It’s official: the Stephen King Movie Renaissance is now in full swing. With the announcement that two producers are headed to the Cannes Film Festival to sell a big screen version of King’s short story The Reach (a tale King is often quoted as saying he would “most like to be remembered for after his death”), a new era of the author’s movie adaptations has begun. There’s been no shortage of movies based on the writings of King since the author’s career exploded in the ’70s, but finally the quality is hitting its peak. That hasn’t always been the case.
Most people would label Stephen King as a horror writer, thanks to seminal works like Carrie, The Shining and It. In the ’80s and early ’90s, that’s exactly what he was to Hollywood: a source material mine that resulted in two decades of half-hearted, shlocky horror flicks — apologies to anyone with a strong passion for Gary Busey’s werewolf movie Silver Bullet or Children of the Corn. Brian de Palma’s Carrie or Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining stand apart as outliers to the trend, but more often than not, King’s works were reduced to silly adaptations cashing in on the man’s success. Heck, King himself even boarded the train with his directorial debut, Maximum Overdrive (you know, the one where a killer mac truck takes down a little league game.
But Stephen King isn’t simply a horror writer. In the second half of the ’90s, some of his most interesting, genre-bending works were translated into compelling big screen dramas. The Shawshank Redemption, Dolores Claiborne, Apt Pupil and the The Green Mile showed off the potential of King’s works when taken seriously. There were still some painful horror misfires as Hollywood segued into the new millennium — remember Dreamcatcher? — but with most of the horror tomes translated to screen decades before, Hollywood was finally looking for new ways to bring King’s books to life.
Jump to today, and you’ll find a movie business even more enthralled by King’s work than ever before. With the author working as steadily as he was years ago, Hollywood is pushing to take the author’s recognizable brand to the next level — and on a variety of levels. The Reach (part of King’s Skeleton Crew collection) is an unconventional by Hollywood’s standards: the story follows a 95 year old woman is decides its finally time to leave her home, Goat Island, and cross the waters to the mainland. Along the way, she comes across the ghosts of those who passed away on the island — many of them familiar faces from her past. The movie is budgeted in the $12-15 million range, a distinctly indie approach to adapting King.
The Reach joins a plethora of King adaptations currently in the works, ranging from blockbusters to independents to TV series:
The Stand: Warner Bros. was courting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows director David Yates to take on King’s end of the world saga, but has since turned to Ben Affleck. The 1994 mini-series is a TV movie classic, but the WB hopes to launch a two-movie franchise that can do service to the book’s epic scale.
Pet Sematary: First made in 1989, Transformers producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, writer Matthew Greenberg (who penned the entertaining King adaptation 1408) and director Alexander Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3-D) will bring King’s terrifying dead pet story back to life.
11/22/63: Director Jonathan Demme, who won an Oscar for his work on The Silence of the Lambs, is set to write and direct a feature based on King’s latest novel, a time travel saga revolving around JFK’s assassination.
Carrie: Continuing the trend of gravitas, Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss) tackles a retelling of King’s supernatural high school drama with one of the finest young actresses working today: Chloe Moretz. Keeping the bar set high is four-time Oscar-nominated actress Julianne Moore as Carrie’s mother.
Under the Dome: Lost writer and comic book overlord Brian K. Vaughn is set to adapt King’s massive ensemble drama into a TV show for Showtime.
Rose Madder: Nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2004 for In America, Naomi Sheridan is writing an adaptation of King’s story of marital abuse and otherworldly escape.
The Dark Tower: King’s seven-book Western/Fantasy epic is getting the Lord of the Rings treatment from director Ron Howard, writer Akiva Goldsman and producer Brian Grazer. Originally set up at Universal, the movie/television hybrid (the plan is to jump back and forth between the two mediums over several years) has recently jumped to Warner Bros.
There’s no shortage of King in the works, but for one of the first times in the author’s career, it finally looks like Hollywood is doing it right.
Photo Credit: WENN