Emily Blunt
Emily Blunt: will she play the lead in Gone Girl?

Devil Wears Prada star Emily Blunt is in the frame to star in the screen adaptation of Gone Girl, the macabre potboiler and psychodrama that was the runaway US publishing phenomenon of 2012.

The thriller, which topped the New York Times bestseller list, selling 2 million copies since last summer, has been memorably described as "like a Hitchcock rewritten by a mean Candace Bushnell" by one critic, in a reference to the author of the Sex and the City books.

Following the commercial success of The Hunger Games and the sensation surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey, bidding to secure the film rights for the summer's most popular novel was fierce, eventually going to 20th Century Fox for $1.5 million. Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn has been signed up by the studio to write the screen adaptation.

Initial speculation as to who will land the lead role centred on Legally Blonde star Reece Witherspoon, who has confirmed she is to produce the film. But her hopes of landing the part were dismissed by TheAtlanticWire.com, which labelled her a "chipper little sparkplug", adding that the role demanded "someone with secrets".

British actress Blunt is perceived by insiders to have more of the requisite character depth and moral ambiguity. She is being tipped as frontrunner after she was spotted reading a copy of the book. One Hollywood insider described her as perfect for the role, saying: "She has played super-sweet and utterly evil - but never in the same film."

The novel gains much of its suspense from switching between the perspective of a husband whose wife goes missing, and the missing wife herself. Other contenders for the starring role include Charlize Theron and Rachel McAdams, with Mad Men star Jon Hamm, Ryan Gosling and X-Men actor Michael Fassbender rumoured to be in the running for lead man.