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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

King of the Hill: A Question for My Readers

Merry Christmas to Me
As you can see from the photo above, I had a pretty nice Christmas. Actually, I really did, and for more than just those reasons. I got to see my oldest daughter, who lives north of me so I don't get to see her very often, I saw the new Star Wars movie (it rocked!) and I think I managed to find the right gift for just about everyone concerned.

And thanks to my wife, I have now completed my King collection, and started my Joe Hill collection on the ground floor, as it were.

For those of you who don't already know, Joe Hill is Stephen King's oldest son. He was born Joseph Hillstrom King, and chose the professional name Joe Hill in order to insure that whatever success he had in the writing world would be due to his own efforts, not just his connection to his incredibly famous father.

I must confess, I've never read a Joe Hill novel. I have long wanted to, but never got around to it. I have, however, read his comic series Locke & Key and found that to be amazing. I can safely say based solely on that series that Hill has earned his spot among the great horror writers of today. Like his dad, his horror is often subtle, and gets to you the more you think about it. Also like his dad, he doesn't always try to scare (from what I've read about him). He also tends to go "cosmic", as in, writing about ordinary people being affected by things man was not meant to know, which is very Lovecraftian and therefore, I love it. I am really excited to get to these books.

And now, a question for the readers: Should I include Joe Hill's books and stories in this blogging project?

Do you want to see me (eventually, as I have a long way to go before I get there) make casts for Hill's books? I automatically exclude Horns because its adaptation is less than a decade old, but his short stories and the other two novels might be ripe for adaptation.

There are arguments for doing so. First, I'm going to read them anyway, and I do plan on adding them to my chronological list amid King's books. If I'm gonna read 'em, why not blog 'em?

Second, I already have two Hill works on my list; Throttle and In the Tall Grass, which he co-wrote with his dad.

Third, I understand that King has said that as far as he's concerned, Little Joe's stories take place within the same canon as his own. I say "canon" instead of "world" because King's canon already encompasses umpteen different worlds, some mostly like ours but subtly different, others incredibly unlike ours. There's no reason that two writers from the Keystone World aren't being used of Gan (and if that sentence confuses you, read the Dark Tower books). The fact that they have collaborated and that references to each others' works have shown up in their books (again, I'm told) just solidifies that.

There are a few arguments against it, as well. First, and most obvious, is that this is a Stephen King blog, not a King Family blog.

Second, there are six stories of his that don't appear to be available unless you happened to purchase whatever it was initially published in (usually magazines). They're not even available on Amazon that I can see. Therefore it won't be even as complete as my King reading (and even that isn't 100%, though it's as close as one can really get).

Third, if I include Joe Hill, why not include Owen King as well? This one I'll actually answer. Owen King, despite being the one who kept his last name professionally, has really set about doing his own thing. He doesn't really write horror at all, at least, from what I've read about him. Hill, meanwhile, is something of an Heir to the Throne.

But I'm engaging my readers here and asking their opinion. Would you like to see Hill adaptations when I get there? Would you prefer me to stick to things King put his name on and nothing else? I want to hear from everyone on this; regular commenters, lurkers, people who just found this blog today, etc., etc. The more the merrier.

In the meantime, I'll wish everyone a Happy New Year, advice you to party responsibly and we'll see you in 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Crouch End

Awwwww yiss.

This will do nicely. I love HP Lovecraft (what I have read of him; I admit not to being a Lovecraft scholar) and I love it when Stephen King goes Lovecraft on us. And he sure did here.

In fact, Crouch End is more or less set in Lovecraft's world, where unseen eldritch abominations beyond the conceptions of mortal men lie in wait behind the thin, gauzy veneer we call reality, and to so much as hear their name means insanity, or even death.

Crouch End is all about a young couple who wander into the worst part of town. A part where reality is fluid, and beyond the borders of our sane world waits a presence...

This story has it all. Creeping dread, paranoia, creepy deformed kids, whispers from the shadows, a demonic cat, red lights in the sky, the Black Goat with a Thousand Young...

