The bestselling author opens up about that playful Gone Girl easter egg in her new series Utopia, out Friday on Amazon Prime Video

By Benjamin VanHoose
September 24, 2020 10:00 AM
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Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl (2014)
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Gillian Flynn is making do with her time spent at home during the pandemic — but she's certain her toxic Gone Girl husband-and-wife pair wouldn't fare as well in lockdown.

The author, 49, is currently waiting out the public health crisis at home in Chicago. When she's not working, Flynn now wears extra hats as teacher to her two kids (daughter Veronica, 6, and son Flynn, 10), whom she shares with husband Brett Nolan, as they start the school year virtually.

While she's finding the bright side of the forced quality time spent self-quarantining with her family, Flynn can't help but imagine how Nick and Amy Dunne from her 2012 bestseller Gone Girl would be at each other's throats.

"That feels like a murder-suicide waiting to happen," she tells PEOPLE of the fictional couple, played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in the 2014 movie version.

"I feel like Amy would have used it as a sort of time for self-improvement for everyone — but mostly for Nick," Flynn jokes. "And Nick would have tried to sneak away to eat Velveeta and watch porn."

Pandemics have been on Flynn's mind for several years, in fact. The Golden Globe nominee brings an unpredictable, darkly funny new mystery to the small screen on Friday with Utopia, a story of conspiracies and flu outbreaks that she's been crafting since she was pregnant with her younger child.

"I started working on it in 2013 and I immediately got pregnant with my daughter," she recalls. "And said daughter is now upstairs experiencing first grade. She is walking proof of how long it's taken for Utopia to come to fruition."

Gillian Flynn in November 2018
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Starring John Cusack, Rainn Wilson and an ensemble of young actors playing a ragtag group of comic book nerds, Utopia is inspired by the British series of the same name. The show unravels an intricate web of high-stakes conspiracies surrounding an impending pandemic.

Becoming so steeped in the public health phenomenon and then watching a real-life one unfold this year proved to be a surreal experience for Flynn, who serves as showrunner and wrote all eight episodes.

"It was a very odd moment," she says. "I am not by nature a science person or medical person, but in this case, obviously I had been well-schooled. So I would be nodding along with the news like, 'Yeah, that sounds right.'"

Utopia was shot last year, and Flynn found a way to make the show's production a family affair by casting her little ones as extras. Veronica, she says, was a natural during her scene inside a subway car. "My daughter loved it," says Flynn, adding that it "was totally a Star Is Born" scenario for her girl, who quickly adopted a movie-star mindset for her close-up.

Flynn — who's currently putting finishing touches on her highly anticipated fourth novel — peppered in more than a few easter eggs throughout Utopia. Sharp-eyed fans will notice a theater marquee displaying Gone Girl: The Musical, a wild idea the writer wouldn't be opposed to IRL.

"Oh, hell yeah," she says of a Broadway treatment of the thriller. "I'm the world's biggest musical goofball. I would insist on writing the book but not the music because ... well, being a good rhymer, that's about my only skill."

With a repertoire of decidedly complex, twisted material to her name (she also wrote Dark Places, Sharp Objects and the 2018 film Widows), Flynn doesn't know when she'll be able to share her work with her kids. She looks forward to that day, whenever it may be.

"It's a good question, since kids often aggressively don't want much to do with what their parents do for a living, but I think it would be pretty fun," she says. "My son is very aware of what's age-appropriate and what's not, more so than I am. So he has already told me that he doesn't feel like he should read any of my stuff until he's about 20!"

"Wouldn't be the worst thing," Flynn says with a laugh. "Postpone that for a little bit."

Utopia is available to stream Friday on Amazon Prime Video