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Columns 2018

Rick Bentley
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Amy Adams gets stuck on ‘Sharp Objects’

Amy Adams has never had a serious game plan for selecting acting roles.  That’s why her work over the past 19 years has ranged from a wild beauty pageant contestant in “Drop Dead Gorgeous” to the spunky newspaper reporter, Lois Lane, in the recent Superman films.  Her latest work, HBO’s “Sharp Objects,” has Adams playing a troubled journalist, Camille Preaker, investigating a series of child murders that takes her back to her tiny hometown.

Her best guess as to why she selects the roles she does is that sometimes she’s just been trying to work out issues in her own life and the project seemed suitable to allow her to do that.

“I think, as long as the main character has a strong voice, or if it’s a supporting character, I really understand how she supports the main character in a way that it feels new and unique.  Like to me, just something that feels different that I haven’t done before,” Adams says.  “With Camille, I think the thing that attracted me was that I hadn’t seen this particular hero from a woman.  So that was really attractive to me.

“But there isn’t one particular type of woman.  If the voice feels specific, if I understand it, and if it feels true and if it doesn’t feel true, I can’t do it.  I don’t know how to do it.”

There’s no hint as to whether taking on “Sharp Objects” is allowing Adams to deal with real issues but she talks in detail as to what attracted her to this role as a reporter involved in a strange world.  Adams liked that while her character does a really good job when she is dealing with people on a direct basis, there’s the ever present problem that Camille’s drinking might get in the way of her recall.

Adams laughs while talking about how Camille may forget to use a tape recorder or fail to follow up on a possible lead but in the end, as Adams puts it, “she’s not as good as Lois (Lane),” referring to her work in “Superman Returns” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Her character comes from 2006 debut novel by author Gillian Flynn who also penned “Dark Places” and “Gone Girl.”  She credits her 15-plus years as a journalist for giving her the foundation to write the books.

Flynn says, “I wrote ‘Sharp Objects,’ actually, and my second book, when I had my day job as an Entertainment Weekly reporter and writer.  So it clearly is good luck, I’ll tell you that much.  And for me, I always say I would never have been a novelist ever and I also don’t think a screenwriter had I not had that training.  I think, for me, the novelist, that training came demystified for me – the training of writing, because, you know, you have to sit down every day whether or not you’re in the mood for it.

“You learn that there’s no sort of goddess of gorgeous writing is going to come from on high.  You just have to sit down with your coffee and your egg salad and get the work down.  And that for me, was so helpful as a novelist and for me, writing, screenwriting, it helped me.  Having spent all those years on the other side, getting paid to look at something and like, ‘Why is this so good?’ and getting paid for that was an invaluable lesson for me.  So for me, I felt like I got a lot of years of that great training, of really looking and getting paid to look at TV and movies and I loved every day of my job.  I was really lucky that I really loved my job and, being a pragmatic mid-westerner, I’d probably still be there.  They laid me off, actually.”

One thing Flynn knew from all those years getting paid to watch TV and movies is that it would be very difficult to condense her book to a two-hour format.  Her fear was that trying to condense the book would mean that Amy Adams wouldn’t have had a lot to do because Camille’s story would have be pushed aside by the mystery.

The fact the book was made into an eight-episode series allowed for more time to go into some very dark areas.  Adams got through the toughest scenes through fellow cast members such as Patricia Clarkson and some late-night conversations.

Adams says, “There’s a closeness that either existed or became during the shooting.  So that helped us through sort of the darkness of the subject matter.  For me, family is the most grounding thing. So going home to my daughter and my husband and making dinner or doing something very domestic always helps me reground myself and get me back into my own reality.

“I had talked about that I had really bad insomnia and I would wake up with anxiety, and I’d have to realize that I didn’t own it.  It belonged to Camille.  So, I’d have these very insane conversations with myself at four o’clock in the morning, by trying to decide what was my anxiety and what was Camille’s and what I needed to let go of and what could work the next day, so I felt crazy occasionally.”

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