'The Woman in the Window' : Inside the Controversy Surrounding the Book and Its Long Journey to Netflix

The Woman in the Window, based on A. J. Finn's popular 2018 novel of the same name and starring Amy Adams and Julianne Moore, is out on Netflix now

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Woman in the Window (2021), Amy Adams as Anna Fox
Amy Adams in The Woman in the Window. Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

The Woman in the Window has finally hit Netflix — but the wild story behind the film's journey to the streaming giant might be even more compelling than the plot itself.

Based on the 2018 novel of the same name by A. J. Finn (real name: Dan Mallory), the film adaptation has been plagued with challenges since its genesis, from reshoots and release-date pushbacks to a move from theaters to Netflix.

But there is also much in the author's own backstory, including, as covered in a 2019 profile by The New Yorker, Mallory's claims that he previously lied about having cancer, after his mother was afflicted with the illness when he was a teenager.

"I felt intensely ashamed of my psychological struggles — they were my scariest, most sensitive secret," a statement from Mallory read at the time, according to The New Yorker.

The outlet also said Mallory admitted to lying about teaching at and receiving a doctorate from Oxford University, his mother dying from cancer, his brother dying by suicide, and more.

Below, PEOPLE takes a look at some of the hurdles The Woman in the Window — starring Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Brian Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Wyatt Russell and Anthony Mackie — overcame to become a hotly-anticipated new Netflix film.

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Woman in the Window (2021), L to R: Gary Oldman as Alistair Russell and Brian Tyree Henry as Detective Little.
The Woman in the Window. Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix
Woman in the Window (2021), Wyatt Russell as David
The Woman in the Window. Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

The Controversy Behind the Author

Mallory, who was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder in 2015, has been open about mental health — a central theme of The Woman in the Window — and admitted in his 2019 statement obtained by The New Yorker that he "has stated, implied or allowed others to believe that I was afflicted with a physical malady instead of a psychological one: cancer, specifically."

Saying that this had happened "on numerous occasions in the past," the author explained, "My mother battled aggressive breast cancer starting when I was a teenager; it was the formative experience of my adolescent life, synonymous with pain and panic."

Mallory worked with psychotherapists for 15 years, and said in his statement that during that time he "was utterly terrified of what people would think of me if they knew — that they'd conclude I was defective in a way that I should be able to correct, or, worse still, that they wouldn't believe me."

"Dissembling seemed the easier path," he added. "With the benefit of hindsight, I'm sorry to have taken, or be seen to have taken, advantage of anyone else's goodwill, however desperate the circumstances; that was never the goal."

A.J. Finn
The Woman in the Window author Dan Mallory, a.k.a. A. J. Finn. Eugene Gologursky/Getty

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The "Confusing" Test Screenings

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, the movie's director, Joe Wright, said of the long process of making the film that included reshoots: "There were some plot points that people found a bit confusing — I would say possibly too opaque maybe."

"So we had to go back and clarify certain points, but I think also we tried to make sure we didn't oversimplify anything and make things too clear," he added. "There's an enjoyment in not knowing what's going on, but at the same time, you have to give the audience something to hold on to — you have to lead them through the labyrinth of mystery and fear."

Despite the setbacks, Wright, 48, told EW he was "very interested to see how people respond to the film and I can't wait for its release."

"What I hope people will take away from this is a sense that our own fears can incarcerate us," the filmmaker added. "And this is a story about a woman who manages to overcome her own fears, and leave them behind her."

The Woman in the Window A.J. Finn
The Woman in the Window book cover. William Morrow

The Move to Netflix

After numerous delays, EW previously reported that The Woman in the Window would be coming to Netflix sometime in the first half of 2021.

Originally intended to open in theaters last May (and in October 2019 before that), Netflix purchased the film from Disney in August, according to EW.

Written for the screen by playwright Tracy Letts, who also costars in the film, The Woman in the Window is one of the leftover 20th Century Fox projects delayed during Disney's acquisition of the movie-making company in March 2020.

The Woman in the Window is out on Netflix now.

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