Just when it seemed like studios like Warner Bros had surrendered themselves to superheroes and low-risk sequels, The Fault In Our Stars director Josh Boone says that the studio plans to allow him to turn Stephen King’s epic novel The Stand into a four-part franchise. The studio has been trying to figure out what I would say is King’s finest novel, in which the civilized world ends due to a viral genocide and the remaining population comes together in a battle between good and evil.
Helmers like Ben Affleck wrestled with the daunting task of turning King’s original 1168 page blockbuster into a single film. It is virtually impossible, which is why the sole transfer was a pretty fine miniseries in 1994. Boone told Kevin Smith in his Babble-On podcast (I heard it on Aint It Cool News) that after he boiled down the tale to a single script for a three-hour movie, Warner Bros actually suggested to him a more ambitious plan for what he calls “The Godfather of post-apocalyptic thrillers.” Said Boone: “They asked, would you do this as multiple films. I said f*ck yes. I think we’re going to do four movies. Do The Stand at the highest level you can do it at, with a cast that’s going to blow peoples’ minds. Production in the spring.” Boone said he’s writing that first installment, based on the script he has happily scrapped.
I was excited when Warner Bros was going to do an equally ambitious treament of King’s supernatural Western The Dark Tower, with Ron Howard directing and Akiva Goldman writing and producing with Brian Grazer and King an adaptation that was to span a trilogy of films, and a limited run TV series in between them. Warner Bros bailed on that and MRC is still working on it. Let’s hope Warner Bros makes a stand here for the kind of creative ambition that exists on pay and basic cable but is sorely missing from feature studios that don’t make enough bets on originality.
It’s worth remembering, as Warner Bros prepares for the Christmas release of the final installment of The Hobbit:The Battle Of The Five Armies, that Peter Jackson was down to his last bullet when, after being put in turnaround by Disney-owned Miramax, he got turned down by every studio in town when he made his final pitch for his vision for The Lord Of The Rings in two installments. Bob Shaye risked his company agreeing to bankroll a trilogy in one shoot. The six film canon of Middle Earth that ends with The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies is a feat that will probably never be duplicated in Hollywood, particularly in today’s climate of risk aversion. The six films will likely gross a total between $5.5 billion and $6 billion, with 36 Oscar noms before we see what the finale reaps, 17 Oscars including the Best Picture for The Return Of The King, all with the same core filmmaking team. If you listen to Boone speak (go to 1:26 in the podcast and listen from there), he is as passionate about King’s works as Jackson was for JRR Tolkien. It all starts with a studio decision maker, one with a spine, saying, yeah, I want to see this. There are opportunities for visuals from The Stand that rival what Stanley Kubrick put on the screen in King’s The Shining. The depiction of the apocalypse in The Walking Dead, you just know that and other filmed works were informed by some of what King presented in his seminal novel. Stay tuned.