Paula Hawkins on Acting, Addiction, and The Girl on the Train Movie

Paula Hawkins on Acting, Addiction, and The Girl on the Train Movie

All aboard, readers. The big day is finally here: The Girl on the Train is now in theaters. We’ve been counting down the days ever since we first read Paula Hawkinsthriller of the same name in 2015. To celebrate the release we sat down with Hawkins to talk about Rachel, addiction, and her favorite change that the filmmakers made.

Bookish: What aspects of the film do you think will be most interesting or thrilling for viewers who read your book and are going in knowing the ending

Paula Hawkins: God, that’s a good question. I think that they’ve done an amazing job of maintaining the suspense even if you do know what’s going to happen.

You might come in wondering if they’re going to change it, because they slightly lead you in different directions about who you’re going to suspect. And I think to some degree Emily is suspicious for longer. Rachel is sort of threatening for longer than she is in the book.

So, yes, I’ll be really interested to hear what readers think of it. And also I’m interested to hear from people who haven’t read it who they were suspecting, whether it’s different from the book.

Bookish: There’s an interesting parallel between Rachel watching the life she had through a window, and you, as an author, watching the story you wrote on the screen. What was the most challenging aspect of having a work you wrote be adapted?

PH: Well, you’re always going to be a bit nervous about whether it’s faithful about how it translates. I mean, although I didn’t have any creative control, I wanted it to be done well.

But actually, overall I had a really happy process because I made the right decision to not be involved. I hadn’t written for film, and I didn’t know anything about it. So, I think I made the right decision, and I’ve been lucky that really good people got involved to adapt it. So, so far, touch wood, it’s all been good.

Bookish: If you could play any character in the film, who would it be?

PH: I’d have to be Rachel. Rachel is the one I know the best. She has been in my head the longest. I would hate to have to do that. I don’t understand how actors do what they do, really.

Bookish: If you could reach out to Rachel in some of her darkest moments, what advice would you give her?

PH: That’s a hard thing to do, because there is no simple advice, I think, to give to an addict. I think support is what you give to an addict. And you try very hard not to enable them, for example, not to make it easy for them to fall back into old ways. I mean, Cathy [played by Laura Prepon] actually does a good job. She tries.

You need to have professional help when you’re in that situation, but you also need to seek professional help yourself because—I know people do interventions and stuff, but actually it doesn’t really work unless you want it. So, you just have to be as kind as you can to people who are struggling with addiction.

And it’s not easy because they’re so frustrating. And I understand why people get so annoyed with Rachel, because she keeps making the same mistakes and doing stupid things. But that is what addiction is like, isn’t it?

Bookish: What’s your favorite change that the filmmakers made in the adaptation that wasn’t originally in the book?

PH: The introduction of Lisa Kudrow’s character. She’s mentioned in the book, but I don’t think she’s even named, actually. And giving that storyline a visual was really powerful.

Actually, she ends up being really quite important, doesn’t she, because she’s the one who triggers the memory. And I liked the fact that that was a really nice supportive moment, a moment between women at the end, where she’s like “It wasn’t your fault. He’s the shit,” you know? “You did nothing wrong.” I liked that, and I think that worked really well.

I don’t think there’s that much that’s radically different. It’s pretty faithful.

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller. An international #1 bestseller, published in 50 countries and over 40 languages, it has sold over 11 million copies worldwide and has been adapted into a major motion picture starring Emily Blunt. Hawkins was born in Zimbabwe and now lives in London.

DreamWorks Pictures’ The Girl on the Train
Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow and Laura Prepon star in DreamWorks Pictures’ The Girl on the Train, from director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up) and producer Marc Platt (Bridge of Spies, Into the Woods).

In the thriller, Rachel (Blunt), who is devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds.

Based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, The Girl on the Train is adapted for the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson. The film’s executive producers are Jared LeBoff and Celia Costas, and it will be released by Universal Pictures.

Rated R

Kelly Gallucci
Far too busy rereading the Harry Potter series, Kelly finds that her greatest literary sin is that she neglected to read classics like The Shining and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In between overseeing the editorial content for Bookish, holding interviews with authors like Isaac Marion and Lauren Beukes, and creating book recommendations for Kanye West—Kelly’s trying to catch up on the books she missed out on. She just finished The Great Gatsby and might be in love with Fitzg. Kelly received her B.A. in English Writing from Marist College and her M.A. in Screenwriting from National University of Ireland, Galway.


  1. I think we are confronted with something interesting – although it would be great if all women were most invested with themselves or their friends or building their own lives, a lot of women really do build their lives around men. So, I feel that your observation is correct. So the question then becomes: is it problematic to consistently portray these real women? There are women out there who take the messages of the world and embody it – always aspiring to marriage and motherhood, while shunning what we can perceive as a deeper development of self (this can be questioned, of course! Maybe these women have a strong sense of self and it dovetails with a standard narrative.)

  2. Girl on the Train:

    I finished this book hoping that the author had a different ending for this twit. I was disappointed.
    By the time I was 1/2 way I hated the girl, the book and the author. How much manipulation can one tolerate?
    She should have been killed in that tunnel then the police would have had a real murder mystery on their hands.

    I can’t see them making a film that is worse than this book; better maybe by changing the story.

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