Sharp Objects’ Camille Preaker Can’t Be Contained in 2 Hours
By Ashley Morton
The show’s creators, and executive producer and star Amy Adams, sat down at ATX Festival to explain why a limited series was the only option for Gillian Flynn’s dark novel.
“You’ve seen nothing tonight,” director Jean-Marc Vallée told the audience at ATX Television Festival’s world premiere of Sharp Objects. The audience laughed, understanding they had seen only the first episode of the dark new series, and journalist Camille Preaker’s journey would only get more intense.
Joining Vallée post-screening was executive producer and star Amy Adams, writer Gillian Flynn, showrunner Marti Noxon, executive producer Jason Blum, executive producer Pancho Mansfield, and Executive Vice President of HBO Programming David Levine. The talk was moderated by Bill Keith, from Entertainment Weekly, where Flynn herself was working when she wrote the series’ source material, a novel of the same title.
“There were a lot of stories about men and violence, their rage, and how they handled that, but not about how women handled their anger and violence, particularly generationally,” said Flynn, giving context to the period when she wrote the book. The story’s main character, Camille, returns to her Missouri hometown to investigate the murders of two local children, and finds herself dealing with memories of the past, and issues of the present. “No one wanted to hear about women we can’t root for. We can’t root for Camille, she’s not a likeable character,” Flynn voiced.
Camille’s complexity, the panel agreed, is what necessitated the novel’s transition into a limited series, rather than a film as with Flynn’s adaptation of Gone Girl.
“The beauty of the novel was the character,” Blum shared, “and we couldn’t get our arms around her in a movie, because you couldn’t explain that in 120 minutes. There is finally a format with where you have can have a great book become a great filmic experience.”
“It’s changed the way I approach a character,” agreed Adams. “Novels are so rich, and the internal monologue of Camille is almost impossible to capture in a 90-120 minute story. I’m getting ready to go back to do something on film now, and I’m like, ‘How am I going to tell this?’ Camille needed to be explored over eight episodes.”
Noxon, the show’s creator, found herself connecting to Camille’s experiences, and knew they needed the space to truly explore the internal point of view that Flynn’s novel depicted. “I’ve struggled with alcoholism off and on throughout my life, and there was something about the way Camille hid her pain, but was so intrepid — she didn’t let that stop her — that I found so moving,” she explained. “There’s this female quality where certain generations have really been taught to keep that stuff hidden, and I was trying to write my way out of bad place.”
That personal connection is a part of the show’s narrative, which quickly leaps from memory to present-day. “That fluid past, present and maybe even future was my experience of being a drunk,” Noxon said candidly.
It was the format and depth that drew Vallée, also known for Big Little Lies, to the project. “This was a tough one,” shared the director who helmed all eight episodes. “It was challenging. Because of the dark content, Amy was so vulnerable; every morning two to three hours for the makeup, shooting in the heat, it was demanding. I wanted to figure it out so I said, ‘I’ll direct everything.’”
Challenging though it was, the entire panel closed with how grateful they were to be seeing the story on the screen. “It’s a dream come true,” Noxon quietly articulated. “Sometimes going through these dark places, is actually healing.”
Limited series Sharp Objects premieres July 8 at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina and more star in the series adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s debut novel — and the eerie first look has garnered major attention.