HBO premiered its new limited series, Sharp Objects, staring Amy Adams, at the ATX Television Festival, June 7-10 in Austin, Texas. The project brought together a talented team. The eight-part series derives from a book by New York Times bestselling author Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Dark Places). Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Big Little Lies) directed, showrunner responsibilities fell to Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Series), Mad Men), and the same people who brought you Get Out, produced.
At ATX, after a red carpet in front of Austin’s iconic Paramount Theater, attendees viewed the first episode and then were treated to a Q&A with Adams, Flynn, Vallée, Noxon, HBO Programming VP David Levine, and producers Jason Blum and Pancho Mansfield.
Sharp Objects was the first of several dark, disturbing new shows that premiered at ATX. Amy Adams plays Camille Preaker, a Saint Louis newspaper reporter. Camille is assigned by her editor to investigate the murders of two young girls in the small town of Wind Gap – the town where Camille grew up. She objects, but to no avail.
In Wind Gap, tainted relationships – especially the one Camille has with her mother — fester and old traumas bubble to the surface. We experience the story from Camille’s point-of-view, which presents a conundrum. Camille is an alcoholic and she has visions. Are they memories, or fantasies or premonitions? We don’t find that out in the first episode. We do find out that another girl has been murdered and the last scene reveals something that made the audience in the theater audibly gasp.
A Long Journey
Bill Keith from Entertainment Weekly moderated the Q&A much of which focused on the long road traveled to bring the story from novel to screen.
Author Gillian Flynn explained that it took 12 years to go from book to series.
“When I was working at EW, I discovered there were a lot of stories about men and rage but not many about woman and their violence,” she said. “Lots of chick flicks are about women who shopped. Get the right shoe and get the right man. This story is different. When I was trying to sell it all I heard were a lot of crickets. No one wants to tell this kind of story. No one wants to hear about a woman they can’t root for. Camille is not a likable character.”
Producer Jason Blum also had a journey with Sharp Objects. “After Paranormal Activities we made a bunch of scary movies,” he recalled. “When I read this book, I realized that it was not a horror movie, but still very scary. We optioned the book. I thought it would be a movie for about a year. Then I got a call from Marti who laid out the case why it should be a limited series.”
The argument that won him over was that there was no way in 120 minutes that the character of Camille could be adequately depicted and explored.
“The beauty of the novel was Camille,” he said.
A Messed-up Woman
Adams agreed. “The limited series is so well suited for this,” she said. “If you read the book, you see that the internal dialog of Camille is impossible to tell in two hours.”
Adams felt Jean-Marc Vallée was the perfect choice to direct. “We had been trying to develop a Janis Joplin biopic,” she said, “and if there is someone who understands a messed-up woman, it’s Jean-Marc.”
Vallée laughed. “I didn’t think this was going to happen,” he said. “As I was finishing Demolition, I heard that Amy wanted to play Camille, so I said, ‘Yes, I will do this. I want to direct everything.’”
This show is so gripping, it may make me break down and subscribe to HBO. Sharp Objects will premiere on HBO on July 8. You can watch the trailer linked below.
(Photos by author)