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Sharp Objects’ journey to the small screen was not an easy one.
Novelist Gillian Flynn revealed during a panel discussion following the world premiere of the HBO limited series at ATX Festival on Thursday night that it took her 12 years to actually make the show, which follows a troubled female journalist who is haunted by her past when she returns to her hometown to look into the murder of a teenage girl.
Joining Flynn onstage after the screening of the first episode to talk about the making of the drama was star and executive producer Amy Adams, showrunner Marti Noxon, director Jean-Marc Vallee and producers Jason Blum (Blumhouse), Pancho Mansfield (eOne) and David Levine (HBO). Together, they recounted how Sharp Objects went from Flynn’s novel to full-fledged HBO miniseries.
Of the project’s origins, Flynn explained that she’d began writing the book on which the show is based back when she was a journalist at Entertainment Weekly and “chic lit” was in vogue. “It was a lot of stories about women who shopped and their big crisis was, ‘Can I find the right shoe?'” she said inside Austin, Texas’ Paramount Theater. “I wanted to do something else.”
What she also discovered was that there were a lot of stories about men that centered on violence and rage but barely any stories about women dealing with anger or substance abuse issues. So she wrote the novel and then began the process of trying to get it adapted — and that’s when it became particularly challeging. “It was crickets,” Flynn said, noting that a lot of executives found that the lead character wasn’t “likeable” enough.
Of course, that wasn’t an issue for Marti Noxon, who found herself salivating over Flynn’s work. “I read Gone Girl and I thought, ‘Who is this twisted woman? I need to know her,'” said Noxon, adding that she immediately called up her agents to find out who owned the rights to Sharp Objects. Once she learned that Blum had picked them up in an attempt to make Sharp Objects into a movie, she promptly called his office to make the case for why it should be a limited series, not a film. Needless to say, she was convincing.
“Movies with complicated female leads don’t get the support and they don’t get the attention they deserve,” she went on to say, noting that they don’t get aggressive marketing campaigns in particular. “So I’ve spent the last five or six years of my career taking difficult women projects — or making them up — and putting them on TV instead.” Noxon, who has been open about her own struggles with anorexia and alcoholism, joked that she likes to think of Sharp Objects as the final project in her “self-harm trilogy,” which also includes her Netflix movie To the Bone and AMC series Dietland.
For Adams, she believed in the material enough to not only sign on to star but to also executive produce. And she felt strongly that the story was best suited for television. “Television is having such a renassiance … it’s a great place to tell this story,” she said, adding of her character: “Camille need to be explored over eight episodes. To try and do that in 90 minutes to 120-tops would be really tricky.”
Adams also was the one who brought in Big Little Lies director Jean-Marc Vallee, who she’d been working with on a Janis Joplin biopic that he said is now unlikely to happen. “If there’s someone who understands a totally fucked up woman I think it’s Jean-Marc,” joked Adams to laughs from the crowd. “Or at least is interested in them. I don’t know if he understands them but he wants to.” Noxon pointed out that Vallee pushed for a bigger budget throughout filming, something she wasn’t accustomed to doing. Blum agreed, joking, “We could have made 45 movies for the cost of this one!”
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