It's told en media res by the lady of the pair, Doris Freeman, to a couple of cops working the night shift in Tottenham Road. She and her husband are in England on business, but after getting lost in the little berg of Crouch End, horrific things began happening to them, and her husband Lonnie is now missing.

The two PC's, Ted Vetter and Robert Farnham, discuss her story between themselves, Farnham being young and cocky and sure she's crazy or on drugs, while Vetter has been around a while (get it? Vetter, veteran, nyuck nyuck) and isn't so sure that her story should be so easily dismissed.

As a story, there's not all that much to it, but I do think there's much left deliberately unexplored, and I do think there's enough concept here to expand this to at least an 88-minute movie, and there's nothing wrong with a movie that short. And Gan knows it would be plenty scary.

I think it should focus almost as much on the cops involved as on the couple. There's an especially nice little conversation in the middle of the story between Farnham and another cop, Raymond, who doesn't really have anything to do with the story but holy god what a creepy character! If anything, his one scene sent more shivers up my spine than any other part. Something's clearly up there, and needs to be examined a bit more. Especially considering the ending, which I will not spoil. If you're interested, this story is part of the Nightmares and Dreamscapes collection. Off to the book store with you.

Now, I should mention that it's been adapted before. It was part of the mini-series Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King and it starred Claire Forlani and Eion Bailey. I haven't seen it, but I have heard literally nothing good about it. It's on YouTube, though. I watched a bit of it with the sound down. It looks laaaaaaaaame.

No, a movie is the only format this will work in, I think.

Now, to casting.

Before I really start, though, I should mention that, being a short story, the young couple don't get much more characterization than "young couple". If anything, I almost don't think of them as the stars of the story, even though they're the ones things happen to. The cops are far more detailed, so both my leads are essentially just attractive people we like watching.

Doris will be played by Jessica Chastain. Honestly, there are dozens of women who could play this part. I picked Chastain because she's a good actress who's shown a willingness to do horror.
Her husband, Lonnie, is kinda blandly handsome, but described as a big man with an athletic body. I wasn't sure who should play him, but Ryan Kwanten could fit this role no problem.
PC Ted Vetter is an older British Bobby who's been around and seen some crazy things. He talks to Farnham about the barriers through reality being thin around Crouch End. Mid-way through his speech, I realized who should play him, whose voice I was already reading the lines in. Peter Capaldi.
Younger, less experienced and incredibly cocky young PC, Robert Farnham, grows to take an interest in the story after Vetter's description unnerves him. He has a brief conversation with another cop, PC Raymond, and then decides to explore the area the Freemans were in for himself (cue Jaws music). There's probably thousands of young British actors who can play him, but I pictured Harry Lloyd.
Finally, I gotta talk about PC Raymond. Wow, I just don't know what to say about this guy. He just sorta walks over at the end of his shift and talks to Farnham about his case. Farnham's internal monologue tells us that he doesn't trust Raymond, that Raymond gets a bit violent with suspects, and the whole time Raymond behaves in a creepy-as-fuck manner that makes me more than suspicious of him. What he's got to do with Crouch End's mysterious happenings is beyond me, but come on, this ain't no run-of-the-mill cop gone bad. Something is very much so "up" with him. I pictured him with the creepy smirk and raised eyebrow of Jared Harris.

Well, two posts in one day. Whoda thunkit? This one was short, and I'm sorry for that, but I'm not fleshing it out into a screenplay. If I was, I'm sure there'd be more roles to cast. The creepy kids, for one thing, whom I'm not casting due to my own rules.

And with this post I will say Merry Christmas (again), Happy New Year and Fa la la la laaaaa, la la la la. We'll see you in January with a cast for Firestarter and your friendly blogger will edge even closer to the big 4-0.

Next Up: Firestarter!

The Dead Zone

Now, here, we have another example similar to The Shining.

The Dead Zone, published in 1979, was turned into a movie in 1983 by horror-maestro extraordinaire David Cronenberg. Christopher Walken starred in the lead role of Johnny Smith, and it remains one of his most acclaimed performances. There was even an Oscar campaign for him (he wasn't nominated, ultimately).

