Novelist Gillian Flynn can dig into a dark story like few others…Stephen King for sure, maybe the writers on True Detective season 1…she’s dark. But readers love her ability to draw out suspense and two of her novels – Gone Girl and Dark Places – have been translated into squirmy, claustrophobic feature films.
She’s also a rarity among writers: a novelist who’s been allowed to, and succeeded at, adapting her own material for screen, and now she’s using that talent to bring her third domestic chiller to the small screen.
Sharp Objects is the story of a reporter – Variety announced Amy Adams just signed on for the role – who is assigned to cover a terrible murder in her hometown. She’s also just come from a brief stay in a mental hospital, and the titular sharp objects refer to her ritual cutting.
These are admittedly tough topics but Flynn and the producing team are shopping the project to cable networks now. Some cablers have revived their name with this kind of gritty material – Breaking Bad did wonders for AMC, Sons of Anarchy for FX, Dexter for Showtime – there are certainly networks that would love to draw on Flynn’s built-in fanbase. Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, garnered nominations from the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA’s, Critics’ Choice, and even an Oscar nom for Pike. It earned $368 million against a production budget of $61 million (production budgets don’t include marketing and promotion expenses. Ultimately the film profited $129 million according to Deadline.)
Dark Places was adapted in 2015 with Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult reteaming following Mad Max: Fury Road. This time director Gilles Paquet-Brenner wrote the screenplay and the project was a box-office flop, earning just $3.5 million worldwide and criticized for having all the depth of a made-for-TV movie.
Novelists are typically kept far from adaptations of their work, earning a payout when someone purchases the option to adapt the material, and having little say otherwise. It’s usually just too hard for writers to see their work dissected, rearranged, and compressed to fit the constraints of film and TV. But Flynn worked as a journalist and eventually as a writer and critic for Entertainment Weekly for more than a decade before moving on to novels. Her experience with the on-screen medium certainly lent to her understanding of what serves a story across mediums. She was able to shepherd two of her works into feature films, and Sharp Objects was slated for the same treatment in 2012. Eventually it was decided that this story better fits a serialized format and it was retooled for TV.
Blumhouse Productions is the company that bought the rights to the novel and a partnership with Entertainment One is providing the funding. Flynn will continue on with the project as executive producer beside Jason Blum (Whiplash, The Purge) and Charles Layton (Sinister). Marti Noxon (Buffy, Angel) will write the pilot and Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers’ Club, Wild) has been slated to direct.