Warner Bros. has been trying to craft a new film adaptation of Stephen King‘s novel The Stand for several years. The studio has gone through a roster of writers and directors, but last year finally landed on The Fault in Our Stars director Josh Boone to write and direct.
Boone is a life-long fan of Stephen King, and has been pretty forthcoming with some comments about The Stand. Now, what was originally seen as a single-film adaptation has now expanded into something much bigger. Because WB likes the prospect of selling an event movie series rather than one single long dramatic horror movie, The Stand is now planned as a four-film series.
Josh Boone appeared on Kevin Smith’s Hollywood Babble-On podcast for a really great conversation (stream it below) and had quite a lot to say about The Stand. When he was first brought in to talk about it, he was given earlier script drafts to read.
[Those drafts] were not so much where I thought they should be going with it. [They were] much more like a big summer blockbuster. When I thought about The Stand it’s so much about the vast network of characters, and all their problems. It’s kind of a morality play set in post-apocalyptic America. The battle between good and evil is the battle for these peoples’ souls. They make choices which dictate the fate of humanity.
The first stage of developing the film started out, despite Boone’s initial concerns, as a single film adaptation. Boone scripted that, and had some specific ideas about how to compress the sprawling novel into a solitary film (note that this middle of this quote has a Stand spoiler in it):
I really wanted to do an A-list actor, really grounded, credible version of the movie. I sold them on that and they hired me…I sold them on a single, three hour movie. I went and got [Stephen] King sold on it, everybody’s really excited…I told the story non-linear and that was the way I was able to compress that book and get everything into that script. You open with Mother Abigail dying and sending the guys off, and then you jump back in time… So what happened is the script gets finished, I write it in like five months, everybody loves it, King loves it, $87 million is what it was budgeted at, really expensive for a horror drama that doesn’t have set pieces.
As he says, that’s a pretty good budget range for a film planned as a hard-R horror adaptation. Boone would have probably had to really be smart about using that money, but if he gets the characters right, a lot of The Stand’s tension can come from waiting for things to explode. (Elsewhere, Boone talks about the idea that the horror of The Stand is Larry Underwood trapped in the Lincoln Tunnel, and that it’s subjective horror, akin to Roman Polanski’s work, rather than a setpiece sort of horror.)
But WB actually wanted a more expensive film, something with setpieces that would make The Stand easier to market overseas. Boone just wanted to get the tone and characters right. But then Warners had another offer.
They came back and said “would you do it as multiple films?” and I said “fuck yes!” I loved my script, and I was willing to drop it in an instant because you’re able to do an even truer version that way. So I think we are going to do like four movies. I can’t tell you anything about how we’re going to do them, or what’s going to be in which movie. I’ll just say we are going to do four movies, and we’re going to do THE STAND at the highest level you can do it at, with a cast that’s going to blow people’s minds. We’ve already been talking to lots of people, and have people on board in certain roles that people don’t know about. We’re looking to go into production next year, maybe in the spring.
Here’s the full podcast, which is very much worth listening to. Boone has great things to say overall about the span of his career so far, and making The Fault in Our Stars. His discussion of The Stand and Stephen King starts at about 15:30 when he starts to talk about his introduction to Stephen King. Then it gets more into details at 21:00, and there’s some talk of King characters, and how many King movies blow it by emphasizing the supernatural and losing the characters. The quotes above come from the conversation that kicks in well over the one-hour mark, at about 1:21:30.