You know Gillian Flynn as the genre-redefining writer behind Gone Girl, both the 2012 novel and the 2014 movie adaptation starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck.
Since the success of Gone Girl, Flynn has written only for the screen, including the 2018 movie Widows and the HBO series Sharp Objects.
Out now on Amazon Prime, Utopia is Flynn’s latest work, based on a 2013 BBC show of the same name.
Nerdette host Greta Johnsen talked with Flynn about Utopia, Gone Girl and what’s next for this acclaimed writer. Below are highlights from the conversation.
On remaking the original British version of ‘Utopia’
Gillian Flynn: I’m not someone who’s like, “The first one was amazing, let’s do it again.” More often than not, I’m like, “Why would you do it again if the first one was great?” But this one, Dennis Kelly wrote the original and it had so much to it. The world was fun. The story was interesting to me. It had this real capability of feeling like a very global thing. Like where are we really, in humanity? What are the choices that we’re making environmentally, politically, humanly, and where are they taking us?
And it was also a great conspiracy thriller, and to me that felt like a very timely thing to do. This was back in 2013 and it’s only become moreso, where we’ve come to a place where we’re starting to sacrifice the shared belief that there is such a thing as truth, evidentiary truth. I can say that it’s my opinion that there’s no such thing as gravity, but there is a shared belief that there is such a thing as gravity. And I just think we’re coming to this point where, between our news feeds and social media feeds and reinforcing our own beliefs, that we’re in this very slippery place where opinion can take over what is provable. So I thought it was kind of the right time to look at that and what easily manipulated humans we are if we allow that to happen.
On themes hitting so close to reality
Flynn: It certainly was not planned to tie into any sort of real life pandemic. In fact, when I was trying to sell it, there were a lot of questions like, “Is this science fiction?” To me, it is a conspiracy thriller that has a pandemic plotline to it. It’s not a pandemic story. I was never setting out to do Outbreak or any sort of medical procedural type of thing. And if it does feel too close to home for some people they won’t watch it, and I completely respect that. But if people do, it may provide a sort of outlet. I’ve always loved the ability of pop culture books or movies or music to give us a vocabulary and a means to talk about things that are on our minds.
On what’s next for her
Flynn: My next project is finishing the novel that’s been back-burnered for so long. I’m in the middle of it. This year was supposed to be all about finishing it. Instead I was relearning long division and state capitals with my kids.
This conversation was lightly edited for clarity and brevity. Press the ‘play’ button to hear the full episode.