The movie has become so popular that when I was searching for a picture to use for this post, I could not find one that wasn't related to the movie, or the television series (yes, there was a TV series, I'll get to that in a moment). I ended up going with a bit of fan art that I'm pretty sure is still based on Walken's performance.

And, like The Shining, the movie based on this novel is really good. Great, even. And, unlike The Shining, remains somewhat faithful (though not as much as some, like The Green Mile or The Mist) and gets the characters pitch-perfect. So, why adapt this one again?

I'll be honest; I'm mainly doing a cast for this one because Bryant Burnette of The Truth Inside The Lie told me he'd like to see it happen some day, and because he liked my casting choices (though I'm altering one of them) for a potential remake. However, the other reason I'm doing it is that we live in probably the most politically contentious climate the US has experienced since the whole Nixon/Ford debacle. The entire political plot of this book could be translated to 2000, 2008 or even this year without missing a beat, and honestly, it might even be more topical now.

Also, this one has been adapted a second time, in this case as a weekly television series, sorta like Under the Dome is now. It ran for six seasons and starred Anthony Michael Hall in the title role. I watched a couple of episodes here and there, but what I know of it suggests that not only was it not very faithful to the source material at all, but not even really all that good. Others have suggested to me that it was pretty good in its first season, but went downhill later. I have no trouble believing that. So, much like Carrie, which got a great adaptation, suck-ass attempt at a TV series and finally a second theatrical run, The Dead Zone deserves a bit of an update.

As a side note, this story also has a sub-plot set in Castle Rock, which was introduced in It Grows on You and mentioned in several other works, including The Stand, which I'd forgotten until my re-read. This is really the first novel to be set there. That's kinda important.

The story concerns Johnny Smith (and yes, the story mentions quite often how much like an alias this name sounds), a young school teacher who falls into a coma and wakes up four and a half years later. Much has changed; his parents have grown old beyond their years and his mother's oldschool Baptist convictions have morphed into a religious mania that has turned her borderline certifiable. Sarah Hazlett, the woman he was falling in love with has married another man and is now a mother. But moreover, Johnny has gained an ability (one that he has had in a smaller degree since childhood) to get impressions of things by touch. If he picks up a wallet, for example, he'll be able to tell who it belongs to (which, oddly, isn't one of the things that happens in the book). If he touches a person, he'll get glimpses of their past, and even potential futures.

At first, he does this instinctively and while it makes the papers it also freaks out nearly everyone who comes into contact with him, aside from his doctor, his parents and Sarah (okay, it freaks them out, too, but they don't start avoiding him). He comes to see his gift as a curse. This only intensifies the day he encounters a flesh-pressing politician...and the brief handshake leaves him convicted that this man should not be allowed to live much longer, because he will usher in a nightmarish era that could very well end the world as we know it.

By the way, that contentious political climate I mentioned is important to the story because Greg Stillson, the politician who serves as our villain, uses the political uncertainty and party shifting, among many other things, to his advantage. It's implied and even outright stated several times that a man like Stillson could never be elected outside of circumstances like the ones in existence then.

Speaking of, I think that's one area that could be improved upon, at least from the novel. I haven't seen the movie in years, and I don't really remember how Martin Sheen portrayed Stillson, but I've got a problem with his presentation in the novel.

See, the idea King had that led to this book was "Is it possible to make Lee Harvey Oswald the good guy?" That's not what the story does, though. It gives us a genuinely good guy vs. a truly horrible man. Greg Stillson is so evil he's almost a cartoon, and his campaign speeches remind one of guys like Lyndon H. LaRouche or any one of the hundreds of clearly certifiable people who have sought public office. I truly don't believe there's any political environment that would allow for such shenanigans to actually get someone elected.

(Please don't lob Donald Trump at me. Trump may have a "devil may care" attitude and say a lot of controversial things, but he's never run around on stage like a crazed bull or thrown hot dogs at the crowd.)

