The Mist Director Frank Darabont Turned Down A Much Larger Budget To Protect His Infamous Ending [Exclusive]

There are few — if any — adaptations of Stephen King's work that are as brutally effective as "The Mist." The movie takes us to the darkest corners of King's mind and faithfully adapts his work for the screen, while also adding a pretty big something to it all with that absolute gut-punch of an ending. To honor the film on its 15th anniversary, /Film's own Eric Vespe did a gigantic deep dive into director Frank Darabont's adaptation in the form of a massive, comprehensive oral history, which you can read in its entirety right here. But let's talk about one crucial element of the film that Vespe uncovered: the budget.

Darabont had been wanting to make "The Mist" for some time and wrote the script on spec, meaning that he wrote it without any outside support and wanted to get a studio on board based on his script. The dark ending made that challenging. Paramount wanted to make it for $60 million, and Darabont didn't want to go that route. There was also an unnamed producer who wanted to do it for $40 million, but insisted that Darabont change the ending. That was a non-starter for him. But then, Bob Weinstein gave him a call. As Darabount told /Film:

"I walked away from the $40 million budget, and the only person who stepped up and had the cojones to greenlight it was Bob [Weinstein]. I got a call from Bob and he said, 'I love your script, totally fine with the ending, but you gotta make it for this price,' which was a bit less than half of what the other guy was offering. So I had that night of the soul where I'm going, 'Instead of paying myself my directing fee, I'll take scale. Instead of having some luxury of time to shoot, I'll have to shoot on half the schedule.' I've never, ever done a movie like that before."

A smaller budget, a big conundrum

Now, the name "Weinstein" drums up a lot of negative energy, but Bob Weinstein is not his brother and, at the time, nobody knew the darkness that built that house of Weinstein. In any event, The Weinstein Company's Dimension Films, at that time, felt like a great home for such a film. But could Darabont actually do "The Mist" for $18 million as opposed to $40 million? Could he do it in half the time and for far less financial reward on his end?

To figure it all out, the director actually turned to Stephen King himself, who put it all into perspective. "He responded by saying, 'Okay, so take the pay cut. Work for scale. Why not? It's the movie that you want to make. And by the way, there is a great tradition in our genre of working with lower budgets and restrained resources. Go make your low-budget movie.' And I thought, 'Okay, by God, I will.'" And so he did!

It doesn't hurt that King is absolutely right about that tradition in genre film. It's also different math when one is staring down the barrel of a dream project that the creator of the source material has signed off on. But would Weinstein stay out of Darabont's way and let him make the movie his way? That was the only lingering question.

A gentlemen's agreement

After getting King's blessing, the only thread left dangling was whether or not Bob Weinstein would stay out of the way. This was not a film that Darabont wanted ripped from his hands halfway through. This was the director of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile," after all. He knows what he's doing. And so, Darabont had to make things clear to Mr. Weinstein before signing on the dotted line:

"I remember when Bob first said, 'You can make your movie,' and I said, 'This is very nice of you, Bob, but we got to have an understanding right off the bat. I'm not some kid out of film school. You guys, no offense, but you have a reputation for taking over cuts and recutting people's work. And I'm not that guy, so if we say yes and we shake hands, then you've got to understand. Of course, you'll be invited into the editing room to watch the cuts, and I will listen to everything you have to say. I may address one note or a hundred notes, or no notes. You've got to understand it's going to be my movie. And if you're okay with that, then let's do it. Otherwise, let's shake hands and part friends and maybe someday work on something else.' And he said, 'No, let's do it and you got a deal.' That's a promise he made to me. And you know what? I got to say, he lived up to that."

In the end, "The Mist" earned a healthy $57 million at the box office against its budget — and that was under absolutely intense and unfortunate competition during the 2007 holiday season. Safe to say, it worked out and it appears Darabont made the right decision.