We 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 release.)

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 fun!"

"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 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 it.

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 . . .




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