In making 'The Lost Daughter,' Maggie Gyllenhaal found power as a director

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Maggie Gyllenhaal preps a scene on the set of “The Lost Daughter” in Greece. Photo by Yannis Drakoulidis/Netflix.

In the new Netflix drama “The Lost daughter,” Olivia Colman plays Leda, a literature professor whose hopes for a quiet working holiday on a Greek island are dashed soon after she settles into her lounge chair. 

As a large, boisterous family takes over the beach, Leda’s attention is drawn to a loving but troubled mother, Nina, played by Dakota Johnson. When Nina's young daughter suddenly goes missing, Leda finds her and saves the day — sort of. 

The whole encounter brings back long-ago memories of Leda’s own difficult experience as a young mother to two little girls. As the days go on, Leda’s past continues to haunt her in increasingly overwhelming ways. 

“The Lost Daughter” is written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, an Oscar-nominated actress known for the film “Secretary” and the HBO series “The Deuce,” where she played a pornstar turned porn director. 

“The Lost Daughter” is based on a book by Elena Ferrante, the anonymous Italian writer behind the acclaimed “My Brilliant Friend” novels. Before Gyllenhaal could begin work on her directorial debut, she had to face the daunting task of getting Ferrante’s permission to adapt her book. 

Gyllenhaal tells KCRW about corresponding with Ferrante through letters. The author gave Gyllenhaal free rein to make her movie, and “The Lost Daughter” is the first time a Ferrante book has ever been adapted in English and set outside of Italy. 

Gyllenhaal also describes embracing big decisions as a director, including deciding to switch the film’s location from New Jersey to Greece. 

She also explains why she hasn’t given up on acting, but for the immediate future wants to stick to writing and directing.

Credits

Guest:

Host:

Kim Masters

Producer:

Kaitlin Parker