Elisabeth Moss is bringing one of your favourite horror writers to life

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Kayleigh Dray
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Elisabeth Moss will play cult writer Shirley Jackson in an unflinching new biopic.

Elisabeth Moss will play cult writer Shirley Jackson in an unflinching new biopic for Netflix.

Shirley Jackson is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best horror writers: indeed, The Haunting of Hill House – which she published in 1959 – is widely regarded as the greatest ghost story ever written.

Jackson’s life, however, was every bit as interesting as her stories. She began writing to escape her schoolyard bullies and her relationship with her parents deteriorated as a result – so much so that they had her attend a nearby university, so that they could supervise her studies. Jackson, though, transferred to Syracuse University, where she flourished creatively and socially – and met her future husband, the noted literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman.

She did not get the happy-ever-after she hoped for, however: plagued by severe anxiety, Shirley was prescribed barbiturates and amphetamines, and she readily admitted to friends that she felt patronised in her role as a “faculty wife”, which was no doubt triggered by the fact that her husband (who insisted upon an ‘open relationship’) controlled her finances, doling out an “allowance” to his wife – despite the fact Jackson made significantly more money than him with her writing.

Now, at long last, Jackson will be honoured with a biopic of her very own, aptly titled Shirley – in which Elisabeth Moss, currently starring in The Handmaid’s Tale, will bring the author to life.

The Netflix films, which is based on Susan Scarf Merrell’s book, tells the story of a young couple that moves in with Jackson and Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg), in the hopes of starting a new life.

Instead, they find themselves fodder for a psycho-drama that inspires Jackson’s next major novel.

Josephine Decker, who will be directing the project, told Deadline: “No two people write more wildly rich female characters than Shirley Jackson and Sarah Gubbins. It’s an honour to bring their female sorcery to life with these incredible partners.”

She added: “I can’t wait to witness Elisabeth Moss’ visceral inhabitation of Shirley’s beautiful tortured spirit and Michael Stuhlbarg’s unflinchingly charismatic-while-cruel Stanley.”

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman’s Los Angeles Media Fund has come aboard to finance and produce the project. “We are thrilled to join this team, which is uniquely suited for this project,” they said.

“There’s no one better than Elisabeth Moss to take on the towering role of Shirley Jackson. As a director, Josephine Decker has already shown herself to be a master explorer of the blurred terrain where reality intersects with fantasy and creativity. Christine Vachon and David Hinojosa, of course, have a formidable track record of producing films of high calibre.”

Shirley is scheduled to begin filming this summer.

Image: Getty


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.