. Ultimately, it came down to an intense bidding war between Netflix and HBO, with HBO ultimately the winner.
7. The project almost fell apart over scheduling. Vallee got caught up on Big Little Lies, and tried to keep moving Sharp's start date back. It's said to have caused tension -- "I got pushy," Vallee admits now -- and ultimately led to a bizarre shoot schedule that had Adams film all of her scenes first.
8. It was Flynn’s first experience in a writers room, and her and Adams’ first time getting an executive producer credit on a project. Next, Flynn will be bumped up to showrunner (on Amazon’s Utopia) and Adams is on the heels of inking a development deal with HBO, through which she’ll produce and, when it makes sense, star in projects for the network.
9. Though it’s Flynn’s third adaptation – following similarly dark thrillers Gone Girl and Dark Places, for which Adams once was circled -- Sharp Objects was Flynn’s debut novel. She wrote it on nights and weekends while still employed by Entertainment Weekly, and it’s since sold some 2 million copies. When pressed on how she separates the bleak worlds she often writes about from the considerably sunnier one (with a husband and two kids) that she lives in, she laughs – and then acknowledges that she keeps a sign in her basement office that reads, “Leave the Crazy Downstairs.”
10. Sharp, like Big Little Lies, is being billed as a limited series, but the team has already talked about the potential for a second season. In fact, Flynn acknowledges she has some ideas. “Some great ideas,” adds Noxon, but neither woman is willing to share them just yet (though two sources suggest one centers on Camille’s younger half-sister Amma). Says Flynn, with a laugh, “Cart before the horse.”
Sharp Objects launches July 8 on HBO.