“The truth was being held in a bottle too tight, for too long,” says I Am the Night director and EP Patty Jenkins about the enigmatic story of teenager Fauna Hodel, whose search for her real mother in 1960s Los Angeles plunged her into the city’s underbelly.
Fauna Hodel was a white girl raised by her adoptive black mother who believed she was of mixed racial origins. Fauna (played by India Eisley on the TNT series) learned that she was adopted under fraught circumstances and darted to LA to find her mother Tamar. Fauna discovers that her grandfather is George Hodel, a perverse doctor, abortionist and lover of creepy erotic art who was part of the city’s 1% and a key suspect in the 1947 Black Dahlia murder.
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Jenkins met the real Fauna in 2008 and originally wanted to adapt her memoir One Day She’ll Darken as a movie. Fauna had tried to make the movie several times, but every time she attempted, people came after her and shut the production down.
After making Monster, which delivered star Charlie Theron a best actress Oscar, Jenkins says “We had this momentum of a story that wanted to be told, that nobody had been able to tell.” Fauna’s story was well known around town, and was even served as an inspiration for Robert Towne’s Chinatown script. Jenkins’ early hurdles in developing the project for the big screen was that every time she brought up Fauna’s story, “the second you said Black Dahlia, everyone said it should be a Black Dahlia movie.”
“The truth is that’s just the top of the iceberg in what is absolutely bizarre, intriguing and incredible about this story, that’s the least of it,” explains Jenkins.
A limited series wasn’t in the cards back in the mid-aughts as it was all before HBO’s True Detective became the norm. The success of Wonder Woman catapulted the long-gestating project into a reality with Jenkins’ husband Sam Sheridan as I Am the Night‘s creator.
In today’s Crew Call Podcast, Jenkins explains how she explored the bizarre of world George Hodel, why Chris Pine was the quintessential wrinkled reporter gumshoe, the state of Black affairs in LA during the 1960s and the vibrant palette she used in painting the City of Angels in red, blues and sandy colors. Jenkins directed the pilot episode of I Am the Night and its second episode “Phenomenon of Interference.”
Also catch the end of our podcast where Jenkins expounds on why she set the next Wonder Woman sequel in 1984 (opening June 5, 2020) and her theories as to why certain cinema genres (comedies, dramas) no longer work at the box office, and have fled to streaming: It’s definitely not because audiences have abandoned them on the big screen or lost interest. It’s because theaters are overlooking such genres in favor of booking big IP tentpoles.
“Theaters only started carrying too limited of a palette,” say Jenkins, “What I’ve found since the mid 2000s is that every theater in America only shows the same five movies. If every cineplex is only playing the same five movies, how do they know that people want to watch dramas? Because you’re not putting them there now.”
As the studios chased tentpoles, “TV came along and stole their thunder” by stepping up their comedies and dramas “because audiences aren’t going to stop watching these,” says the Wonder Woman helmer.
About those cinema genres that have fled to streaming and TV, Jenkins says, “I don’t believe people want to watch this stuff on television. I believe they want to watch it in theaters, but no one is putting it there.”
I Am the Night is for your consideration for all categories at this year’s Primetime Emmys.
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