From author Gillian Flynn, showrunner Marti Noxon and director Jean-Marc Vallée, HBO’s eight-episode limited drama series Sharp Objects follows what happens when Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) returns to her small hometown to cover the murders of two pre-teen girls. Trying to understand the crimes puts her in the direct path of her own past and forces her into the line of fire of her disapproving mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson) and her impetuous 15-year-old half-sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen).
While at the HBO portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to chat 1-on-1 with executive producer/writer Gillian Flynn about the long journey it took to get Sharp Objects to this place, why HBO was the perfect home, what Amy Adams brought to Camille, and what it was like to be a part of the writers’ room process. She also talked about taking on showrunner duties for Utopia (an adaptation of the British series about a group of young adults who are hunted by a shadowy organization after they come into possession of an underground graphic novel) at Amazon, and what most excites her about telling that story.
Collider: Especially after having a really hard time selling this book, and then talk about a possible movie, over the years, and having it not happen, what’s it like to now have this at HBO, have someone like Amy Adams at the center of it, and have this really beautiful project to show for it? Did you think this would actually happen, at some point?
GILLIAN FLYNN: No, I didn’t. That’s the short answer. I did not. The book barely happened, in the first place. And I knew that this one, in particular, could go really wrong if I sold it to the wrong people, who didn’t get it. That could feel really exploitive, and I knew that I didn’t want to risk that. I’d rather have it not made than that. So, it does feel like vindication of waiting for the right place to come along. But did I think that this was all gonna happen? Absolutely not. This feels really, really lucky. Amy and I had been wanting to work together for a while. We had talked about doing Dark Places together, at one point, but she’d gotten pregnant and didn’t do that, so it felt serendipitous. And obviously, HBO felt like the right place. I know HBO had actually tried to swoop in just a little too late to get Gone Girl after the fact and had instead signed me to an overall deal. They’d said,” Well, what about doing Sharp Objects?” It was a 12-year overnight success, but it does feel really very cool.
After having lived with Camille Preaker for so long, while you were writing this book, what surprised you about what Amy Adams did, to bring her to life?
FLYNN: I knew that she’d bring Camille’s vulnerability, absolutely, but she brought such pure grit to her. I guess Camille had that, but it was amazing to watch that come to life and to see it on display. Amy has such a capability to her. Camille has to feel vulnerable, but not too much, and she does have grit. Amy really has that, in spades, and she lent that to Camille, in a really new way. She’s got this spine to her that I think really comes across in the show, and I love that.
With a project like this, it seems like it could have gone wrong, every step of the way. The writing could have been focused on the wrong thing, the feel of it could have been different, the casting could have just gone horribly wrong.
FLYNN: Right, exactly. Who’s this month’s CW teen queen? Or that sort of thing. I just love Wild so much. Having the guy that did Wild (Jean-Marc Vallée) do this, felt like a particularly correct match up.