Posted on Thursday, July 1st, 2010 by Peter Sciretta
In early 2009, it was announced that Warner Bros was developing a big screen adaptation of Stephen King‘s novel IT. They hired screenwriter Dave Kajganich , who wrote the initial drafts of The Invasion, to pen the screenplay adaptation. We haven’t heard much about the project since. But now we have an update, after the jump.
When I was younger, I read a lot of Stephen King books. Over the years, Hollywood has turned a lot of King’s library of work into crappy horror adaptations — The Shining and Carrie might be the two exceptions. For a writer known primarily as a horror novelist, it’s surprising that the movie adaptations of his non-horror stories, like Green Mile, Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption, are probably better known, and definitely more revered. But if you asked me when I was 11-years old, what my favorite Stephen King movie was, I would quickly tell you — the 1990 television miniseries adaptation of It. It scared me, kept me up, and I loved it. I remember rewatching the VHS copy that I had recorded off of cable, over and over again.
My biggest concern of a big screen adaptation is that I’m not sure that the property could be cut down to fit into the standard 90 or 100-minute movie. The paperback is 1,104 pages, and the miniseries clocked in at 192 minutes (over 3 hours). And if the idea of a 100 minute movie worries me. I haven’t seen It in years, and I’m sure its one of those films that doesn’t live up to my childhood memories. Could It benefit from a redo? Probably. But as a 120-minute feature film?
Screenwriter Dave Kajganich talked recently to the Stephen King fansite Lilja’s Library, providing an update on the big screen adaptation. Here is an excerpt:
When I heard Warner Bros. was going to give the novel a go theatrically, I went after the job hard. I knew the studio was committed to adapting IT as a single film, so I went back and reread the novel to see if I thought this was even possible, and to try to find a structure that would accommodate such a large number of characters in two different time periods, around 120 pages, which was another of the studio’s stipulations. Had I not worked with the producers before, I might have been more tentative about trying to pull off such a massive undertaking, but I’d worked with Dan Lin, Roy Lee, and Doug Davison on our original version of The Invasion, and I knew they would fight for good storytelling, and would also give me the time I needed to work out a solid first draft, which they did. They really went to bat for that. We’ve done some tinkering with it and I am just about to turn that draft in to the studio, so we’ll soon know a lot more. In all of my talks with the studio, it has only ever been discussed as a single feature film. The book’s length is clearly more suited to a mini-series—and I understand very well why they went that route the last time around—but I think the book’s content is really more appropriate for cinema. I told the studio from the beginning that I felt I needed to be able to write for an R rating, since I wanted to be as candid as the novel about the terrible things the characters go through as kids. They agreed and off I went. … I think the biggest difference [between the big screen adaptation and the miniseries] is that we’re working with about two-thirds the onscreen time they had for the miniseries. That sounds dire, I know, but it doesn’t necessarily mean two-thirds the amount of story. I’m finding as many ways as I can to make certain scenes redundant by deepening and doubling others. To me, this is an interesting process because it has the effect of thematically intensifying the whole, but it can lead to dramatic surprises. Certain scenes I thought would be crucial to the coherence of the whole ended up cut, while other scenes, which were somewhat cursory in the book, ended up being pivotal in the script. I know I’m being vague, but there’s not a lot I can tell you at this point about the specifics, since we’re still very much in development on it. I’ll just say for now that we’re really swinging for the fences.
And while Kajganich doesn’t know if or when the project will go into production, he says that he’s “been told the project is a priority for Warner Bros. and the plan is to go big with it, so I assume it will be as soon as possible.” Read the whole interview which features much more discussion on the topic, on Lilja’s Library.
The official book description follows: “They were just kids when they stumbled upon the hidden horror of their hometown. Now, as adults, none of them can withstand the force that has drawn them all back to Derry, Maine, to face the nightmare without end, and the evil without a name.” The book is availabe for around $9 on Amazon.