In a little town in Georgia, July 11 is “Amy Adams Day.”
“I’m sturdy,” she added.
Though director Jean-Marc Vallee won’t be going back any time soon — “With all the bugs? It was the worst!” — his was the only disparaging remark to be heard when the cast and creators discussed the upcoming adaptation. Following the worldwide premiere, the ATX Festival held a panel featuring Adams, director Vallee, author and executive producer Gillian Flynn, showrunner Marti Noxon, producer Jason Blum, eOne president Pancho Mansfield, and HBO co-drama head David Levine. Most of their comments focused on how enriching the project was, especially as a story about a “complicated [female] lead.”
“I still think this is true, but movies with complicated leads don’t get the attention and support they deserve,” Marti Noxon said. “If one doesn’t perform well, they just go, ‘Oh that’s a bust. Those don’t work.’”
Hence how “Sharp Objects” became a television show. Though originally conceived as a movie, Blum and Flynn couldn’t crack a two-hour version of her book. So the new series is told in eight hour-long episodes, which panelists agreed was the only way to tell the tale at all.
“In my opinion, it’s really well-suited to get to expand the characters,” Adams said of the limited series format. “Novels are so rich. If you go back and read the novel ‘Sharp Objects,’ the internal monologue of Camille would’ve been hard to capture in 90 minutes.”
Still, Flynn — who wrote the book on nights and weekends while working as a reporter for Entertainment Weekly — faced challenges selling the novel because of its dark subject matter.
“No one wants to hear about women we can’t root for,” Flynn said, remembering getting feedback like, “‘We can’t root for Camille because she’s not a likable character.'”
When it was finally published, Flynn said, “We got nibbles for movies and TV, but they usually wanted to make it into a horror film and weren’t that interested in Camille.”
Then came Marti Noxon.
“I read the book, and I read ‘Gone Girl,’ and I thought, ‘Who’s this twisted woman? I need to know her,'” Noxon said. She then met with Blum, who had secured the rights to Flynn’s novel, and they developed a plan for a limited series — eventually snagging Adams, then Vallee (who had been developing a Janis Joplin biopic with Adams, although that project is now on hold), and finally HBO. Levine said the network was watching the project develop and then “we bought it — aggressively.”
“I refer to [her Netflix film] ‘To the Bone,’ [her AMC series] ‘Dietland,’ and this as my ‘Self-Harm Trilogy,'” Noxon said. “There was something about the way Camille hid her pain and yet was so intrepid; she didn’t let that stop her, and I found that so moving.”
“Sharp Objects” also represents Adams’ first time as an executive producer. “There was just such a camaraderie about what we were going to do,” she said about signing on as both star and an EP. “Television is in such a renaissance right now. It’s such a great place to tell stories. […] It’s something I want to do more of — a lot more of.”
Vallee, however, is ready for a break. He shot eight episodes of “Sharp Objects” right after completing all seven episodes of “Big Little Lies.”
“Just one is enough, In 20 months I’ve shot 180 days,” he said. “I’m sorry if I look tired. […] It was demanding.”
Even if he’s not too eager to go back to the heat and the bugs, Noxon had some parting words about the series that could apply to its director as well.
“Sometimes going to these dark places is actually healing,” she said.
And if any day is healing, it’s got to be Amy Adams Day.
“Sharp Objects” premieres Sunday, July 8 at 9 p.m. on HBO.