One of the Dark Places
Dark Places is told primarily by Libby Day, the sole survivor of the murders of her family when she was a child. Libby knows who committed the crime. In fact, her testimony put her brother Ben away for life. And maybe a few pieces of family memorabilia. Soon Libby is confronted with the murders again and she begins to question her testimony and memory for the first time. The novel is split by alternating chapters that are narrated by Libby in the present and chapters that focus on the 24 hours leading to the murders.
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But Dark Places is unrelentingly depressing. The innate tragedy of every single character is unable to be loosened through time. Each character feels trapped in their own ways. As an example, Libby lost several fingers and toes due to frostbite because of her escape from the slaughter. Devastating on its own; she is always carrying her trauma, these are more than scars.
This detail broke me. A knife to the side. Characters constantly get shit on, get abused, bullied, taken advantage of, have nothing going for them, and have generally broken lives. Sharp Objects , another crime novel full to the brim of violence, abuse, trauma, and broken families has so much more to say than Dark Places.
Dark Places concerns itself with topics like the Satanic Panic of the last century think the true-life case of the West Memphis Three. The same is true for discussing the obsession we have for true crime stories. I was really lucky to work with a director who felt really protective of Dark Places and really liked it for what it was.
Gilles and I, we just really hit it off. I sold it specifically to him because I knew it would be in good hands and with someone who really loved Libby like I did and loved the darkness in her.
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Visually, how did he pitch the movie to you? You were such a big collaborative part of Gone Girl , writing the script. Did you ever contemplate writing the screenplay for this one, as well?
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I actually had [thought about writing the screenplay], but at the time, when we sold it, I was facing a deadline for Gone Girl and I was also six months pregnant. This production seems to have moved at a slower pace. Filming, I think, was ….
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Gone Girl was a blockbuster and it lifted Dark Places after it, but Gone Girl was the one with the momentum, so I think it was purely just a matter of that. It had a big studio behind it from the get-go.
Writing and the Creative Life: Dark Places
Charlize has played dark characters before. She brings a real intelligence to Libby, which I thought was really important. You can look at Charlize on screen and see her thinking, which I think is very cool.
Was there any temptation to make Libby a kinder, gentler, more sympathetic character on the screen? Absolutely not. Again, that goes back to Gilles, which is why I wanted to work with him.
He loved the nastiness of Libby and the meanness of Libby and really thoroughly respected that so there was never even a conversation about making her more consumable. I think the conversation has moved forward. When we were shopping [ Sharp Objects ] there was definitely some push-back: Would people really want and accept this kind of character, and I think now we see it quite a bit, especially after Gone Girl.