When I heard the quote from King about Lee Harvey Oswald, I assumed that Stillson was going to be presented as a good man who Johnny foresees making a deal or new law or something that seems to be a solid bet, but that ultimately has disastrous unforeseen consequences. Now, I'm not suggesting that he be changed this way in the movie, because the scenes where he goes off the rails are too juicy, but I will suggest that perhaps his craziness be limited to behind closed doors, where those who witness it are too afraid for their lives to repeat what they witnessed. In public, however, he's got to come off not just like a good politician but a great man, one who convinces 90% of the people that he encounters that he genuinely is a saint.

So let's begin:

For Johnny, I wanted someone the audience would instantly like. Johnny is a very likable guy in the book, in fact at times he almost seems too good, but he has his flaws, for sure. Johnny has to be a guy whose side we are immediately on, knowing that he's right about the visions he has, even when others disbelieve him, and he has to be someone we're still rooting for, even as he makes decision. Initially I pictured Matt Smith in the role, but lately I've come to like Michael B. Jordan. Jordan, whom I've followed since his days on The Wire where he played an innocent kid caught up in the drug trade for no other reason than that he doesn't know what else to do, and I love that he's becoming a genuine movie star. He's more physically fit than Johnny is described as, but he definitely has that likability factor, as well as the acting skill to make this part come alive.
For Greg Stillson, there was never another choice. I wanted an actor who could be described as handsome and charismatic, but could instantly turn on the crazy, and that man is Michael Shannon.
I struggled with Johnny's lost love, Sarah. Most of the popular black actresses of today are in their 30's and I wanted one that was closer to Jordan's age. I chose The Walking Dead actress Sonequa Martin-Green, because she's a very talented actress and the image of the beautiful "one that got away" for Johnny.
Then there's Dr. Sam Weizak, a neurologist who takes over with Johnny's care after he comes out of his coma. The two become friends, and Sam is one of the few who doesn't grow distant from Johnny after Johnny's abilities make themselves obvious. He's described as being Polish with a huge mound of hair, and in the book, the second World War is the reason he was sent to the US. He doesn't have to be Polish, necessarily. He could be a young refugee from almost any war that would have sent people to the US, but since he's described as Polish, I pictured Adrien Brody, who we know can handle the accent.
Johnny's parents play a pretty big role in the story. Johnny's dad, Herb, is described as a big, bulky contractor who is essentially the patient, loving dad and husband, but who is saddled with caring for his wife, whose sanity is definitely in question, as well as trying to pay his son's hospital bills. Does anyone else find Terry Crews as lovable as I do? The man makes me feel like if I met him, I'd want to give him a hug. He's just so nice. Could he bring the pathos to this role that is needed? Absolutely he could, and it would give him a chance to show his dramatic side.
Herb's wife, Vera, Johnny's mother, is a devout Baptist who slowly turns cuckoo, believing in one religious cult after another, initially believing that one of these cults will bring her son back, but eventually abandoning all good sense. Taraji P. Henson is capable of bringing the crazy, and still having us sympathize with her.
Probably the element that most non-readers are familiar with in this story is Johnny's aiding of Castle Rock Sheriff George Bannerman to catch a criminal known as the Castle Rock Strangler. Despite this being a relatively small side plot in the book, it has far-reaching echoes in other books, especially Cujo. Bannerman is described as being big and powerful-looking, yet bespectacled and quiet, so I chose Chris Bauer.
And of course, I had to case Frank Dodd, Bannerman's young deputy, and a key figure in cracking the case of the Strangler. For reasons that will be obvious if you're familiar with the story, I went with Tom Payne.
Toward the middle of the story, Johnny is hired to tutor a young all-American athlete who has trouble reading. His father, a rich man named Roger Chatsworth, hires Johnny and befriends him. There is no actor who can better communicate "upscale WASP" than Jack Coleman of Heroes.
His son, Chuck, a big football player and also friendly with Johnny, can be played by Leo Howard, who played young Conan in the Jason Momoa film, and who has grown to be a very fit young actor. He also looks like he really could be Jack Coleman's son.
Honestly I don't know who would direct it. It could be done by just about anybody, as long as that anybody's name isn't Mick Garris (or Tommy Lee Wallace, for that matter). As this film is not a horror story, someone known for their dramas should probably handle it, like Tate Taylor or someone.

