On Monday, Sept. 29, the New York Film Critics Series invited us to attend an advanced screening of “Gone Girl,” which stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. The special event was held at at AMC Empire 25. Following the screening, guests were treated to a live Q&A with “Gone Girl” author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn and Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers. Below are highlights from their conversation. (Warning: the below does contain spoilers, both for book readers and non-book readers.)
On the film’s ending:
Travers: Everybody that I talked to about the movie, including David Fincher, was so petrified that we’ll give away the ending. And now, we all know the ending. There was so much press about that, that the ending was so dramatically changed. That’s a fake out?
Flynn: Well, it was a misquote really and the quote just went out of control. David was talking about a re-write and he said, “Well she threw out the whole third act and re-wrote it,” and I’m sure I did. But people interpreted that as I threw out the books ending. And it got picked up by aggregations and the were all off to the races.
Travers: And there was nothing you could do. When the book came out everybody sort of loved the book but they had problems with the ending…
On the fans:
Travers: You lived with this book for years. You’ve written it and then you wrote the screenplay. What do people say to you when they come up to you on the street? “I’ve read your book, and…”
Flynn: Yeah it’s normally, “I’ve read your book,” and then they kind of look me up and down and see if I have any weapons on me. And then they get kind of disappointed and are like, “You seem so nice.”
On writing the book:
Travers: You were writing this book when you were on your honeymoon?
Flynn: On my honeymoon, yeah.
Travers: So your husband thinks what?
Flynn: I told him I’m going to write a book about the most toxic marriage in the world, you know, the dark side of marriage. He didn’t really blink an eye, he just said, “Go for it. Just listen to yourself and we’ll worry about everything else later.” And before I sent it to the publisher I gave him a yellow highlighter and I said, “Don’t be afraid to mark what feels too close to home.” And he starts laughing at me and says, “It all feels too close to home!”
On having her novel purchased by Hollywood:
Travers: In Hollywood, we always see bestsellers purchased by Hollywood, and then they assign three to eleven writers to do the script and then actors have their dialogue people do their parts. And then you got to do it.
Flynn: Well I mean that’s credit to David Fincher. I know how the narrative is supposed to go, I wrote about movies for Entertainment Weekly for many years and I interviewed many, many, many authors who got to write the first draft after they sold their book and it became a musical or something. They got shoved off to the side and I was waiting for that to happen but it was thanks to David. It certainly could have been easier for him just on a pure comfort level to say, “This was a nice first draft but I’m going to give it to someone who has actually written a screenplay before.” He had that faith in me and he was happy to collaborate with me and we ended up being this great team.
On adapting “Gone Girl” from novel to screenplay:
Flynn: I didn’t know that “Gone Girl” necessarily would be a movie. It’s not something you read and you say, “This would be really easy to throw up on the screen,” with all of the internal monologue. I was an author who… loved the idea that my dad was a film professor so I grew up watching movies and talking about movies and studying movies that really valued storytelling. So when the novel was purchased I was just thrilled. And then when David Fincher came on board…he’s one of my favorite directors. I had written parts of “Gone Girl” through his lens. When I had written parts of it way back when before it was even a film, picturing it through his lens almost.
On her biggest fear of adapting:
Audience Question: Having covered movies for so long, what was your biggest fear on this movie?
Flynn: My biggest fear was just that it would be taken out of my hands and turned into something that I didn’t want it to be. It was a big risk for me. I was worried that it would turn into a pure procedural, that it would just be a straight thriller and it would lose all the strange cul-de-sacs of the story and the relationship at the center. I wanted to keep not just the relationships, not just the character studies, but also the humor and the satire within it.
“Gone Girl” hits theaters on this Friday, Oct. 3.
Joshua Kaye contributed reporting.