the talisman movie

Steven Spielberg snapped up the rights to Stephen King and Peter Straub‘s novel The Talisman before the book even hit shelves. Yet after 35 years, a film has failed to materialize. Now, Spielberg says he might finally be ready to bring The Talisman movie to the screen.

In 1984, Stephen King and Peter Straub released The Talisman, a fantasy novel involving alternate dimensions and strange creatures. Anyone could see the story had all the makings of a good movie – including Steven Spielberg. Spielberg purchased the film rights to The Talisman before publication, and had a script commissioned. But nothing ever came of it. Now, Spielberg might be ready to finally adapt The Talisman to the big screen. During a new Entertainment Weekly interview with King and Spielberg, the subject of The Talisman came up, with King saying, “Several times [Spielberg] came very close to making it, and there were a lot of discussions about that.” Spielberg then added:

“I feel that in the very near future, that’s going to be our richest collaboration. Universal bought the book for me, so it wasn’t optioned. It was an outright sale of the book…I’ve owned the book since ’82, and I’m hoping to get this movie made in the next couple of years. I’m not committing to the project as a director, I’m just saying that it’s something that I’ve wanted to see come to theaters for the last 35 years.”

Spielberg saying “I’m not committing to the project as a director” could indicate he intends to let someone else helm – Frank Marshall was attached at one point – while he himself produces. Or it could mean he’s not ready to say he’s definitely making The Talisman, but it’s certainly still on his mind.  Time will tell.

Adaptations of King’s work are very popular right now. After the box office success of It, more and more King-related films are getting the greenlight, including a remake of Pet Sematary and a new adaptation of The Tommyknockers.

What is The Talisman?

After the success of books like Carrie and The Shining, King had become the number one name in horror. While not nearly as popular, Straub was like the UK’s answer to King, penning chilly horror novels like Ghost Story and Shadowland. In the 1970s, King and his family moved to London. There, King and Straub became friends. After King returned to America, the two remained close, and they decided to collaborate on a novel. That novel was The Talisman. Here’s the synopsis.

Jack Sawyer, twelve years old, is about to begin a most fantastic journey, an exalting, terrifying quest for the mystical Talisman—the only thing that can save Jack’s dying mother. But to reach his goal, Jack must make his way not only across the breadth of the United States but also through the wondrous and menacing parallel world of the Territories.

In the Territories, Jack finds another realm, where the air is so sweet and clear a man can smell a radish being pulled from the ground a mile away—and a life can be snuffed out instantly in the continuing struggle between good and evil. Here Jack discovers “Twinners,” reflections of the people he knows on earth—most notably Queen Laura, the Twinner of Jack’s own imperiled mother. As Jack “flips” between worlds, making his way westward toward the redemptive Talisman, a sequence of heart-stopping encounters challenges him at every step.

King and Straub later collaborated again on a follow-up book, Black House. It’s not very good, and I’d advise avoiding it entirely. The two have long planned to write a third book in the series, but so far that hasn’t happened.

The Talisman From Page to Screen

As the EW piece points out, Spielberg once attempted to adapt The Talisman into a TNT mini-series, but it didn’t work out. “At that time it was just too rich for TNT’s blood,” Spielberg says. “Then I pulled it back and decided to try to reconfigure it once again as a feature film.” This incident is just one of many surrounding the so-far-fruitless attempt to bring The Talisman from page to screen.

As Spielberg says, he purchased The Talisman rights in 1982, before the book even hit shelves. After the purchase, King and Straub met with the filmmaker to attempt to hash out the movie adaptation. “Spielberg fell in love with the book before it was published and persuaded Universal to buy the film rights,” co-author Peter Straub said in 1996. “[Stephen King and I] went to the Amblin offices on the Universal lot for a long meeting during which it became clear that Spielberg had a great understanding of the story and would have made a wonderful film of the book. However, the project got shelved…[but] because they bought the book for a considerable sum, I still think they might do it in this way sometime in the future, and I think it would make a great mini-series. But we shall see.”

Since then, the project has languished. In 2008, Frank Marshall confirmed he was still hoping to adapt the book into a film, with Spielberg producing. “It’s back to being a movie,” Marhsall told IGN. “It’s kind of on the backburner since we’re waiting to see how everything shakes out with the DreamWorks, Paramount, Amblin thing.”

Last year, word broke that Josh Boone – who is also attached to adapt King’s The Stand into either a movie or a TV series – was working on a new script for The Talisman. It’s not clear if Boone is still involved with the project, or if his script will be used.

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