Rosamund Pike has been offered the lead role in Gone Girl
It's been the literary sensation of the year - and this week is was announced that Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are to star in the film of Gone Girl, as characters Nick and Amy. It follows the news that David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) is to direct, already making it one of the most anticipated movies in years - and they've not even started filming. But what is it about Gone Girl that has got everyone so obsessed? Earlier this year, Grazia's Clare Thorp sat down with the book's author Gillian Flynn to talk marriage, Hollywood and the dark side...
When Sarah Jessica Parker turns up to meet Anna Wintour clutching a copy of your book under her arm, it’s safe to assume you’ve got a hit on your hands. “Those photos were really cool,” smiles Gillian Flynn, author of said book,
First released last summer, the psychological thriller spent eight weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Oprah picked it as one of her favourite books of 2012 (always a surefire sign of a hit), Stephen King called her “the real deal”, and to date it’s sold over 2 million copies. “I’ve yet to see a person with it!” Gillian tells Grazia, a little disappointed. “But my friends send me photos all the time of random people reading it.”
Emily Blunt and Jennifer Aniston are fans, as is Reece Witherspoon – who bought the rights and is turning it into a Hollywood movie – with Gillian, 41, writing the screenplay and David Fincher directing. “Reece was a champion very early on – before anyone had even heard of it,” says Gillian. The actress has gushed over it, saying: "It's one of those books you can't stop reading.”
Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn
If you haven’t read Gone Girl yet (where have you been?), the story revolves around a married couple, Amy and Nick, who move from New York back to Nick’s hometown in Missouri after he loses his job as an entertainment journalist. On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy mysteriously vanishes – and the secrets of their marriage begin to unravel.
Parts of the book reflect Gillian’s own life – she was made redundant as a writer for US magazine Entertainment Weekly in 2008. “I was probably the most lucky laid off writer from all the laid off writers I knew at the time,” she says. “My first book was published and my second was about to be. But no one likes it. I loved my job.”
At that point she was a moderately successful novelist, enjoying critical acclaim and steady sales for both Sharp Objects and Dark Places. But no-one saw the enormous juggernaut of Gone Girl coming.
“When it hit number one it was the July 4th holiday,” she says. “My husband and I opened some champagne on the back porch and watched the fireworks. I thought ‘this is great.’”
It might be surprise for fans to hear about her domestic bliss – with lawyer husband Brett Nolan – because the book paints such a dark portrait of marital life. “I don’t know why people always assume there’s some kind of biographical aspect,” she says. “In the first book my protagonist was a self -harmer, and people assumed I did that too – but I haven’t.”
Gone Girl’s tagline, “there are two sides to every story” suggests we can never know someone completely – even our spouse. Does Gillian – who recently celebrated her own 5th wedding anniversary –believe that? “Absolutely,” she says. “Not in a dark way, necessarily. But even if we’re in the same room, experiencing the same thing, we might have a different take on it. Thank god we don’t know everything about each other – we’d be really bored if we did.”
SJP is a Gone Girl fan
She describes marriage as “the ultimate mystery” and says it is often portrayed too simplistically. “It has the ability to truly change you, for good or bad. It’s scary to commit yourself to someone like that - they’re going to affect what you do and don’t do for the rest of your life.” What did her husband think of her writing such a twisted view of it? “I gave it to him to read before it was published and said if there’s anything that hits too close to home let me know,” she says. “He laughed and said ‘isn’t that the point?”
Gillian was pregnant with her first child when she started writing Gone Girl – and gave birth to her son Flynn, now two, midway through. How did she write such murky subject matter at such a happy time? “I’ve always been a great compartmentaliser!” she laughs. “But for a while when I was writing Gone Girl I was writing all this toxic stuff, and I’d go back upstairs to my family and be in a dark mood. So ten minutes before my work day ended I would watch something happy. I was big on musicals – I’d watch a little Singing In The Rain! I have a little plaque on my desk that says Leave The Crazy Downstairs.”
Her fascination with the shadowy side of life started when she was a child. “I liked the darkest of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales – the ones where the children are baked in pies and eaten,” she smiles. “When I’d play I always wanted to be the witch, not the princess. Even at that age people who were dark were more interesting to me.”
All three of her books are set in the state of Missouri, where she grew up. She paints it as a sinister, hopeless, place – but again, insists that is just fiction. “People on the coast have a fear of that area in the middle of America, so I took advantage of that and exploited it for the book,” she explains. “No-one really writes about Missouri so I can make these places into gothic, fairy tale towns.”
She recently signed a new two book deal – and hasn’t ruled out a sequel to Gone Girl at some point. “Nick and Amy are a really interesting couple – I think it would be fun to dip in on them in ten-years-time.”
Does she ever get tired of writing of the dark side? “It would be nice to have a little break once in a while,” she admits. “But I don’t think I’ll ever go entirely away from the dark psychology” Thank goodness for that.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is published by Phoenix, an imprint of Orion Publishing, £7.99