20th Century Fox
Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl — and the 2014 Ben Affleck-starring film adaptation — is so disturbing, it’s hard to believe that something like that could actually happen. But it sort of did with the shocking disappearance and death of Laci Peterson nearly 15 years go.
On Christmas Eve 2002, a 27-year-old pregnant Laci went missing from the home she shared with husband Scott Peterson. What ensued was months of vigils, media appearances by a “grieving” Scott, and tabloid coverage of his hidden secrets. Sound familiar?
Even the author herself has admitted to seeing parallels between her book and the Peterson story. Read on for a breakdown of all of the similarities.
(Photo Credit: A&E)
The (Faux) Grieving Husband
Both Scott Peterson and his fictional Gone Girl counterpart Nick Dunne were considered the perfect, All-American husbands from the outside looking in. They had beautiful homes, a “happy” marriage, and a career. But behind closed doors, they were struggling — especially financially. Scott was said to be majorly in debt before Laci went missing, while the character of Nick lived mostly off his wife’s trust fund. And in both cases, the possible motive of collecting life insurance off their wives was considered.
Then, there are the optics — just like Nick, Scott struggled to show any true emotion while his wife was missing. Add in the fact that director David Fincher once said, “Ben Affleck looks more like Scott Peterson than Ben Affleck,” and the movie becomes even creepier.
Scott Peterson (left) and Ben Affleck. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
The Missing Beautiful Wife
Putting aside what we later learn about Amy Dunne, her disappearance in the book is not far off from Laci's. In Gone Girl, Amy disappeared without a trace on the Dunnes’ anniversary. Laci went missing while walking the couple’s dog on Christmas Eve — another big day. During the search, the women were portrayed as the picture of sweetness and beauty. We later learn of Amy's true nature and her devious revenge plot, which is where she and Laci drastically differ.
Pregnancy factors into both tales, though in the case of Laci, her ending was much more heartbreaking. She was eight months pregnant with her and Scott’s first child when she went missing, and had even chosen the name Connor. Nick and Amy Dunne had previously tried to get pregnant in the book, and in the end, the no-longer-missing Amy announced she’s expecting. Unfortunately, it was all just to stop her husband from revealing the truth about her “disappearance.”
The Media Attention
The most obvious ripped from the headlines moments in Gone Girl are those having to do with the press. Gillian Flynn made the Dunnes an attractive couple like the Petersons, who were quick to attract media attention. In both cases, a press conference was held and vigils were organized by the families. Nick is confronted with questions about whether he's a suspect, which is something that also happened to Scott, though he opted to storm off instead of answering. All of this coverage was spearheaded by a sensationalistic cable news host obsessed with the case — in real life, it was HLN’s Nancy Grace, and in the novel, it was Ellen Abbott.
(Photo Credit: Modesto Police Department)
The Peterson and Dunne cases were both blown wide open when it was revealed that the “grieving” husband had been carrying on an affair prior to his wife’s disappearance. Scott Peterson’s mistress, Amber Frey, dropped the bombshell news in a press conference, much like Nick’s college-aged fling Andie.
Seeing how much Gone Girl mirrors the California couple’s case, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t direct source material for the author. That said, there is a key difference between the two: the real-life tragic ending. Four months after Laci went missing, police found her body (carrying a full-term male fetus), washed up on shore 90 miles from the Petersons’ home. Two years later, Scott was convicted in the murder of his wife and unborn son, and he’s currently on death row. Our hearts still break for her family.