Gillian Flynn finds new ‘Utopia’ in adapting thriller for Amazon

For Gillian Flynn, going from writing a culture quake of a bestseller-turned-hit movie like “Gone Girl” to adapting and producing this Friday’s bonkers, eight-episode Amazon thriller “Utopia,” is almost like destiny.

“It was completely a thrill when I got to start writing screenplays because my dad was a film professor,” Flynn, 49, said in a Zoom interview last week.

“I’d always loved, loved movies and to get to do that is really cool.”

“Utopia” is adapted from a 2013 blackly comic British conspiracy series that won an International Emmy for Best Drama.

Flynn was initially set to adapt in tandem with her “Gone Girl” director David Fincher. He left what was then an HBO project over budget issues.

Amazon’s resuscitation follows a group of nerdy comic book fans imperiled by their exposure to a long-lost graphic novel, which coincides with a global pandemic that is killing children — unless a vaccine is discovered.

Dan Byrd as Ian, Desmin Borges as Wilson Wilson, Jessica Rothe as Samantha, and Ashleigh LaThrop as Becky, from left, in ‘Utopia.’

“I love this world and I thought it would challenge me,” Flynn said. “It was similar enough to the stories I like to write: There were lots of twists, there’s humor, there’s some humanity.

“At the same time, most of the stuff that I’ve written has been pretty insular about the psychology of humans up close. Usually a story between two people — a husband and wife, mother and daughter or two friends.

“This would push me a little bit — an ensemble, tons of different character personalities. And it was literally about the world at large. A road trip that moved constantly, had lots of different viewpoints and speaks to where we are as a society right now.

“When I first saw it in 2013 it really captured that sense of unease we all feel, that we’re at this turning point in humanity and we have to make some important decisions about where we are socially, politically, environmentally, economically.

“And how we want to be human. I love that about it.”

“Utopia” can be shocking in its violence, in the way principal characters are suddenly dead, in its depiction of children and violence.

“I think violence is a really useful storytelling tool. It’s how we view each other as humans. And certainly you’re looking at each character, how they deploy — or don’t deploy — violence is really important,” she said.

“There are certain things I took from the UK and certain things that I didn’t. But for me it was always about how we humans feel about the violence. And how casually or not casually we take it, I guess.”


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