For most authors, Hollywood wonders if any of their stories should be filmed.
For Stephen King, it’s a different matter. They all should be filmed, apparently, so there’s another question: Which ones should be done a second time?
The latest is “The Stand” (shown here), which arrives Thursday (Dec. 17) for a nine-week run on CBS All Access. It follows plenty of other King two-timers, including “Carrie,” “It,” “The Shining,””Salem’s Lot,” “Pet Semetary,” “Creepshow,” “The Dead Zone” and more.
In short, Hollywood really likes the guy. “He’s one of the great storytellers in the history of humanity,” said Benjamin Cavell, the “Stand” showrunner.
TV had a four-hour “Stand” in 1994, but Cavell figures this will feel different – “partly because we’re nine hours long and in part because of what technology and (special effects) allow us to do.”
Whatever the reason, Whoopi Goldberg is happy it was re-made. “I’ve been trying to do this since the original mini-series came out,” she said.
She plays Mother Abigail, which requires some acting and/or make-up. (She’s 65; Abigail is 106.) “I’ve been looking for a horror movie to do my whole career,” Goldberg said.
Now her chance arrives … at a time when viewers might have a different perspective on the story.
This starts after a global pandemic has killed 99 percent of the people. The survivors are tugged by two strong forces; one (played by Goldberg) is spiritual; the other (Alexander Skarsgard) is darkly visceral.
Cavell – previously a producer-writer for “Justified” and “SEAL Team” – says he started working on this three years ago, with “no idea it would have this resonance with (what) we’re going through.”
The main filming ended on March 12, just as the pandemic was taking hold. When it was time to re-shoot some scenes, the work had changed.
“It’s very bizarre to get your hair and make-up done from people in HAZMAT suits,” said co-star Amber Heard, “for a film about a pandemic.”
Still, Cavell said, the mass-infection is only a plot device, to get to something bigger.
“I’ve never regarded ‘The Stand’ as a book about a pandemic,” he said. “The pandemic in the book exists as a kind of mechanism to empty out the world.”
The real goal: “King has been very upfromt about the idea that this book was his attempt to do ‘Lord of the Rings’ in America,” he said. With the world on re-set, he has an “elemental struggle between good and evil.”
Goldberg represents the good; Skarsgard offers an attractive sort of evil. “There is a certain kind of appeal to that sort of authoritarian, charismatic cult-of-personality kind of leader,” Cavell said.
The story leaps back and forth in time, possibly confusing the audience – and the actors. Some had to constantly check which time they were in; some didn’t/
“My job was very easy,” Odessa Young said. “If I was pregnant, it was one time period. And if I wasn’t, then if was before.”
She plays Frannie, whom we meet as a bitter and suicidal teen. She evolves, leading to the surprise: The final episode, Cavell said, is a fresh coda that King wrote for this mini-series.
“The thing that he had been thinking about for 30 years is: Frannie doesn’t go on the stand in the book, (because she’s) seven, eight months pregnant by that point.”
So now King has created a new ending. You can do that when people keep filming new versions of your stories.