And with that, I leave the 70's behind and say hello to the neon-bright, pastel-colored 80's! Oh, wait, this is Stephen King. So we're leaving behind post-apocalyptic waste lands and freaky powers and welcoming Lovecraftian abominations masquerading as clowns, alternate universes and the most emotionally devastating of King's novels I've ever read.

Pray for me.

There will be another casting coming up soon. I will not be re-casting The Mist, which was done quite well by the Man Frank Darabont less than a decade ago. I actually had a much better time watching that movie than I did reading the novella (which I had not, up until now). There's no need to try and do it better. However, there is another story which was done as a TV episode that I feel could make a nice, tight, terrifying horror film, and I'll have a cast up for that one hopefully before Christmas.

But if I don't, I will say for now, Merry Christmas and I truly hope it is good for all of you. I'll be spending as much of my time off work as I can ripping through Firestarter (yes, that one's getting a post) as well as, hopefully, Roadwork, as well as several short stories.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Long Walk

My last casting post ended with "next up: The Long Walk", so I guess I'd better cast this bitch.

To be honest, I didn't have a good time with this one. Not because it wasn't well-written. It was. But it was so...unpleasant. It affected me on too deep a level. When I was done, the feeling I think best describes how I felt was "Yuck." Out of all of King's books, most of which are very, very dark, it's weird that this is the one that gets that reaction from me. It's another Richard Bachman tale, and I can now see why people describe Richard Bachman as "Stephen King having a really bad day."

The story takes place in an alternate version of the 1980's, which means that King was probably trying to predict the future, seeing as he wrote this book in the early 70's, possibly even starting it in the late 60's. He wrote it pre-Carrie and this was his third, possibly fourth novel overall, so the idea that he wrote it in the 60's is not unfathomable.

There's hints that in fact it's not just "the future" but an entire alternate reality. For one thing, there's an April 31st in this world, and there was an air blitz from the Germans along the east coast of the US during their version of WWII, not to mention a reference to said war still going on in the 1950's, and a reference to the US having 52 states. I'm grateful for these references, because the idea that this could take place in our world is even more disheartening.

The titular "walk" is a grueling endurance contest that takes place every year on May 1st. It is restricted to teenage boys between the ages of 16-18. Contestants walk from the US/Canada border in Maine down US-1 until it merges with I-95. If necessary, it will continue through New Hampshire and Massachusetts until only one Walker remains.

Side note: as a fan of The Walking Dead I had to continually remind myself what a "Walker" was in the context of this story.

There are several rules:

  • Each contestant must maintain a walking speed of 4 mph at all times. They cannot stop even to sleep or...anything else.
  • No Walker may leave the road at any time.
  • No Walker may interfere with the progress of another Walker.
  • No onlooker may interfere with a Walker at all, either with help or hindrance, nor should a Walker accept such help.
  • Breaking any of these rules results in a warning. After 30 seconds, if you are still breaking the rules, you get a second warning. Another 30 seconds, a third warning. 30 seconds later and you get your ticket out of the walk. I'll explain what that means in a second. The exception to this is the second rule; you instantly get a ticket if you leave the road.
That ticket? Death.

The Walkers have a half-track rumbling along beside them full of soldiers, and their progress is monitored. Even after one kid trips and gets his legs run over by the half-track, there are no exceptions. Three warnings and then...they shoot you. And they aren't firing tranquilizer darts.

The Long Walk is somewhat like the Game of Thrones. You win...or you die.

Let me tell you; you feel every inch of that walk. Reading this book was physically exhausting, and harrowing. Any one of the characters could die at any second, and many come very close several times each. But the winner...oh, yes, the winner gets a pretty decent prize, I must say. Whatever you want for the rest of your life.

The story is told from the perspective of one Walker, Ray Garraty, who isn't entirely sure why he entered the Walk and, here's the funny thing, isn't sure he's going to win. In fact, none of the boys are with the exception of a couple. This is one of the problems I had with the story, which I'll get to in a bit.

