‘SHARP OBJECTS’ Director Jean-Marc Vallee
The director and auteur behind every episode of 'Big Little Lies’ opens up about his next prestige series for HBO. By his count, Jean-Marc Vallee spent 182 days in 20 months shooting back-to-back murder mysteries. Big Little Lies came first, with Vallee helming all seven episodes of the HBO series. He won an Emmy and widespread praise for his work. From there, he moved quickly — too quickly, he’ll tell you — from Lies to the same network’s Sharp Objects, based on a Gillian Flynn thriller. Amy Adams stars as a deeply wounded newspaper reporter named Camille Preaker, who returns to her hometown to report on the murder of one teen girl and the disappearance of another — and faces her own past. Again Vallee helmed every episode, eight in total.
Was the plan always to direct every episode as you had on Big Little Lies?
Yes, that was the plan from the beginning. And it was the plan first to do Sharp Objects, and then Big Little Liescame. I told Reese [Witherspoon] and Nicole [Kidman], "I'm sorry, I'm already involved in a TV series where I'm supposed to direct all of them, so I can't direct the whole thing. But if you'd like, I have time to do one, maybe two." So that was the plan on Big Little Lies…
It didn't quite work out that way.
Nope, I found myself directing all of them. The scripts weren't ready [on Sharp Objects], so it was possible, but I knew it was going to be a tough ride for two years to shoot two TV series, all of the episodes, back to back. I shot, I think, 182 days in 20 months.
On the surface, Camille should be this very unlikable character, and yet you watch her and you find you have empathy for her. How do you ensure that happens, and are you conscious of doing so as you're shooting?
It was there, it was on the page, before I started to work. I gotta give credit to Gillian Flynn, who wrote such a singular, dark story. And sometimes there's beauty in the darkness and we get to care for this woman, strangely, as we turn the pages. She has a way to describe the world and talk about herself that is so different and so honest that you forgive her bad decisions, even though you want to tell her, "No, don't do that! You're not supposed to do drugs with your little sister. No, don't go there, don't sleep with an 18-year-old! No!"
So I have this bible, and we have Amy Adams' face. There's such a coolness and an intelligence in her face, in her eyes, in the way she acts. And all these elements added together, we get to care for her. She's also not a pretentious character. But it's funny because, at the beginning, the first week, she changed her voice, and she was speaking so softly and it was instinct on Amy's part. And I had to go to her, because I wasn't sure it was the right decision…