The Two Stephen King Adaptations I Want to See Before I Die
No one's adapted either of these amazing books... yet.
It is a monster, and not just of the scary clown variety. With more than $266 million in domestic box office earnings, it's on track to become the highest grossing horror movie of all time. So what's next? You can bet every major studio is suddenly very interested in Stephen King's extended bibliography, poring through novels, short stories, and maybe even his "Dollar Babies" for the next big hit. Maybe it'll be Gerald's Game or 1922.
So with all this attention suddenly coming King's way, it seems like maybe it's time for studios to consider two of his best and most over-looked books. The cynical part of me thinks all we'll get out of It's huge success is some ill-advised extended cinematic It universe with Pennywise reigning supreme over a cadre of evil King characters. Ugh. But maybe. Just maybe we'll get a couple of adaptations that King's hardcore fans would love to see.
1. The Long Walk
Probably the best King book that no one's tried to adapt so far, The Long Walk was his very first novel, started in his pre-Carrie college years. (Though it was published as a Richard Bachman book after Carrie.) The book takes a sadistically simple premise and walks it out to a brutal conclusion that would make an absolutely killer film as long as they don't mess with the third act too much.
The idea is that every year, 100 teenage boys sign up for the titular Walk, which starts at the Maine/Canada border. All walkers must maintain a speed of at least four miles per hour as they walk south. There are no breaks. If they slow down, they get a warning. Three warnings and you get shot by one of the soldiers along the parade route. They walk and walk and walk and walk until there's only one boy left. The winner's "prize" is anything they want for the rest of their lives. It's a massive spectator sport with people in towns lining up to watch the walkers pass through and placing bets on who will last the longest.
The book has since been pointed to as a precursor to the The Hunger Games, which is accurate in its ideas, but doesn't do justice to the details. King is less forgiving an author, plodding along as brutally as the walk itself, killing characters off until the pile of bodies stands as a testament to the cruelty of this strange world. And all the while he's doing that very special King thing where he makes you actually care about the characters. Their conversations and their personalities unspool over the course of the book, allowing you to get to know them in a way that fans of Stand By Me (or The Body) will recognize immediately.
The story is told from the point of view of a 16-year-old boy named Raymond "Ray" Davis Garraty. He falls in with a group of buddies who kind of keep each other going and their conversations are what make the book such a great read. One of them, Peter, is the kind of kid who looks like he could win this thing. As the boys walk and talk, they become increasingly interested in a loner named Stebbins who seems determined to walk them all to their deaths.
Casting Suggestions: Just one. After seeing him in I Am Not a Serial Killer, Max Records would make for a great Stebbins. After that you'd have to nail down the lead walker and his jock-ish best friend, so the main danger would be just going too bland.
2. Wizard and Glass
The recent very disappointing Dark Tower adaptation did more than just waste Idris Elba. It all but wrecked our chances of seeing Wizard and Glass, the fourth book in the series, on the big screen anytime soon. But hear me out. This one could stand totally on its own without any other Dark Tower stories to explain what's going on. (So please, Hollywood person randomly reading this article, consider making it happen.)
Okay, so let's start with the Gunslinger. The Dark Tower books follow the Gunslinger, Roland, and his companions on this epic quest to save not just one world, but all worlds. But right in the middle of the series, Stephen King hits pause on that epic story for the sake of a novel-length flashback to Roland's teenage years right after he becomes a full-fledged Gunslinger. It takes place in a sort of alternate universe Old West that feels very much like the American Southwest except that this Old West landscape is riddled with the remnants of what appear to be a collapsed and ruined United States. (So it's like post-Apocalypse Old West.) It's also subject to the influences of both dark and light magic.
That mix of fantasy and western makes for an irresistible world, but as King fans know, he's even better at character than he is at world-building, so every one of the players — Roland, his two teen buddies, his love interest, and the villain — jump off the page.
The story follows teenage Roland as he investigates the goings-on in a dusty little cow town where something seems rotten. He's been sent there by his father, also a gunslinger, to investigate the town's leaders without them realizing what's going on. The story soon starts to color in Roland's backstory, answering many lingering questions for readers of the first three books, but it also works on its own because Stephen King is not J.R.R. Tolkien.
The genius of adapting Wizard and Glass is that if it's not a big hit, it's not a big deal. You've made a perfectly good movie that doesn't require an entire franchise to be worth seeing. If it takes off, and everyone loves it, it could make for an excellent entry point for the Dark Tower series.
Casting Suggestion: You'll need a younger version of Roland, so maybe Shameik Moore from Dope. We already know he's got chemistry with Tony Revelori who would be great as his talkative buddy Cuthbert.
3. Honorable Mention: The Stand
Yes, The Stand was adapted into that miniseries with Gary Sinise in the '90s, but it's never been given the true cinematic treatment it deserves. The Stand is consistently ranked among King's very best works, but its sprawling nature has made it an intimidating prospect for potential filmmakers. It seems like an adaptation of the book has been stuck in development hell since basically 1980, with names such as Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, and even George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) attached in various ways. While The Stand may prove to be the White Whale of Stephen King adaptations, I'd still take a 90-minute version of The Long Walk over a three-movie version of The Stand any day.