Ray is a fairly average teenager, except more than once his innocence and naivety is commented on by the others. Ray even thinks to himself after watching the first Walker get his ticket that until that moment he hadn't allowed himself to believe that the soldiers really were going to shoot him dead. He had pictured white flags saying "bang" coming out of the guns.

During the walk he makes friends with many of the boys, dire enemies with one of them in particular, and comes to see the one who continually lags behind everyone as a mystery in great need of solving.

Running the entire thing is a mysterious character known only as "the Major", and it is here that we must bring up one of the most striking differences between this world and our own; apparently it is highly militarized and adults who get too vocally political are "Squaded", a term which is not explained except that it apparently does not mean death by firing squad, which was my first thought, or death of any kind. I think it means they're taken away and put on work "squads", or it could mean they're drafted into some sort of military detail that might also involve conditioning their minds akin to the sort of "breaking" that the government practices in George Orwell's 1984. I don't know, but the Major is clearly a man of power, and the boys on the walk alternate between being a bit scared of him to open hatred of him to a sort of hero worship.

These little glimpses into just what sort of world this takes place in are pretty fascinating, and I like that we're left with more questions than answers. I still had other questions; why is the Walk only open to teens? Why only boys?

But here's my biggest problem with the Walk itself. It's often compared to the Hunger Games, but one thing people forget about the Hunger Games is that participation is mandatory for those whose names are chosen. You can volunteer, but if no one does, someone's chosen anyway. Here, participation is 100% voluntary, and in fact, you have to write an essay about why you should be chosen, then if your essay is good enough, you're put through a physical, and if you pass that your name is put in a draw from which 200 names are chosen; 100 primes and 100 alternates. If you're chosen as a prime, you have 24 hours to opt out. If you're an alternate, you are only chosen when someone opts out, and even then, it's random.

So, what we have here is a voluntary contest wherein people sign up willingly to die. They know going in that only one person can win, and most of them are not even sure they'll win. So they're willingly signing up to die. Moreover, people are watching from home as though it's any other sporting event or reality competition.

And unlike a sport like mountain climbing (which it's compared to at one point), death here does not come from negligence or accident. There's not just a chance of death, but a 99% certainty of it. It comes purposefully, delivered by military snipers who aren't even competing. That's another difference from the Hunger Games. In that game, it's you against your opponents, and while they will kill you, or accident or negligence will, it's part of the game. Here, it's punishment. Permanent punishment.

Call me naive, but I don't think we're gonna get to a point as a society where people willingly sign up to be shot by soldiers after putting their bodies through torturous strain. And I don't think anyone's going to want to watch it. We may accept violence in movies as par for the course, but we know that violence isn't real. When we hear on the news that real people are being shot, it definitely affects us.

That being said, this could still work as a movie, as long as it's put up as a sort of satire on the concept of reality shows. A sort of picture of how things might go as long as the public is willing to watch.

Apparently, the Man Frank Darabont owns the rights to this story and fully plans on turning it into a movie. Okay, I'm all for that. If anyone can turn this into a good movie, it's Darabont. So I'm proceeding as if this is Darabont's take on it, and unlike last time, I'm going to include a few of his usual suspects.

The Competitors
For starters, there's our central character, Ray Garraty. Unlike the story, I don't think the entire movie can focus on just him and what he experiences, but he'll be our Katniss throughout this ordeal. Much is made of his innocence, as I already said, and I think Ansel Elgort has that innocent look.
Garraty's closest "friend", if such a word applies to any of the Walkers, is a boy named Pete McVries, who is more philosophical but also bigger and in better physical shape. Noah Gray-Cabey, the kid from Heroes has grown up to be a rather handsome, and very physically fit, young man, and as his acting has always been more cerebral, I think he'd make a good McVries.

