'Utopia' Remake Ordered to Series as Amazon Inks Showrunner Gillian Flynn to Overall Deal

Gillian Flynn - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Heidi Jo Brady

Four years after being ordered straight to series and hitting a speed bump at HBO, Utopia has found a new home.

Amazon Studios has handed out a nine-episode, straight-to-series order for Gillian Flynn's reboot of Utopia. Additionally, Amazon has inked the Gone Girl and Sharp Objects author to an overall deal, with Utopia set as the first project under the pact.

Based on Dennis Kelly's British series of the same name, the drama revolves around a group of young adults who meet online and are mercilessly hunted by a shadowy deep state organization. After they come in to possession of a near mythical cult underground graphic novel, they discover the conspiracy theories in the comic's pages may actually be real and are forced into the dangerous, unique and ironic position of saving the world. 

Flynn will be credited as the lone creator on Utopia on which she will also exec produce and serve as showrunner. Exec producers include Flynn's Sharp Objects collaborator Jessica Rhoades, Sharon Hall, Karen Wilson, Kelly and Diederick Santer. The series is a co-production between Endemol Shine North America, its U.K. production studio Kudos and Amazon Studios. Endemol Shine North America president of scripted and unscripted Sharon Levy will oversee for the company.

Utopia has had an interesting path to the screen. The drama was picked up straight to series in February 2014 at HBO as a six-episode order with Gone Girl duo David Fincher and Flynn set to produce. Flynn signed an overall deal with HBO at the time to write the U.S. remake, and Fincher was attached to direct and exec produce. Shine America was attached to exec produce alongside original series EP Jane Featherstone and Joshua Donen as well as the company's Carolyn Bernstein. More than a year later, HBO's relationship with Fincher — which included Utopia and straight-to-series comedy Video Synchronicity — hit a speed bump. Production on Video was shut down and the cast sent home amid script touch-ups and time to catch up. The series never resumed production. Meanwhile, it was rumored that Rooney Mara was cast in the starring role for Utopia, but it was way over budget, and HBO was trying to find a way forward on both shows.

"Utopia is pure creative catnip to me," Flynn said. "Dennis Kelly's show blew my mind, and he has been so incredibly generous in letting me crack open his world and play around in it and make it my own weird, wild place. Utopia is all about exploring resonant issues within dark, twisted storytelling — it's a series that's urgent and current and a little 'holy crap!' but a hell of a lot of a fun."

Utopia arrives as Amazon Studios has been looking to find its version of Game of Thrones under a mandate from CEO Jeff Bezos. To that end, Amazon Studios and new head of programming Jennifer Salke have developed a genre-focused slate that includes a Lord of the Rings TV series, Consider Phlebas, a reboot of Hanna and a take on groundbreaking sci-fi classic The Peripheral (from Westworld's Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan).

"We are huge fans of Gillian Flynn's electrifying work," said Nick Hall, head of alternative series at Amazon Studios. "She crafts stories that hold her audience in a constant state of suspense and subverts the expectations behind her characters. She will deliver Prime Video members a series they won't forget, and Utopia's relevance is sure to connect with viewers around the globe."

The Amazon order gives Flynn two series under her belt, with Utopia her first as showrunner. It joins HBO's Amy Adams starrer Sharp Objects, which will premiere in June. Flynn is repped by WME and Jackoway Tyerman.

Amazon will distribute the series in 200 countries and territories. A premiere date has not yet been determined.