On Thursday, June 7, Austin’s Paramount Theatre hosted the world premiere of the new HBO limited series “Sharp Objects,” the opening night screening for the 7th annual ATX TV Festival. The series is based off the book of the same name by acclaimed mystery writer Gillan Flynn (“Gone Girl,” “Dark Places”) and stars Amy Adams as the lead character, Camille Preaker.
The story follows Camille, a journalist in St. Louis, as she returns to her hometown of Wind Gap to cover the murder of one young girl and disappearance of another. While in town, Camille has to face memories of her past that she’s clearly tried to escape, which is not easy when dealing with her mother Adora (Patricia Clarkson) and her young half-sister Amma (Eliza Scanlen). She also meets someone new in town, a rarity for Wind Gap, in Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina). Even in the pilot, it’s easy to see that there’s chemistry between the journalist and detective. Reactions to the screening were as positive as could be, with echoing laughter during its comedic moments, as well as clapping and cheering all around at the close of the episode.
The book is more suited to the limited series format, rather than feature-length, due to its deep characterizations. Camille is a complicated character who isn’t always easy to root for, and her story and personality are as important to the overarching narrative as any other plot point or character. That’s something agreed upon by author Flynn, star and executive producer Adams, creator/showrunner Marti Noxon, and the rest of the production team.
Following the episode’s screening was a panel moderated by Entertainment Weekly’s Bill Keith. In attendance were Flynn, Adams, Noxon, HBO’s David Levine (Head of Drama Series), director Jean-Marc Vallee (“Big Little Lies”), executive producer Jason Blum and producer Pancho Mansfield.
According to Flynn, she began writing “Sharp Objects” 12 years ago on nights and weekends, while working for Entertainment Weekly herself. During the panel, she explained that there were a plethora of books written about men and violence, but she wanted to write about women and violence, and how women dealt with rage.
Everyone on the panel went in order of how they got involved in the project. After Flynn were Blum and Mansfield, who were initially interested in making a movie of the novel. The next link in the chain was Noxon, who worked to convince Blum that it should be a limited series, not a feature film, long before that type of series was popular. Noxon not only felt that the narrative made sense for the format, but also that a limited series featuring difficult women would be more successful than a movie with those same characters. Later on in the panel, Blum announced that even “the best version of this as a movie wouldn’t be close to what you guys did.”
Adams was working with Vallee on a film that may never be completed and wanted him involved with “Sharp Objects.” She said of the director: “If anyone understands fucked-up women, it’s Vallee. Well…he’s interested in them. That doesn’t necessarily mean he understands them, but he tries.” Those comments made the Paramount audience laugh, while making Vallee turn bright red.
“Sharp Objects” marks the first time Adams has acted as executive producer on a project, and she worked closely with Noxon and Flynn to bring the character of Camille to life. During the panel, Adams noted that working on this has “changed the way I look at and approach a character” in other roles. Noxon is no stranger to putting difficult subjects on film: she wrote and directed the semi-autobiographical Netflix movie “To The Bone,” which is about a young woman with an eating disorder, as well as creating the new series “Dietland,” which also deals with self-image. Noxon jokingly referred to those two projects along with “Sharp Objects” as her “self-harm trilogy.”
The camaraderie between the cast and creators of “Sharp Objects,” as well as the deep love each of them has for the source material and the story being told, gives us a lot of faith in this series. If the first episode and the recently-released trailer are any indication, HBO’s latest limited series will not only be entertaining but also thought-provoking (and potentially award-winning).
“Sharp Objects” premieres on Sunday, July 8, at 9 PM EST.
Featured Image credit: Jack Plunkett/ ATX TV Festival