What would a story be without an antagonist? In this case, a kid named Gary Barkovitch is our boo-hiss "villain", a boy who seems to be on this walk just so he can, as he puts it, dance on people's graves. If anything, his persistent douchebaggery keeps several of our main characters going just to spite him. Ryan Potter is capable of a cold, hateful stare that seems pretty perfect for Barkovitch.
One of the more tragic Walkers is Hank Olson, who starts the walk rather boastful, sure that he's going to win, but within a short while, he realizes that he seriously failed to consider what he was up against. His spirit is consequentially shattered. He's relatively nondescript but I like Tony Revolori as an actor and I think he can bring the necessary sympathy one should feel for Olson.
Stebbins (no first name given) is the most mysterious out of the Walkers. He's a skinny, almost effeminate kid who for the most part remains consistently in last place, seemingly unconcerned about the entire ordeal. Of all the Walkers, he's the one that shows the least strain and mental/physical breakdown. This layered character is sure to be difficult to play successfully, so I'm going with Kodi Smit-McPhee, who is already a favorite on the arthouse acting circuit.

Art Baker is a hayseed with a lot of down-home sense. He's one of the more prominent characters, despite not really doing much or being described much. Somehow the tired eyes of Austin MacDonald made me choose him for this role.
That's the major players, but there are two others who should probably be cast. The others all sorta blur together in your head. Scramm, a very fit Walker who is actually, despite his young age, married and with a kid on the way, entered the competition sure he could win, willing to bet his wife's companionship and child's growing up with a father on his physical skill. I think a handsome, muscular young actor who looks really sure of himself would do pretty good here, such as Luke Benward.
Abraham is one of the longer-lasting Walkers, a guy who essentially entered the Walk because he felt he had nothing to lose. I'm casting him because of a funny scene where he tells the other Walkers what he wrote on his essay. I chose Robbie Kay, because he came closest to my mental image of what Abraham looks like.
That's it for the Walkers, though of course there are plenty others. Now let's move on to the other characters.

The book doesn't stray from the Walk. Literally all the action happens on the road. We see stuff off to the side, and the Major is unquestionably watching progress from somewhere, but we don't see that aspect because we never leave Garraty's point of view. This is where the movie could expand somewhat. We get to see what the Major is actually up to. We get to see what Garraty's family is going through, dropping him off, driving back to their city where they're going to be waiting as spectators. Maybe even glimpse inside the halftrack a few times, though personally I like the idea of leaving them faceless, a spectre of death for the Walkers.

My thought is that portions of the movie could take place within a studio, with a regular host, or hosts, almost like a sporting event today. It would be a way to "remind the viewing audience" what the rules are and really focus on each walker. There could be interviews with the Major, a previous winner, a parent of one of the losers, etc.

Meanwhile, I also like the idea of the Major screwing with the game; the various by-standers who actually do try to interfere being put in place by the Major himself. I can just see him now, in some control room somewhere; "Okay, deploy the wagon offering free watermelon." "Pick one of the boys' mothers and tell her she can come get her son. Don't tell the boys in the halftrack."

I pictured Kevin Spacey as the Major.
Your host, Curtis Vance, will be the man in the studio checking in with the Walkers. He'll be played by Darabont Regular Amin Joseph.
Garraty's girlfriend, Jan, I see as having a larger role in this. We'll actually see the conversation where she begs him not to compete, even offering to sleep with him if he opts out. Then we'll get her side of the events when they reach the crowd in Freeport and she almost gets to speak to him from the sidelines. I chose a random up-and-coming young actress, Madison McLaughlin.
Finally there's Garraty's mother and her man, Dr. Patterson. I again picked some Darabont Regulars to play them, but I wonder if Dr. Patterson shouldn't be changed to Garraty's grandfather. Honestly, there'd be no difference to the character's purpose, and it allows me to use the most frequent of Darabont's cast.

Melissa McBride plays Mom and Jeffrey DeMunn plays Patterson/Grandpa.
Melissa McBride

Jeffrey DeMunn
It's funny, but I honestly think this will make a more enjoyable movie than it was a book. Don't get me wrong; this book is very strong, and the idea that we might some day reach this level of inhumanity is scary (again, it kinda loses me because I just can't quite see us getting there, but I might be the minority opinion here). I think one of the biggest differences between King and Bachman is that King usually seems just as horrified at what's going on as the readers are, but Bachman is cold and clinical in his description of atrocities. Charlie Decker just killed someone (who remains inside the classroom, bleeding on the floor for the entire duration of the book) but meh, she's just collateral damage. Here, deaths pile up, but hey, they knew what they signed up for.

