“It didn’t shock me that they cast a beautiful woman as Rachel – this is Hollywood, after all,” says Girl on the Train author

Some fans have questioned the casting of Emily Blunt as Paula Hawkins' overweight alcoholic protagonist

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The Girl on the Train is the book of the year so it should come as no surprise that the rights to Paula Hawkins’ novel have already been snapped up by Hollywood bigwigs. 

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With millions of copies lining bookshelves around the world, the race is on to transfer the twisted tale to the silver screen. Emily Blunt is already attached to star as protagonist Rachel – a casting choice that has left fans of the book rather bewildered given that the character is meant to be an overweight alcoholic. 

But the decision to cast Blunt – who has starred in The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria and Into the Woods – came as no surprise to Hawkins. “Obviously in the book, yes, she’s supposed to be overweight. But it didn’t shock me that they cast a beautiful woman – this is Hollywood, after all. At least they didn’t cast an 18 year old,” she told an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

“You don’t have to be overweight to be an alcoholic – they can make her look haggard and ground down in other ways – so the look of her is not the most important thing.”

Asked if she was satisfied with the casting, she replied: “I like her as an actress so yes, perfectly happy with it.”

Rebecca Ferguson and Haley Bennett have also bagged roles in the film – playing Anna and Megan – with Jared Leto and Chris Evans rumoured to be circling the project. But instead of commuting through London suburbia, Rachel’s story is to be transposed to the United States where, according to Hawkins, “everyone might look a bit more glamorous and it might be a little bit racier.” 

Does she worry the film might lose the essence of her story with the location switch? “Without seeing it, I don’t know. It will give it a different feel, certainly, and again I’m not particularly upset about it. I know some people are. I’m quite happy to wait until I’ve seen it. The location isn’t the key thing for me so long as they maintain the atmosphere of it and the characterisation – that’s far more important to me than the actual location.”

The author is playing no part in adapting the film. That job is left to Erin Cressida Wilson, with Tate Taylor (The Help) in the director’s chair. In the meantime, Hawkins has turned her attention to writing a new thriller. 

“I’m setting it in some sort of fictional town in the north of England which is kind of dark and grim and rainy. When I say grim I mean it has a grim history that is actually beautiful but has a really dark past. It’s a story that centres on a relationship between sisters and the terrible things that happen to them in their childhood and how it shapes their lives. I hope it will feel quite gothic and gritty.”

With her pen back in hand, can Girl on the Train fans hold out hope for a follow-up? 

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“I don’t have plans for a sequel,” confirms Hawkins.