Nancy Grace Says 'Gone Girl' Satire Was Flattering, Made Her Laugh Out Loud Gone Girl fictionalizes the controversial cable news star. "I did not go into this to win a popularity contest," says Grace, host of a true crimes and current affairs show on HLN.

Nancy Grace Says 'Gone Girl' Satire Was Flattering, Made Her Laugh Out Loud

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Among those hoping for Oscar nominations this week are the producers of the thriller "Gone Girl." The film is based on the best-selling book - a thriller about a wife gone missing. As NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reports, the film includes a knowing critique of how the media feast on scandal and a fictionalization of a controversial cable news star.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: What happened to the girl who is gone? There's the crux of the film.


MISSI PYLE: (As Ellen Abbott) On the show today, we have defense attorney Tanner Bolt - patron saint to wife killers everywhere.

FOLKENFLIK: That's the voice of the fictional legal cable news host, Ellen Abbott, who serves as a televised Greek chorus throughout the movie's twists and turns.


PYLE: (As Ellen Abbott) Tanner, the hallmark of a sociopath is a lack of empathy.

FOLKENFLIK: Abbott seemingly investigates, indicts, tries and convicts people nightly on TV. She's an interviewer who doesn't weigh opposing argument, but combats them. That Ellen Abbott sure sounds a lot like HLN's Nancy Grace. This - from a real life show.


NANCY GRACE: No offense to either you or Guster, but you're a defense lawyer. And it's your job, if you choose to take the case, to represent somebody like him. What do you do?

DARRYL COHEN: Nancy, it's not easy. It's an egregious case. We've got...

GRACE: I don't know how you do it. How do you go home at night?

FOLKENFLIK: From the outset, "Gone Girl" director, David Fincher, told his cast that Ellen Abbott would be loosely based on Grace. The actor, Missi Pyle, has played a version of Grace before on the CBS show "The Mentalist." Grace is from Georgia. Pyle's a Texan. And Pyle tells me she knew exactly how she would play the role in "Gone Girl."

PYLE: You know, I tend to think of an exact exaggerated personality - someone who's loud, southern and somebody who's just not really afraid of what anyone thinks.

FOLKENFLIK: Pyle says Fincher insisted the part not be purely a caricature.

PYLE: I think she sees herself as someone who's very pivotal to getting justice done. I just - the word justice is constantly something that she is thinking or saying. And it's just the idea of finding righteousness or the justice for those who can't speak for themselves.

FOLKENFLIK: But, Pyle says, she enjoyed playing up the atmospherics, too.

PYLE: Trish, the costume designer - she was so excited because Nancy - Nancy wears a lot of leather and she wears a lot of loud clothing. So I got to wear all of those, like, leather jackets and, you know, really bold print pants and get the hair really big and a lot of makeup. So it was really fun to do that. And that kind of put me, also, into the character.

FOLKENFLIK: The one person most likely to take issue with that presentation doesn't.

GRACE: I was very flattered most lately that Ben Affleck included me in "Gone Girl." I think my husband and I were the only people laughing at certain junctures of the movie.

FOLKENFLIK: That's Nancy Grace herself. She spoke to me from the set of her HLN show in Atlanta, which she's hosted for nearly a decade.

GRACE: Well, I guess they kind of got the hair right. I imagine the black leather jacket was right. The southern accent was a little over the top, but it was pretty good.

FOLKENFLIK: Grace has cited the murder of her fiance more than three decades ago as the inspiration for her earlier career as a prosecutor. She says "Gone Girl" gets her fierce advocacy on TV be more or less right, too.


GRACE: As the defense sits by and as their champagne toast, after that not-guilty verdict.

FOLKENFLIK: This is grace from 2011. A Florida woman, Casey Anthony, had been found not guilty of killing her daughter. Grace made the case a national cause.


GRACE: Somewhere out there the devil is dancing tonight.

FOLKENFLIK: Grace tells me the scenario in the movie reminded her of Scott Peterson, a California man later convicted of killing his wife.

GRACE: I commented on and analyzed his behavior while his wife was missing, we all know, now, at the bottom of the San Francisco Bay.

FOLKENFLIK: At times, Grace has faced criticism and even lawsuits arguing she cynically casts aside the presumption of innocence in pursuit of ratings and heat. In 2010, Grace settled a case filed by the estate of a woman who committed suicide shortly after taping an interview for her show. The woman's son was missing and Grace strongly suggested she might be responsible. But Grace says she's driven to provide a voice for victims. And the parody in "Gone Girl"...

GRACE: I laugh - laugh out loud at it. And so does my family and so does my husband. Look, I didn't go into this to win a popularity contest. I do not expect to be crowned Miss congeniality, OK? If that's what I was looking for, I would have gone into a different line of business.

FOLKENFLIK: Even Affleck's character cannot help watching the fictionalized version of grace, as Ellen Abbott takes him down live on primetime TV.


TYLER PERRY: (As Tanner Bolt) It's the most abnormal situation in the world.

PYLE: (As Ellen Abbott) Excuse me - Tanner - Tanner, are you trying to tell me that this photo is remotely in the realm of acceptable?

BEN AFFLECK: (As Nick Dunne) I'm so sick of being picked apart by women.

FOLKENFLIK: But Ellen Abbott wouldn't be silenced, and nor, it appears, will Nancy Grace. David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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