Stephen King Took The 'Hands-Off' Approach To The Original Adaptation Of It

Seeing as "It: Chapter Two" is the second of Andy Maschietti's two-part adaptation of Stephen King's bestselling novel, it tracks that the author himself would have a cameo in the film as an enigmatic Derry shopkeeper. But in the first adaptation of the 1986 novel, the legendary horror writer had even less involvement — by choice.

It's lot of story to handle for any adaptation. Over 1100 pages recounting the story of seven adolescents — self-dubbed as "The Losers Club" — as they battle an evil, cyclical, shapeshifting entity, primarily assuming the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. "It" the entity preys on the kids' fears (werewolf movie monsters, lepers, blood geysers, flying leeches) as fear is the spice that makes children tastiest. Despite the behemoth size of the book, King's story boils down to a good old-fashioned good vs. evil battle, the kind he would also tell in "The Stand," "Desperation," and scores of his 200-plus short stories.

"It" would get its first adaptation in 1990, in the form of a two-part miniseries for the ABC network. Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace (who also happened to direct the only "Halloween" movie without Michael Myers in it) with an adapted screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen, the story adhered mostly to King's novel, with some understandable omissions. In an oral history recounting the making of the 1990's "It," King told Yahoo:

"I was hands-off in the making of It, basically saying, 'Hope you guys do a good job; I wish you well.' These days, I have a lot more input into film and television adaptations of my work, in the sense that I can greenlight cast members or screenwriters or directors. Back then, I'm not so sure that I did. And even if I had, I probably still would have decided to be hands-off."

Leave it to the experts?

The "It" screenwriter, it turns out, is a Constant Reader. When King's sold the film rights to his debut novel "Carrie" to United Artists, Cohen was tapped to write the screenplay for the Brian De Palma masterpiece. Even after "It," Cohen would go on to pen the adapted 1993 screenplay for King's "The Tommyknockers," and a segment for the 2006 anthology series "Nightmares & Dreamscapes." In short, King had faith in the scribe to hew as close as possible to his original stories and do them justice.

Cohen supports King's memory of production on the "It" miniseries, telling Yahoo that "Steve was pretty much radio silent throughout the process." But there were mitigating factors to keep in mind:

"We became friends during the making of 'Carrie,' so I think he felt that 'It' would come out well, too. He also had the opportunity to read the various drafts of the script as I finished them. Secondly, he was comfortable about it being a novel for television. This was the heyday of networks adapting lengthy novels for TV, and initially It was going to be an eight-to-ten hour series. Thirdly, the producers brought George A. Romero onboard to direct. He and Steve had worked together on 'Creepshow,' and I was beyond ecstatic as a huge fan of 'Night of the Living Dead.' It was going to be the horror miniseries to end all horror miniseries. Of course, life doesn't always work out the way it appears that it's going to at the time."

Indeed, the early '90s saw the King-created novel-for-TV "Golden Years" alongside adaptations of "The Tommyknockers," "The Stand," and "The Langoliers." Seeing as the 1990 iteration of "It" recently enjoyed some love on streaming, maybe it's time for streaming giants to bring back the Stephen King miniseries adaptation.