The Film That Lit My Fuse is a Deadline video series that aims to provide an antidote to headlines about industry uncertainty by swinging the conversation back to the creative ambitions, formative influences and inspirations of some of today’s great screen artists.
Every installment asks the same five questions. Today’s subject is Stephen King — who, quite honestly, was one of the high-bar subjects we dreamed of getting when this feature was hatched. He was alongside a short group that included Francis Coppola and William Friedkin (who’ve taken part) and a few others I’m still chasing.
King is a national treasure, a prolific storyteller who has generated more than 60 novels and 200 or so short stories. His work has been turned into such classic films as Stand by Me, The Shining — which also has a miniseries adaptation — The Green Mile, Misery, The Dark Tower, The Running Man, Pet Sematary, The Shawshank Redemption, Cujo and It and series adaptations that include The Stand, Salem’s Lot, Mr. Mercedes, Under the Dome, and, most recently, Lisey’s Story. His most recently published novel is the bestselling hitman thriller Billy Summers.
King started squarely in the horror genre. His first published novel was Carrie, whose first pages King famously tossed in a wastebasket, only to have wife Tabitha fish them out, read them and convince him to keep going. That soon became the Brian De Palma film with Sissy Spacek. From there, his filmography swelled, and he has broadened out to numerous genres, including nonfiction. I’m halfway through Billy Summers, and there is no supernatural influence, at least so far.
King has dozens of works in various stages of development, including remakes of past book adaptations. This has been made possible by a rather simple filmmaker-friendly formula. He asks for a symbolic buck up front for an option, against a generous backend. But King holds creative controls over what is done to his work; he welcomes imaginative adaptations, but a large part of how he does business is meant to protect his books and short stories from languishing — a fate that befell many authors who were hard up for cash and took outright screen/TV rights buyouts.
While the author never has been above sending his characters to hellish fates, he protects his creations from being sentenced to Hollywood Development Hell. Find out the screen influences that helped King find his mojo.
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