How Stephen King Influenced The Netflix Adaptation Of Mr. Harrigan's Phone

Stephen King currently holds the distinction of being the living author with the most adaptations of his work, the latest being Netflix's take on "Mr. Harrigan's Phone." Directed and adapted by John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side," "Saving Mr. Banks"), "Mr. Harrigan's Phone" is a classic ghost story with a modern twist. A reclusive billionaire named Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland) hires a youngster named Craig (Jaeden Martell) to read to him as his eyesight is starting to weaken in his old age. The two strike up an unlikely friendship, but one that is deeply meaningful to them both.

The pair are constantly learning from one another, with Mr. Harrigan even purchasing his very first iPhone after seeing Craig's excitement at receiving one of his own for Christmas. Alas, Mr. Harrigan passes away and Craig places Mr. Harrigan's phone in his burial suit pocket before saying his final goodbyes. Feeling lonely, Craig one day sends a text to his late friend, only for Mr. Harrigan to respond.

King himself was inspired by the classic "Twilight Zone" episode "Night Call," but as is the case with most of his film adaptations, wanted Hancock to make the piece all his own. In a recent interview with The Wrap, Hancock discussed what it was like to adapt King's story, and what their working relationship was like throughout the filming process. "Part of it is just to keep the connection in case I really found myself in a bind," he said, "like, 'You gotta help me with something from the story that says this and that,' and there were a few of those things."

King didn't want to overshadow the project

Hancock said that King was a consummate professional, and never wanted to "take over" the adaptation from him. He'd often ask King questions like, "which do you think this character would do?" to which King would say, "Whatever you think. I kind of think maybe this, but whatever you think." He also said that King didn't want to "intrude or have his shadow loom too large over our interpretation of his story as a movie," recognizing that his novella and the film are two completely different mediums. "I'd send location photos and say, 'You made this place up, in your mind's eye, which one is the closest?' And he would go, 'Oh gosh. How about the one with the red canopy?' or whatever."

This relationship continued throughout the production, with Hancock sending King photos of locations and actors working, and believes that he really enjoyed receiving them. "You create something, and then you don't get to visit because of a pandemic," he said. "At least you're seeing the photographic evidence that it's coming together, and then it was great showing him a cut of the movie and him really loving it." Approval from King is the dream for those who adapt his work, as the master of horror has not been shy to express when he's less than thrilled with a final product. So while King was not making creative decisions regarding the adaptation of his story, his presence and influence was embedded throughout.

"Mr. Harrigan's Phone" is currently available on Netflix.