EXCLUSIVE: Josh Boone, who since directing the hit adaptation of the John Green novel The Fault In Our Stars has been scripting to direct such high-profile projects as the Anne Rice novel adaptation of Vampire Chronicles and X-Men: The New Mutants, has found what he hopes will be his next film.
On spec and in concert with producer Michael De Luca and author Stephen King, Boone has penned an adaptation of Revival, based on King’s 2014 bestseller about a charismatic preacher who loses his faith when his wife and child are killed in a tragic accident. Unhinged from the religion that grounded and gave him a conscience, the preacher becomes ruthless in his experimentation into the healing but dangerous power of electrical current, positioning him to act as God-like faith healer and opening a terrifying Pandora’s Box. Intertwined with the preacher is a young man with demons of his own, who has benefited from the preacher’s talents and becomes a reluctant accomplice to his deadly obsession.
Boone and De Luca have submitted the script to Universal, where the producer has a first-look deal; it will likely find a home quickly if that studio doesn’t spark to the tale. Aside from those feature projects, Boone and his Mid-World Productions cohorts Knate Lee and Jill Killington are separately working on projects that include a soon-to-be-announced three-season adaptation of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins detective series at a network Boone wouldn’t name. It’s designed to cover a period ranging from the Watts riots to the L.A. riots, with mysteries to be solved, along the way.
Boone also has written a script for a feature adaptation of The Stand. Arguably King’s most ambitious and definitive novel at 823 pages, the book has seen several A-list filmmakers come and go at Warner Bros. Boone said he’s determined to make that film, and has practically set a cast, with verbal commitments. But it’s so sprawling a tale that it’s going to take longer. Warner Bros’ option has run its course, and the project has reverted back to CBS Films, which could place it at another studio or make it through an arrangement it has to share big-budget fare with Lionsgate.
While that gets sorted, Boone has cleared his schedule for Revival, which he hopes to direct this year. Even though the slow-building terror story spans around 50 years, the film can be mounted for a reasonable budget, and he’s already discussed with actors the two leads—Reverend Charles Jacobs and Jamie Morton, who meets the preacher as a boy and narrates his descent into madness and evil.
Boone’s entry point into the book was King, to whom the writer-director had been sending drafts of The Stand as he compressed an apocalyptic storyline into a feature-length format. King has been nothing but patient as Hollywood tries to adapt his complex books like The Dark Tower (which moved from Universal to Warner Bros before finding footing at Sony and MRC, with Nicolaj Arcel directing Idris Elba as gunslinger Roland Deschains and Matthew McConaughey his nemesis) and 11/12/63 (which started as a Jonathan Demme-directed film and became Hulu’s first original TV series to be released later this month). When Boone — who considers King such an influence that he put the author in his first film Stuck In Love – asked King for more time on The Stand, they began talking about Revival and the author put him in touch with De Luca, who had just optioned the book.
“I’ve read every book Stephen King has written, multiple times; he taught me how to write characters,” Boone said. “When I read The Stand, it was literally from under my bed. I was raised by evangelical Christians, who believed in The Rapture. I wasn’t allowed to read Stephen King books for a large part of my childhood. I ripped the cover off this Frank E. Peretti book This Present Darkness, a Christian bestseller, and put it on The Stand, because they were roughly the same size. I would read these books under the bed and hide them in the box spring, like normal kids stashed their pornography. My mom found my King stash and they burned the books in the fireplace. I still have a picture in a photo album of this giant pile of ashes in my parents’ fireplace.”
Undaunted, a 12-year old Boone sent King three volumes of The Dark Tower series, addressing it to the author’s name and home state of Maine. He got back not only an autograph, but a long encouraging note from King, along with a limited edition copy of King’s My Pretty Pony, a gesture which moved his parents to lift the ban on King books in the Boone home. That Boone would eventually direct one or more books by King always seemed inevitable. The Revival antagonist’s loss of faith matched Boone’s own outgrowing of the religion that was pounded into him as a child.
Said Boone: “When I read Revival, I was like, man, did you write this for me? I’d been on both sides of that pendulum. I call myself a non-believer, now, and when I moved to LA, it was like Neo being pulled out of The Matrix. Oh, my god, none of that stuff is true! But it was what I’d been taught and what I believed in since childhood. I believed in the devil, in Jesus, and even now as a non-believer, I’m still fascinated by that world and Revival is the scariest thing he’s written since Pet Sematary. He tricks you, drawing you in gently, with that narrator’s voice and a long time span that reminds you of The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile, and then he pulls that rug from under you in that last act and you’re like, oh my god, what have I gotten myself into? The secret of electricity starts as this wonderful thing and it gets progressively darker. Jamie calls Charles on it, but sticks around, because he, like the rest of us, wants to know what’s on the other side. It’s powerhouse stuff, and two of the best characters he has written since Annie Wilkes [played by Kathy Bates in an Oscar-winning turn in Misery]. I still intend to make The Stand, but I need more time, and when I asked Steve about Revival, he put me together with Mike De Luca.
“The thing about Stephen King is, if he gets you young, if you’re at the right age when you start picking up his books, you will travel with him and his will be the voice you most like to hear when you open a book,” Boone said.
Boone is not a fan of the current crop of horror films, which shortcut character development to get right to the sadistic scares that usually come from a haunted house or demonic possession. “King did the haunted house thing better than anyone in The Shining, and what he does so well is, he invests you in these characters with all their mundane lives and all the things people think about and worry about,” Boone said. “Only then does he introduce a supernatural element and those characters are so beautifully built that you are willing to go with it. The movies based on King’s books that don’t work so well are the ones that don’t take the heart of the characters that beat in the books. I’m a huge John Carpenter fan, but on Christine, there’s an aching sadness and deep character development in the book that’s just not in that movie. What I’d like to do is Anthony Minghella-depth adaptations of King’s books, if that ambition makes sense.”