have only one thing to say to the Hollywood execs planning to make a movie out
of Stephen King’s 1978 novel, The Stand: good luck with that!
Hot (sort of) on the heels of news that Stephen King’s
Dark Tower novels are to be made into several
movies and a TV series comes the news that Stephen King’s bloated 1978
novel The Stand, long considered by fans to be one of the horror
author’s best works, will be made into a movie.
Little is as yet known about the project: CBS has held
for the movie rights for years and has now auctioned the property to
Warner Bros. According to one report Warner Bros. beat out Fox and Sony in
“a hotly-contested bidding war.” The report goes further that Warner Bros.
will handle worldwide distribution and marketing while CBS Films has the
option to co-finance the project. Both studios will co-develop and
co-produce The Stand. Stephen King will be involved in the
production in an unknown capacity, probably as “executive producer”, one
of the most nebulous job descriptions in Hollywood.
It is expected that Warner will shop around for
screenwriters and directors for the project in the weeks to come. What
form the final project will take is unclear however. Will it be one or
several movies? The novel clocks in at 1 344 pages and it is difficult to
see how any standalone movie version will be shorter than three hours.
(The first published version in 1978 was actually edited
down for brevity’s sake, but King’s version - which he originally submitted
to the publishers - was re-released in 1990 as The Stand: The Complete &
Uncut Edition, the version available nowadays. The new
version also updated the setting of the novel from 1980 to 1990. In 1985
the novel’s setting was changed to that year for the novel’s paperback
The novel details the aftermath of a superflu virus
named Captain Trips, which is accidentally released from a secret U.S,
military base where it was developed as a bioweapon. The virus kills off
more than 99.4% of the world’s population. In the aftermath a myriad of
characters find themselves haunted by bad dreams of a supernatural nature
and the groups of characters coalesce into two opposite warring factions –
the one good and the other bad – for a climactic showdown or stand (hence
the title) against the forces of evil.
"I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was
"I love to burn things up," King said in an interview.
"It's the werewolf in me, I guess . . . The Stand was particularly
fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race,
and man, it was fun! Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I
worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an
entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke."
King’s novel may be much beloved by fans, but its sheer
length can be daunting to readers. “I don't mind reading long novels,
writes one Amazon.com reviewer, “but I think the lack of direction in
The Stand comes from the sheer (unnecessary) length of the book and
the intention of the author to create an ‘epic’ story.”
It is only readers who find The Stand’s length
intimidating. The novel spent 10 years in development hell before it was
made into a TV miniseries for television in the 1990s. During the
‘Eighties Stephen King wanted Night of the
Living Dead director George Romero to make a theatrical film out of
Writing a workable screenplay however proved difficult
due to the novel's length. King talked about adapting it for television
but was informed that the television networks did not "want to see the end
of the world, particularly in prime time." Eventually King allowed
screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg, who was a fan of The Stand, to write
his own adaptation on the novel. Pallenberg's script would clock the film
in at close to three hours while still staying true to the novel. Everyone
liked the script; however, just as it was about to finally come together,
ironically – considering its recent involvement - Warner Brothers backed
out of the project.
The Stand finally made its way to the small
screen in a six-hour ABC mini-series, which was broadcast in 1994. It was
directed by Mick Garris and starred actors such as Gary Sinise, Molly
Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Miguel Ferrer, Laura San Giacomo, Ossie Davis, Shawnee
Smith and Ed Harris. King wrote a new screenplay for the series, toning
the material down for television.
And the moral of the story? There are definitely going
to be some frustrated Hollywood scribes out there trying to condense the 1
344 pages of The Stand into an average-length movie script who is
going to wish that King did indeed abandon work on the novel because of
writer’s block as the author admitted in his 2000 book on writing titled
exactly that . . .