Maria Elena Fernandez TODAY
The Lifetime remake of “Flowers in the Attic” hasn’t premiered yet, but the network announced Thursday that the sequel is already in the works. That’s how confident network executives are that the Internet “will melt” by the time the made-for-TV movie, based on the ’80s cult novel by V.C. Andrews, airs on Jan. 18.
In case you’re not a child of the ’80s and never heard of the pulpy epic first novel of a five-part series, “Flowers in the Attic” was a favorite book of girls of that era — and one that many had to read behind their parents’ backs, including screenwriter Kayla Alpert, who adapted the book for the Lifetime movie. (Another film was made of the book in 1987).
“I was a huge fan of the book as a tweenager,” Alpert said Thursday during a press conference at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual gathering in Pasadena, Calif. “I sobbed in my Laura Ashley comforter and hid it from my mom. My mom said last week that she never heard of the book, so it worked.”
The book’s popularity was born from its creepy quality and addressing of taboo subjects. It follows the Dollangangers, a seemingly perfect American family that comes apart when the father unexpectedly dies and the mother takes her four children to live with her very wealthy parents. The grandmother forces the children to live in an attic for two years, where she routinely punishes them and they eventually lose contact with their mother who re-marries and chooses her inheritance over them. Eventually, the two older children fall in love, repeating the cycle of incest started by their parents.
Heather Graham stars as the mother, Corrine Dollanganger; Ellen Burstyn plays the evil grandmother; Kiernan Shipka (“Mad Men”) plays Cathy, the elder daughter; and Mason Dye (“Secret Diary of an American Teenager”) plays elder son Chris.
“There’s a lot of condensing we had to do; it’s a long, epic book,” Alpert said. “We had to pick and choose our moments. It’s more fun being less explicit. We had to get a little creative…It’s really juicy and compelling…It’s a writer’s dream, especially because I’m such a fan of the book.”
Graham, who said she did not read the book until after she booked the role, called the story “disturbing” and said Burstyn “was glad get out of this character because it was so disturbing. All of the little kids were so excited to be scared by her. She was just laughing. She was really powerful. She was having fun but when it was over, she was really glad it was over.” (Burstyn did not attend the press conference).
Alpert said she stuck to the spirit and heart of the book, but added plot points to delve more into the psychology of the characters, especially the adult mother-daughter relationship. Alpert also changed the ending significantly.
“I really tried to flesh that out and add more back story and have more colors to the story and explain why the mother (played by Burstyn) was so evil and why they had this cruel, symbiotic relationship,” she said. “It was a lot of pressure and at the same time, it was so much fun.”
Alpert is already writing the sequel, based on the second book in the series, “Petals in the Wind,” which will begin 10 years after the events of “Flowers” and which she called “a very juicy compelling revenge drama.”
“Flowers in the Attic” premieres on Lifetime on Jan. 18.