Paula Hawkins: The Girl on the Train – From Book to Film

Paula Hawkins: The Girl on the Train – From Book to Film

I wasn’t involved in writing the adaptation, for a number of reasons. First, because I’ve never written for film, I imagine it’s a very different skill to writing prose fiction. Second, I believe that adapting your own work – to which you are so incredibly close – presents its own particular problems. Third, I didn’t feel I had the time: writing the second book while also promoting The Girl on the Train is a full-time job.

So I made the decision to hand creative control to the studio and the producers, and I felt confident early on that I’d made the right decision: they appointed Tate Taylor, who did an extraordinary job adapting and directing Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help, to direct the film and Erin Cressida Wilson, a playwright and screenwriter, to write the screenplay. I met Tate the summer before they started shooting and he talked me through his vision for the film: straight away I felt as though we were on the same page; he really wanted to keep the darkness at the heart of the book, its claustrophobic atmosphere and the under¬lying sense of menace.

Once Tate and Erin were on board, the next big question was who was to play the part of Rachel. Even before I’d visited the set and seen her in action I thought Emily Blunt was a strong choice, but having seen her inhabit the character of Rachel I’m completely convinced that she is the perfect person to play that role. And the supporting cast is outstanding: Rebecca Ferguson as Anna, Haley Bennett as Megan, Luke Evans as Scott, Justin Theroux as Tom, Édgar Ramírez as Kamal Abdic, Laura Prepon as Cathy and Allison Janney as Detective Sergeant Riley.

I haven’t as yet seen any footage from the film, but I’ve had glimpses of the three main female characters while I was on set. It’s difficult to describe how it feels to see characters you created made flesh, walking about speaking the words you wrote. I found it electrifying – the hair was standing up on the back of my neck – and at times genuinely surprising. An actor can bring to a situation you described something that you didn’t even realize was there.