Gillian Flynn/Author photo © Heidi Jo Brady
Word & Film: There is something about good thrillers — your latest bestselling novel Gone Girl included — that makes it easy to imagine them on the big screen. Do you find that while writing you keep an eye to how a story would translate to film?
Gillian Flynn: You know, I actually try to do the opposite because I think there is a danger in trying to write a scene that you think would be great in the movie. That said, I am a child of movies; my father was a film professor. I grew up in the dark watching movies all the time with him and then I wrote about film for years at Entertainment Weekly. It’s hard to separate that. So I definitely write kind of filmically. I do write in these sort of scenes, and I do have pet scenes from the book that are so visual to me. In Gone Girl there is that giant abandoned mall that’s bankrupt. I didn’t entirely know what was going to happen in the book, but I always knew there was going to be a scene there.
W&F: There is something very post-apocalyptic about that part.
GF: I grew up in the ‘80s where there’s a lot of these kind of post-apocalyptic, post-comet, post-whatever it was, so that always captured my imagination a lot as a little kid, that idea of getting access to secret places and being able to roam around where you’re not supposed to.
W&F: Let’s talk about your novel Dark Places. It was announced earlier this year that Gilles Paquet-Brenner, the director behind “Sarah’s Key,” will be adapting it to the screen and that Amy Adams is on board to star. Congratulations. How much of a hand will you have in the adaptation process?
GF: Thank you! You know, he has already adapted it; I’ve read the screenplay. It’s absolutely fantastic. I sold it to him and his production company because he was so passionate about it and I just knew he would take good care of it. He has been very involved and has shown it to me in different stages and has gotten my feedback – and he is very, very faithful to the book. And I don’t know how he was able to condense that book into a screenplay, but he did it. He and I have actually met in Kansas City; he flew in and I showed him the different places that are in the book.
W&F: Do you think that your work as a television and entertainment critic makes it a little bit easier for you to separate yourself personally from the story? In other words, does it make you more willing to see things morph in the adaptation process?
GF: Definitely. I’ve certainly seen very faithful adaptations of books that I loved that didn’t work as movies because they were overly faithful. And I appreciate the attempt to be close to a book but you’ve got to figure out what’s going to be good for the screen. And you have to figure out what scenes to lose. I’m all for whatever transitions the book properly to a movie.
W&F: Though he stayed so faithful to the book, was there anything that he cut that you had a hard time letting go of?
GF: He cut a lot because he had to. But he and I were so much on the same wavelength; after my first conversation with him, I just knew he was the guy to do it. So I didn’t even have to tell him to keep the scenes that I really loved; they were already in there. We are just so similar. He transitions really nicely between the ‘80s and the present. “Sarah’s Key” also does that. One of the things that sold me on it was how elegantly it goes back and forth in time. And how it combines those two stories. He is a very savvy guy and was very honest with me, telling me what did and did not progress the story on film.
W&F: Given your total immersion in entertainment and thrillers, what are your top must-see thriller movies?
GF: Ooh, my top three all time. I love “Fatal Attraction.” That is one you can always go back to. Oh, and “Leave Her to Heaven.” It’s sort of an old femme noir with Gene Tierney. It is one of the all-time best, a domestic thriller. And, well, “The Silence of the Lambs.” That’s one of those movies during which I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know if I can watch this whole thing.’ And “Manhunter,” which is the prequel to “Silence of the Lambs.”
W&F: Great picks. So … what’s next for you?
GF: The next book – which I promise I’m going to get started on soon.
W&F: What’s the premise?
GF: I have four or five ideas that just keep floating around and I want to kind of just let one — [snickering] — like a beautiful butterfly, let it land somewhere. I’m giving it a little bit of room. When I signed off on Gone Girl this spring, I spent most of April just unwinding and redoing stuff.
W&F: So now it’s time.
GF: It’s time to get back.