“I took the book straight to Nicole [Kidman],” Papandrea told News Corp Australia.
“She has a really good sense of what will make a good story — she’s so smart and has great instincts — plus she reads very fast!”
The two had been friends for decades and had long wanted to work together, but it took Moriarty’s tale of suburban mums harbouring a litany of dark secrets between them that finally brought them together professionally.
“It had been a dream of mine to work with Nicole for such a long time and we’d tried many, many times,” recalls Papandrea, who serves as an executive producer on the show. “But it’s so funny, because we say to each other now, it was always supposed to be this — this is the thing we were supposed to do together.”
Kidman, of course, won many plaudits, including an Emmy and a Golden Globe, for her Season One portrayal of the physically and emotionally abused Celeste. Now the praise is piling on again as Season Two gets under way — with the second episode screening today on Foxtel.
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Add to that a cast including Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and now Meryl Streep, as the conniving Mary Louise; so it’s little wonder audiences came running.
Still, the South Australian-born Papandrea says she never could have expected the overwhelming success of the first season.
“I don’t think you ever go into something expecting it and I always still, to this day, think it’s lightning in a bottle and you don’t take that for granted,” Papandrea says with a smile.
“I mean, it’s thrilling when it does work, but I know when I watch something that if I love it, you hope others will love it … and when I saw the first episode of the first season I knew how much I loved it so you do have an instinct, yeah.”
Now Papandrea and Kidman are on something of a creative burst together; they’re currently producing the TV series The Undoing, which is currently shooting in New York, and stars the Australian (alongside Hugh Grant) as a successful therapist whose life falls apart. There are other projects on the boil, too.
“We’re producing things together she’s not in, so it’s thrilling. It’s really created an amazing collaboration between us.”
Next up, Papandrea, who also produced the Oscar-winning Milk, Wild and Gone Girl, will set her sights on Penguin Bloom, the heartbreakingly beautiful true story of an injured magpie who helps lift up a Sydney family in a time of tragedy and trauma.
The film will star Naomi Watts, who’s also taking up producing duties alongside Papandrea and Witherspoon.
“Naomi and I are also lifelong friends — I’ve known her even before I knew Nicole — and we’ve been trying to work together for a very long time and again I knew this was the one when this book came along,” says Papandrea.
“I just felt like she was born to play this role, so we’re gearing up to shoot this year, we’re getting very close, and it’s all coming together beautifully.”
Big Little Lies screens on Mondays at 11am AEST and 8.30pm only on Foxtel — where you can also catch up on Season One.