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The women behind 'Sharp Objects' wanted to bust the frilly female narrative

The women behind 'Sharp Objects' wanted to bust the frilly female narrative
Gillian Flynn, Jean-Marc Vallee, Amy Adams and Marti Noxon at the opening night screening of "Sharp Objects." (ATX Festival)

The opening night of the seventh annual ATX Television Festival brought out the big names Thursday with a world premiere screening and panel for HBO’s upcoming limited series “Sharp Objects.”

The psychological thriller, an adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2006 novel of the same name, is adapted by Marti Noxon (“Dietland,” “UnReal”) and stars Amy Adams as a reporter who returns to her hometown to cover the murders of two young girls. The eight-part miniseries is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who also helmed the first season of last year’s critically acclaimed “Big Little Lies.”

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Adams, Flynn, Noxon and Valle took part in a panel following the screening and talked about taking the small-screen approach on the dark narrative that was originally envisioned by Jason Blum’s Alliance, which had optioned the book, as a feature film.

“Movies with complicated female leads don’t get the support and they don’t get the attention they deserve,” said Noxon, who championed telling the story as a TV series. “I’ve spent the last five or six years of my career taking ‘difficult women’ projects, or making them up, and putting them on TV instead.”

That struggle — and drive — to stretch the female narrative was part of the the impetus that led Flynn to write “Sharp Objects” more than a decade ago.

“I was working at [Entertainment Weekly] and I was reading tons, and ingesting a ton, of movies and TV,” Flynn said. “And what I was really discovering was there were a lot of stories of men and violence, and men and rage, and how they handle it, but not much on how women handle their anger and violence — particularly generationally. At the time, there was a lot of chick lit. Stories about women who shopped, and their big crisis was, ‘Can I find the right shoe? And get the right shoe? And get the right man and the right cosmopolitan?’ There was a lot of crickets at the time of trying to sell [“Sharp Objects”]. No one wants to hear this kind of story. No one wants to hear about women we can’t root for.”

“Sharp Objects” marks Adams’ return to television following an illustrious foray into film. And the series marks the first time she has served as an executive producer on a project.

“It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do, but just have been really focused and really busy on my feature career,” Adams said. “So when this presented itself … there was just such a camaraderie and such an understanding of what we were going to do, that I thought this was a wonderful opportunity to return to television. Television is in such a renaissance right now and it’s a wonderful place to tell stories.”

But the “Sharp Objects” experience also made it a bit of a challenge to return to film.

“It’s changed the way I’ve looked approaching a character,” Adams said. “I’m getting ready to go back and do something on film and I’m like, ‘Oh gosh, how am i going to tell this story in 1 hour and 20 minutes?’”

“Sharp Objects” will premiere July 8 on HBO.

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