Where the Crawdads Sing director Olivia Newman was “terrified” to read the beloved crime-infused love story by Delia Owens. Why? Because she knew that once she read it, she would fall in love with it.
“I had heard about the book and I knew that I would love it, and I also heard that Reese [Witherspoon] had selected it for her book club and that she would be adapting it to screen, so I just thought, I don’t want to read it because I’m going to be so heartbroken that I don’t get to do it,” Newman told MovieMaker ahead of the Columbia Pictures film’s release on July 15.
Little did she know — Hello Sunshine was actually looking for a director.
“It was in the spring of 2020 in the middle of the pandemic when productions had shut down and I had been shooting a TV show… and I was sort of talking with my reps about what we could be developing. It was a time of everybody throwing themselves into development mode because there was no production, and they were sending me all of these very dark psychological thrillers, and I just said, ‘I really need romance right now. I’m just desperate to escape the darkness that we’re all living in,'” Newman said. “They brought up that they were looking for a director for Where The Crawdads Sing, and I almost fell out of my chair because I had been dying to read the book and had been terrified to read it and not get it.”
Where the Crawdads Sing follows Kya Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a girl who becomes known in the fictional, coastal town of Barkley Cove, North Carolina as the “Swamp Girl” after her family abandons her to live alone in their little cottage in the marsh. Left to her own devices, Kya learns to live off the land and fend for herself — until she finds herself in a love triangle that leads to dark complications.
Olivia Newman tore through the nearly 400-page novel in just two days.
“I could not put it down,” she said. “I read Lucy [Alibar]’s script and it was so lyrical and beautiful and really captured the lyricism of the book, and it just felt like the most perfect dream project for any director, really.”
After meeting with Hello Sunshine and 3000 Pictures and pitching her idea for what direction she wanted to take the film version of Owens’ story, Newman got the job.
But it’s no small feat to make a movie based on a book with such die-hard fans.
“When I love a book, I’m always nervous to go see the movie. But I think that the best book-to-screen adaptations are the ones that really capture the essence of the book and capture the feeling that you had while reading the book,” she said. “If you have that same sort of emotional experience while you’re watching the movie, then even if certain details have to be changed or certain characters have to be lost, if the essence of the story and the essence of that feeling you had is still there, I think that’s what works best.”
Main Image: Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing directed by Olivia Newman courtesy of Sony.