Typically, Stephen King doesn't worry much about film adaptations of his work. The way he figures it, if it's a good movie, that's great. And if it's bad, well, he still gets the royalties from the book. "I don't care that much," he said of some less-than-stellar adaptations that even Blockbuster would hide on the back shelves.
At least that's the way he felt until folks wanted to adapt his epic seven-book series, "The Dark Tower."
"This is a special thing to me," King told MTV News, explaining why he turned down several filmmakers — even his longtime collaborator, director Frank Darabont, who helmed "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile" and the most recent King book to hit the big screen, "The Mist."
He did, however, agree to a limited-edition graphic-novel treatment of "The Dark Tower." It comprised seven issues, which are encapsulated in a book, "The Gunslinger Born," that came out earlier this month. The success of the comic led King to consider novelizing the comic book version, and, finally, it opened him up to the possibility of seeing "The Dark Tower" on the screen. He optioned the project to J.J. Abrams for a symbolic $19.
"This is not a thing I would have [given] to just anybody," King told MTV News. "I've said no to everybody until recently, but based on [Abrams'] work, particularly 'Lost,' which I think a lot of, I thought, 'Yeah, these guys can do it.' "
King is hopeful that the movie version of the tale can be told over a series of episodes, either as a TV miniseries or an epic film series. "It's become a more realistic opportunity, I think, after the success of movies like 'Lord of the Rings,' where the movie is really actually three extra-long movies put together to tell one story," King said. "I'm interested to see what comes out of it."
By the time Abrams turns his attention from "Star Trek" to "The Dark Tower," he'll have a host of stories to choose from. "The Gunslinger Born" tells how the main character Roland became a gunslinger in the first place, picking up where a few mentions in the first and fourth books of the series leave off. "This is like 'Roland: The Lost Years,' " King joked when presenting the first issue at New York's Comic-Con in February.
The next graphic-novel installment, which is called "The Long Road Home" and comes out in March, leads up to the Battle of Jericho Hill. "I really want to see this," King said at the Con. "It's this story where all these guys are screaming and attacking, like in '300,' and they're the last bunch of guys holding out, and the guys against them all [have] blue faces, like Mel Gibson in 'Braveheart.' Roland is the only one who gets away under a pile of dead bodies. That's got to be a double-panel job."
Meanwhile, Darabont isn't giving up on adapting another King project. He has his eye set on "The Long Walk" — not to be confused with "The Long Walk Home" — which King released in 1979 under his Richard Bachman pseudonym. "That's one of the stories I'm keeping in my pocket," Darabont told MTV News. "It's one of Steve's weirdest and most provocative stories."
(For more on Darabont's plans for "The Long Walk," check out the MTV Movies Blog.)
"Basically, I got interested in reality shows before there were reality shows," King explained. " 'The Long Walk' is a contest where you have a hundred boys who are 16 to 17 years old, and the implication is that they're all malcontents. The idea is that they all have to walk at a certain speed, at 4 miles an hour, and if they fall below that speed, they're shot and killed. The last guy standing is the winner."
Darabont hopes to shoot it after he's done with "Fahrenheit 451," which, thanks to the writers' strike, is now postponed indefinitely, he said. But he imagines "The Long Walk" would be a low-budget independent film that he could shoot guerrilla-style. "The thing about it is, these guys never stop moving," Darabont said. "So how do you get a good close-up? It's an interesting challenge to not have people just get sick of watching because of all the movement — because you'd get seasick."
"If it's faithful to the book," King said, "you're looking for a lot of slaughter over the course of that movie. It's a very, very difficult, violent, wrenching story to tell."
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