World News – UA – Panic on a pandemic planet: Gillian Flynn on her reboot of cult TV thriller Utopia


The author of Gone Girl gave the Channel 4 series a serious and timely overhaul We visit her set in Chicago to discuss conspiracy theories, viruses and vaccines with Flynn and the frontman of the ‘John Cusack show

On the outskirts of Chicago, on the first floor of an old hotel designed to give the impression of hosting a comic book convention, 50 people are on the move, disguised as wizards, rabbits, pirates of the space and superheroes You won’t find a Captain Americas or Wonder Women here, however instead you’ll have to settle for my new favorite benefactor, Antler Man, a guy whose superpower seems to turn into a huge moose.

It’s September 2019, the sun is shining, and as the cameras roll, no one in the cast or the Utopia team has a clue what will turn out to be. to be the Most Timely Show of 2020 The scene they shoot today is pivotal This is the first time our heroes, a motley team of nerds and misfits, have come together in their quest to hunt down Utopia, a gang legendary cartoon that would have predicted that many of the most devastating viruses to ever sweep the Earth The book is believed to contain other prophecies

On the set, I meet Gillian Flynn, author of the bestselling novel Gone Girl and the woman at the helm of this American remake of the bizarre British conspiracy thriller series which first aired on Channel 4 in 2013  » I want it to be very resonant, ”says Flynn, adding that she is keen to instill in her version the unshakeable feeling that we are heading towards the end of the world. Oh the irony

A year later, speaking to me through Zoom, the prescience she displayed on that hot day in Chicago is the source of a dark humor « I spent the last months in the editing suite » , she said, « hearing characters talk about ’emergency use permits’ and looking at pictures of’ hot zones’ My husband and I were having conversations and he was like, ‘Wait, are we talking about the pandemic-pandemic or the pandemic-spectacle?  »

Written by Dennis Kelly, whose pen brought us the extremely brilliant comedy series Pulling, the original was unlike anything else on British television It was, says Flynn, « a razor blade dipped in chocolate ”- a funny and brutally violent blackish show about a looming crisis caused by climate change and overpopulation In its blazing Technicolor raised hyper-world, like a savage comic book coming to life, Earth is in the throes of a pandemic Les rumors abound about his cause and a dark organization pushes a vaccine Real-life events, such as the TWA plane crash in 1974 and the assassination of Congressman Airey Neave in 1979, have passed through his theory of mangle plot

But alas, not enough people watched it, and it was canceled in 2014 after its second series « I always felt that utopia could reach more people, » Kelly says « I had the ‘feel like it could be wider and taller in a good way But I’m not the person to make it happen I’d just end up writing the UK version again « Come on Flynn, who has been trying to remake Utopia for half a decade » I found it so rich « , she says » As a writer I liked that it was different enough to give me a challenge I never wrote an ensemble piece What I write is usually very psychological and focuses on one or two people « 

Flynn was introduced to the original by David Fincher, the filmmaker who brought Gone Girl to the big screen. He was set to direct the remake for HBO but resigned due to a budget disagreement. difficult, « says Flynn, who explains that Fincher had been » very clear « about the size of the budget he wanted to achieve his vision. » To me it’s like, ‘Pay him what he wants! « But it’s easy for me to say it It’s a really expensive show, full of scenery It’s not Cheers » Fincher insisted that she chase him without him, and that’s how it is. ‘is now complete on Amazon « It took a lot of rewriting, » she says « I had to drop two episodes to make it workable »

It was important to Flynn – and to Kelly – that she made this new utopia her own. The most notable difference is Flynn’s decision to ditch the colorful comic book style of the original and embrace a more serious and grounded aesthetic, influenced by 1970s conspiracy thrillers She tells them: « Three days of the Condor, parallax view, Marathon Man – I feel like people back then had the same feeling of a changing world »

The « nerds » – as they are called on set – all have their own reasons for wanting to find Utopia Becky, played by Ashleigh LaThrop, thinks the comic might contain the cure for a mysterious degenerative disease she has. How does LaThrop think his Becky compares to the original? « Mine is definitely more of a pot mouth, » she laughs The actor came in wearing a dark red « Where’s Jessica Hyde? » T-shirt, a nod to the question that kept coming back throughout Series 1 of the original

Hyde, who eventually became the group’s streetwise frontman, is now played by American Honey star Sasha Lane, who has harshly redefined the otherworldly character « She’s like that animal creature that’s been on the run since she was a kid, » Lane says « I’ve literally watched a bunch of feral cat videos and left them She doesn’t like human interactions, is constantly out of breath, will do whatever it takes to get her food, then run away She’s scrubby She’s not domesticated She’s not the sweetest of little things « 

More sadistic fans of the series will be delighted to know that one of its most gruesome scenes, in which a paranoid conspiracy theorist with his eye gouged with a spoon, has survived The Man Who Oversees His Torture – the deranged, childish assassin Arby of Christopher Denham – films a brief walk through the comic book convention today Dressed in a button-down polo shirt, hair parted to the side, shoulders heavy, Denham portrayed the normcore killer that he plays as « Daddy’s Denim Terminator If 200 people saw him in a crowd, they would just remember that vague silhouette of a man I think that’s what makes him so scary »

The remake’s biggest star is undoubtedly John Cusack, whose character, enigmatic biotech CEO Kevin Christie, lurks in the background, pulling the strings of his powerful Christie Corp C ‘ is the first time Cusack has accepted a lead role in television “It’s like making an eight hour movie,” he says “I never got to develop a character like this, rehearse it and see where it gonna It’s really fun « 

Christie’s slogan: « What did you do today to earn your place in this crowded world? » – gives voice to the anxious currents of the series, but Cusack is reluctant to reveal too much about his character « He’s a fusion of those benevolent, public relations savvy billionaires who tell you you have to trust them, that they help them. people, that they will save us »

There has never been a dearth of conspiracy theories but, in the seven years since the first utopia, we have seen a proliferation Cusack himself was accused of tweeting (and deleting) a on 5G technology, a claim he refutes « A lot of online trolls were trying to say I was connecting 5G to the coronavirus, which of course I never said. All I said was that it is unproven technology, like any other that you should be skeptical of « 

Is Flynn worried about the release of Utopia during the QAnon era, the anti-vaxxer movement, and even the idea that Covid-19 was made in a Chinese lab? “I think people who use the show as a way to talk more about how we treat each other in a pandemic and how we deal with conspiracies, which is why I was interested. I’d rather write something that you hate but talk about, rather than saying to yourself, “I liked it” and never think about it again ”

The remake doesn’t feature the original’s most controversial scene, in which Arby walks into a UK school and shoots everyone inside Unlike the UK, school shootings are a horribly phenomenon. common in the US « I just didn’t want to contribute to this phenomenon, » says Flynn

In a way, the remake must sound like a validation for Kelly, who speculates that the reason Utopia was canceled was that it was too specialized a show to survive at a time when the success was mostly judged by overnight ratings – that is, how many viewers watched it when it aired. « If it had come out two or three years later, we would see it in a way slightly different, « he says, referring to the boom in streaming and catch-up TV, which has shrunk audiences overnight.

« Channel 4 has been great and supportive, but I was disappointed that I didn’t allow myself to end the story with a special. I definitely had another series in me, and I just might have had another weirder series beyond that, but I think I could have ended the story with a special « He laughs » Then again that was a fucking weird series You had to commit to it We didn’t not make it easy for people – and I’m proud of it « 


World News – UA – Panic on a pandemic planet: Gillian Flynn on her reboot of the cult TV thriller Utopia


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