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A Few Q&As About “STEPHEN KING FILMS FAQ”

Interview Conducted by Todd Sokolove

Fellow blogger and pop-culture geek Scott Von Doviak (The A.V. Club) is back with a new reference book to keep you up into the late hours.

This time, it’s for a niche of a niche that I can proudly call myself one of — fans of Stephen King adaptations.

Any good fan of the over 100 adaptations of King’s work needs to also be a fan of the author’s literary contributions, and Von Doviak is clearly one.  This guide, which is sub-titled “All That’s Left To Know About the King of Horror On Film,” represents the most comprehensive account of the sub-genre.

So I asked Scott a few questions about his this FAQ installment, which is now in stores and available as an e-Book

FOG!: Your new book is part of the Applause Book FAQ series that also includes such titles as ARMAGEDDON FILMS FAQ and JAMES BOND FAQ. How did you get involved with the series?

Scott Von Doviak: I had written If You Like The Terminator, part of the If You Like… series from the same publisher. When my editor asked if I had any ideas for a follow-up, I pitched him four or five possibilities, one of which was a comprehensive overview of Stephen King adaptations.

It’s such a huge filmography, encompassing big-name auteurs like Kubrick, De Palma and Cronenberg, mainstream directors like Rob Reiner and Frank Darabont, scrappy, low-budget creature features, TV miniseries, and on and on.

I grew up in Maine as a rabid King reader, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to look at the process of adapting a writer’s work for the screen and the different approaches that can be taken. My editor loved the idea and thought it would be a good fit for the FAQ series.

I’ve always been fascinated with adaptations of Stephen King’s work, and I remember as a kid reading books like Stephen King Goes to Hollywood, which you mention in the bibliography. Your book certainly goes deeper, so I’m wondering what resources you found out there to be most helpful.

King himself has done so many interviews over the years, and is often the harshest critic of movies adapted from his work, so digging up old magazine and newspaper interviews was a fun part of researching the book. Magazines like Fangoria and Cinefantastique often had set reports from the making of the movies. DVD commentary tracks and special features were particularly helpful as well.

Stephen King films often get a bad rap from critics, but what do you think is the absolutely most unwarranted dis on an adapted work?

I think it comes from King himself. He rarely passes up an opportunity to knock Kubrick’s version of The Shining, and even went so far as to make his own version for television with Mick Garris directing.

He’s right to say that Kubrick’s film isn’t a particularly faithful adaptation of the novel, but I do think it’s a brilliant movie in its own right – certainly a million times better than the miniseries.

I really like the way you’ve organized the book into thematic sections. Did you initially envision the book in a more chronological order, or did it always make sense to structure it this way?

I decided pretty early on that a strictly chronological approach would be kind of boring and predictable. Watching (and in many cases rewatching) all this material was already a daunting proposition, so grouping them together in ways that might illuminate different aspects of adaptation made sense from the beginning.

Have you met Mr. King, and did you consult with him at all on the book? If not, are you aware if he’s aware of it?

I didn’t consult with him, but I did get permission from his personal assistant Marsha DeFilippo to access the special collection of his papers at the University of Maine. I spent a day there sifting through boxes of screenplay drafts, including unproduced work which I write about in the book. So he’s probably vaguely aware the book exists, but I have no idea if he’s read it or has any interest at all.

Growing up in Maine not too far from King’s home in Bangor, I would see him around occasionally. After college I worked in a movie memorabilia shop in Harvard Square and he came in one day and flipped through some screenplays we had for sale, not quite legally. I was just hoping we didn’t have anything he’d written in the bin.

What is the strangest discovery you made in diving into this project?

The University of Maine collection I mentioned had some interesting stuff – an original script King had written called The Shotgunners, which Sam Peckinpah had intended to direct before he died, and a big pile of shot cards he’d made for Maximum Overdrive. He’d obviously put a lot of thought into it, even if that didn’t translate to the screen. Probably the strangest thing I came across in the whole project was an unofficial Bollywood version of the short story “Quitters Inc.” called No Smoking.

A few WHAT IFs…

Brian De Palma directing one more King adaptation, it should be ________

Gerald’s Game. Maybe a story confined to one room would keep De Palma’s excesses under wraps.

George Romero and King reteam for Creepshow 3. Stories should be _________

“Survivor Type.” “Strawberry Spring.” “Willa.” “A Very Tight Place.”

Under the Dome‘s success could be replaced with another King novel or story it should be ________

Salem’s Lot is one of the few I can see working as an ongoing series (and it was considered at one point).

Do you think we’ll ever see the on-again/off-again attempt to bring The Dark Tower fully realized?

Some form of it will reach the screen eventually, but I doubt it will be fully realized.

Of Stephen King’s latest novels Mr. Mercedes and Revival, which would do you think will/should be adapted first?

I actually haven’t read either yet, but just based on buzz, Revival sounds like the more likely candidate.

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