Sara Goodman on I Know What You Did Last Summer: We live in a different time

The creator of the show says the series is a long-form story that uses the same premise, but creates a modern version

Before it was a show and a movie, I Know What You Did Last Summer was a novel by Lois Duncan. Like the book and the movie, the eight-episode series also follows a group of teenagers who are stalked by a ruthless killer a year after they covered up a hit-and-run fatality. Sara Goodman, who adapted the story, said all elements had to be modernised.

Speaking over a video call, Goodman says, “The book was set in the ‘70s, the movie was in the ‘90s. We live in a different time in terms of technology and social media and also the pressures on young adults now. Coming of age in this time where everyone is so exposed and at the same time more hidden and isolated is tough.”

On the verge

Making the characters feel authentic and real was important, says Goodman. “Setting it in the real world with real issues and showing the characters as they are, on the verge of adulthood and freedom and still struggling with their identities, was crucial.”

While same sex relationships and gender fluidity find their way into the series, Goodman insists she did not want to make a capital message show about it. “I just wanted to portray a diverse cast and a group of friends who figure things out for themselves.”

Hook, line and sinker

Everyone who remembers the 1997 movie and the slicker-wearing, hook-wielding fisherman would be disappointed at his absence in the show. “The fisherman was not part of the novel. And while I love the movie, I needed to have the mystery element and not just one clear, bad guy to sustain the show over eight episodes,” explains Goodman.

While adapting an iconic work, she had to guard against disappointing fans. “I have respect and admiration for the movie. Adapting is also about being brave and willing to create something new that lives in the space we live in. The show is a long-form story that uses the premise but creates a different version of it, just like the novel was different from the movie.”

Goodman says there was joy in finding little places where to place Easter eggs that were shout-outs to the movie.

Location as character

Hawaii, where the series was shot is also a character, says Goodman. “The fact that it is an island, and there is only one way in and out, makes it worse than a small town. Everyone knows each other’s business. When we think of Hawaii, we think of paradise. We think of this beautiful place that is relaxing, that we all want to visit. Underneath, is this whole other part of Hawaii that no one really sees — the caves, roads and bamboo forests that are darker, dangerous and hidden. For me that really is a reflection of the tone of the show, which is it is pretty and fun, but there is some stuff going on underneath.”

Fright night

Picking Alien as the movie she would love to remake, Goodman says the fascination for horror is because of the desperation to feel things. “Excitement and fear are on the same biological response level. There is an adrenaline rush. Horror also makes us feel safer — that I am not there, being chased by a crazy person. Horror, like comedy, is a tension breaker.”

Listing Alien, Get Out, every Cronenberg movie and Dead Ringers as her favourite horror movies, Goodman says she watched Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead as a little girl. “It was screened in my living room because my father was a dentist who gave Raimi some money to help make the movie. Some horror gene got triggered in me when I snuck in to watch that.” (laughs)

Casting challenges

The casting process, Goodman says, was challenging. “The casting directors were amazing but it was COVID-19, and there were thousands of self-tapes that I had to go through. I probably watched 1000 young women to play the lead and I saw 500 Dylans (laughs). It was important that it was a diverse cast, but it was also important that they felt like they could be friends from childhood. I hate it when you watch a show and feel like these people would never speak to each other.

Shooting the crucial accident was memorable, Goodman says. “Standing in the middle of the night on the cliffs on the second week of shooting, was special. It was a 10-page dialogue scene. We were all just standing there rehearsing. It was scary to be out there on this road at night.”

Goodman is also working on the adaptation of another iconic 90s film, Cruel Intentions. “Obviously I love the ‘90s (laughs). Cruel Intentions is such a quintessential title and I love Dangerous Liaisons. I love that movie and I like young people behaving badly.”

I Know What You Did Last Summer is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video

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