The Girl on the Train: Why Paula Hawkins didn't want to write the screenplay
When it comes to book-to-movie adaptations, author involvement runs the gamut. Gone Girl scribe (and former EW staffer) Gillian Flynn penned the screenplay for director David Fincher’s 2014 film of the same name, and Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James has famously fought to retain control over her erotic thrillers.
But Paula Hawkins, author of the best-selling 2015 thriller The Girl on the Train, was happily uninvolved with the film’s production — aside from a couple set visits and a cameo that didn’t make the final cut.
“It was basically handed over and everybody just got on with it,” Hawkins tells EW. “I’ve never written for film. I would have found it very difficult — I wouldn’t have felt confident about it.” Though Hawkins says she’d be interested in taking a screenwriting course someday, adapting her own novel “would have terrified me.” The job ended up going to screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (Chloe, Secretary).
Indeed, The Girl on the Train was a complicated adaptation because so much of the novel takes place in its characters’ minds, whether we’re with alcoholic voyeur Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) and trying to figure out if she had anything to do with Megan Hipwell’s (Haley Bennett) disappearance, or listening to Anna Watson’s (Rebecca Ferguson) fears that Rachel, her husband Tom’s (Justin Theroux) ex-wife, might drop by the house unannounced and endanger her newborn baby, Evie.
“An awful lot of what goes on happens inside Rachel’s head,” Hawkins says. “Well, you can’t have that on films. So they had to have things like introducing Lisa Kudrow’s character, who I think is only really mentioned in one line in the book but is not even named.” Taylor and his team brought Kudrow’s character to life, and in doing so, she nabs one of the movie’s best scenes. “Bringing out things like that [character] — that is precisely the sort of thing I wouldn’t have known how to do,” Hawkins says.
Her own abilities aside, Hawkins also felt she could rest easy after meeting director Tate Taylor (The Help) and realizing her novel was in incredibly capable hands. “I was always confident about their handling of it from the early days, when I met Tate,” she explains. “He came over to London and we went for a drink, and immediately when he was talking about his vision for it, I was thinking, ‘He sees the same sort of things in it that I see.’ He wanted it to be very dark from the start, and I think the thing I was most concerned about was that [the filmmakers] would take away the darkness of it.”
But there’s one more practical reason for her lack of involvement: “I had another book to write, and I wanted to get on with that!” she says. “That was my priority.” She hopes that this next novel, which centers on the relationship between two sisters “who have a very messy history,” will be out early next year.
For more on The Girl on the Train — including the hair-raising, terrifying scene that’s not in the book and why the story moved from the U.K. to America — pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, or buy it now. Check back on EW.com for even more Train scoop — and don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
The Girl on the Train