'Dark Places' Star Charlize Theron, Author Gillian Flynn on Watching Their Own Work
Theron stars as Libby Day, a woman investigating her family's murder, in the adaptation of Flynn's novel.
Ready to head back into the dark and twisted world of Gillian Flynn?
The adaptation of Flynn's novel Gone Girl, directed by David Fincher, was a breakout hit after it arrived in theaters in 2014, and now another of Flynn's books, Dark Places, has been adapted into a film by director Gilles Paquet-Brenner.
Hitting theaters in the U.S. on August 7 via A24, Dark Places stars Charlize Theron as Libby Day, a woman whose family was murdered when she was a little girl. Her brother was convicted of killing them, but Libby meets a group of people who are fascinated with old murders, and try to convince her that her brother may be innocent.
Flynn and Theron spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the making of the film, which also stars Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan and Chloe Grace Moretz, and what it's like to watch yourself (or your work) on the big screen.
When did you two first meet?
Flynn: On the set. We had talked before then. They were filming and [director] Gill[es Paquet-Brenner] said, “You have to come down to set.” And I said, "Maybe in October," and he said, "No, we have only three weeks."
Charlize, had you read any of Gillian's work before signing on to the film?
Theron: Yes, the holiday before I was reading Sharp Objects, and I went, “who is this twisted girl? I like her. I need to meet this girl." It was maybe eight months later that this came my way.
How did you come to understand Libby?
Theron: We had a couple of conversations. And then [director] Gill spent a lot of time with Gillian in Kansas, actually, and I was in Santa Fe. I was shooting A Million Ways to Die in the West, so I was kind of mentally stuck on that. By the time I got to Shreveport, he had spent a lot of time with Gillian and we started rehearsals. It was a lot of like asking Gillian questions through Gill. He was so prepared. And we spoke on the phone, and then she came out. I have to say more than anything I’ve ever done I felt so good with the amount of access I had and the book. There was just so much there for me, personally, to carry. It was a great Bible for me to carry around.
Was there any part of this character that you had trouble understanding?
Theron: I spent a good amount of time with [director] Gill before we started shooting, really going through the script with a fine toothed comb. I wanted to make sure that he wasn't throwing me any curveballs and I wasn't throwing him any curveballs. Of course, that’s not how the world works and then you show up on day one and he’s like, “you know what? I think she’s a hoarder.”
Flynn: Which was great!
Theron: And then I’m finding myself driving through the neighborhood picking up boxes from other people’s trash and sticking them on the set. But there is nothing about her that I didn’t understand or that I was scared of. She was written in such a brave voice through Gillian. I had to just pay attention to that. I think some of the harder stuff is just when you have a character that says so little. I think that was the hardest thing that we had to spend a lot of time with. And with editing as well because there was a lot of voice over in the film.
How are you deciding what projects you'll sign on to as a producer?
Theron: It’s really about time. It’s about how much time I have on my plate to give the film. That’s why there are a lot of things that come around that I just know I won’t be able to bring anything to the table. The idea of just putting your name on something when you haven't actually brought anything to the table -- I can’t think of anything worse. With some of the smaller movies we produce, I would just go to Saskatchewan, Canada for six weeks and do pre-production with a first-time director and just love it. That’s stuff I absolutely love.
Gillian, two films have been made based on your books. What does it feel like to watch your book come to life on the big screen?
Flynn: It’s very surreal. It’s funny -- I was talking to David Fincher about this. I said, “At some point, I just want to be able to watch Gone Girl and see it just as a movie.” He said, “That’s never going to happen. You’ve seen how the sausage is made.” To me, it’s more of an appreciation. I’ve been really lucky and have been really happy with two adaptations. I know a lot of writers are not that lucky.
Charlize, by now are you used to watching yourself in films?
Theron: I remember the first time I saw myself on film, I think my voice was just the most hideous thing that I’d ever heard. I thought, I will never work again. It’s like when you hear yourself on a tape recorder. It was Two Days in the Valley. And I drank a lot of vodka after that. But once I started working with producers who noticed I had an interest in the behind-the-scenes and would show me what happens in the process, then it became an out of body experience more than it was about me as an actor. I like being a cog in a wheel. I like being a small aspect of a much bigger thing, and I think my interest in that takes the pressure of myself.
Dark Places opens in theaters on on demand on Aug. 7