Patty Jenkins’ 10-Year Journey to Bring ‘I Am the Night’ To Life

The director of Wonder Woman has a new mini-series that might solve the great Black Dahlia mystery.
Patty Jenkins I Am The Night
By  · Published on January 27th, 2019

It can take a long time before conditions are right for a story. Sometimes it’s all about the scheduling. Other times it could be about the material. For the case of I Am the Night, it was most likely the difficulty women face when getting a project made in Hollywood. Thankfully, the wild success of Wonder Woman gave director Patty Jenkins the keys to do anything she wanted. With Wonder Woman costar Chris Pine involved, it was now time to tell I Am the Night, an adaptation of the life of Fauna Hodel.

The series loosely adapts the novel Fauna Hodel wrote, One Day She’ll Darken, but it expands and expounds on that text rather than an exact adaptation. I Am the Night focuses on the teenage years of Hodel (India Eisley), as she discovered that someone gave her away at birth. She grew up in Nevada, believing her biological father was African-American, and although she was raised in a loving family, she had difficulty fitting in with her peers, due to her skin color. It was LA in the 60s and there was a lot of civil unrest especially with race. Hodel was inclined to learn about her past and visit her biological grandfather, Dr. George Hodel (Jefferson Mays). Another person interested in meeting up with Dr. Hodel is Jay Singletary (Chris Pine) who is disgraced journalist who believes Dr. Hodel is a prime suspect in The Black Dahlia mystery.

Patty Jenkins was always looking for the right time to tell this story. “I actually fully and really believe this is the truth of what happened,” she told The Kansas City Star. The Black Dahlia case remains one of those great unsolved mysteries, in the same vein as the Zodiac killer. They found the victim, Elizabeth Short, murdered in an LA neighborhood. She was an inspiring actress with dreams of making it big in LA despite no acting credits beforehand. What makes her story all the more tragic is the graphic nature of her death. The details of her death have been debated for decades including multiple novels and films. I Am the Night hopes to be definitive proof behind The Black Dahlia killer.

Jenkins’ wanted to tell the story on her own terms with themes of race and identity sown throughout the fabric of the mini-series. Jenkins has had interest in telling Hodel’s story for the past decade, but the timing was difficult. The success of Wonder Woman gave her the chance to bring the story to life, but then there is the upcoming sequel Wonder Woman 1984. Apparently Hodel had insisted that Jenkins’ be the one to bring her story to life. “Fauna was calling me and trying to get my advice about doing the project with someone else and saying to me, ‘But I still wish it was you,’” Jenkins remembers in her conversation to The Star. Thankfully, Jenkins brought I Am the Night to fruition.

It’s surprising that Jenkins would choose a multi-part television series for her next project. She likely had carte blanche to do whatever she wanted. IPerhaps she feels at home with the television medium. Instead of rushing through a two-hour and twenty-minute movie, Jenkins could make broad strokes in the mini-series and explore the motivations of her characters fully. When she first heard Hodel’s story in 2008, she wanted to make a limited series. The only problem is that outside of HBO, few networks were exploring the possibilities of a limited series. After the critical success of Monster, Jenkins directed multiple television series episodes throughout the 00s including Arrested Development, Entourage, and The Killing. She was no stranger to the medium. As to why it took Jenkins fourteen years to direct another motion picture after Monster? She has suggested that studios wanted to “work with women on paper,” according to an article on Forbes. It looked good for the bottom line and company relations, but the projects being offered weren’t stories Jenkins had a connection with.

Unfortunately, Hodel passed away in 2017 right as filming was beginning for I Am the Night. She has writing credits on each of the six mini-series episodes and her two daughters worked with Jenkins on fleshing out the story. People have explored the mystery of The Black Dahlia multiple times before, but never in this fashion. TNT has thrown its muscle behind this production and it is a slick Noir caper, with fascinating characters and an even more interesting mystery. Patty Jenkins will finally tell the story of Fauna in the six-part mini-series I Am the Night.

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