Presently I'm nearly halfway through The Dead Zone, and moving straight into The Mist after that. I don't think either one is getting a blog post, because both have been adapted to film before, and are generally (I said generally) considered to be among the better adaptations. I doubt either one needs to be adapted again. The Dead Zone already was, as a TV series back in the early 2000's, which I have not seen barring an episode or two here and there, but understand it started off strong and became utterly stupid fairly quickly. This doesn't surprise me, really. Strong book, strong movie, not the sort of stuff ongoing TV series are made from.

However, after that, there's a few stories after those that I think might work very well as movies, one of which already got one, but there's definite room for improvement. I'm refraining from putting a "next up" at the end of this post, because I'm going to read the stories before I decide if a movie version would work, or is needed.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Dark Tower and Miscasting

Sorry, gotta blog about this one.

Ever since a film version of The Dark Tower has been actually worked on, actors are coming up connected to the lead role of Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger himself. There might not be a more hotly debated character, nor a casting process more contentious, than the one circling around this one.

Several names have risen to the top only to be struck down. Javier Bardem apparently was cast by Ron Howard, but Howard's off the project and so is Bardem. Russell Crowe was another who apparently came close. Other contenders that were mentioned to be "in talks", whether or not that was ever true, include Viggo Mortensen, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Daniel Craig.

And now, there's a new name to surface. One Idris Elba.
I want to say one thing before I start. I love Idris Elba. I mean, he's the man. He's got enough talent that he could play Jake if he was called upon to do so. I have never seen a performance from him that wasn't awesome. He's very likely to be nominated for an Academy Award this year for his performance in Beasts of No Nation and I say, good for him. I hope he has a long, steady career and there are roles down the line I'm already considering him for on this blog.

Roland isn't one of them. And I'll get right to the point. I don't think Roland should be played by a black man.

I know, I know. How racist of me. It's 2015, and if I don't like the idea of changing a character's race I must be a nasty racist, right? Isn't that how it works?

Obviously I don't have a problem with the changing of a character's race, as I've done it, several times already on this blog. I understand that the main reason most of these characters were white is that King wrote these stories in the 60's and 70's and was a white man himself, and thus, he wrote what he knew, and wasn't nearly as concerned with diversity as we've become in the 2010's.

To be honest, I think we're all a little too concerned with diversity, to the point where people start crying "racism" when a historically white character, such as Spider-Man, gets cast with a white actor. I'm serious that when Tom Holland got cast in the role, there were people saying they would boycott the film because they had a chance to make Spider-Man black and refused to do so. But that's all I'll say on this subject.

Also, I don't think this situation is analogous to Morgan Freeman playing Red in The Shawshank Redemption when this character was written as a red-headed Irishman, nor does it compare to various comic book characters who were traditionally white being played by black actors.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption was one fourth of a collection of novellas that were celebrated by readers and critics, but Red the character was hardly a near-mythic character who represented not just one aspect of one story but sort of the personification of King's mythos in general.

Roland is probably one of the favorite characters of any of King's works. He's certainly the one they take the most seriously. He's not just a character in a story to readers of The Dark Tower and King's canon in general. He's a mythic figure. He's gained cult status. There are people who think of him as the figurehead to King's universe.

You don't screw with characters like that.

Let's compare Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption to another character in another King film; George C. Scott in Firestarter. Morgan Freeman played Red, a white red-head, while George C. Scott played John Rainbird, a Native American character. One went from white to black, the other went from Aboriginal to white pretending to be Aboriginal. And in neither case was it due to either actor's race. George C. Scott was hired to play Rainbird because he was George C. Scott. Morgan Freeman was cast as Red because he was Morgan Freeman.

Idris Elba is not yet at a point where if he's available and willing, you hire him no questions asked. He is not yet at a point where having him in your movie automatically lends it an air of respectability it might not otherwise have. I'm sure he'll get there some day, but right now he's just a popular, and very talented, actor.

Some characters are just characters. Others are icons. Spider-Man is an icon. So is Superman. When you adapt characters like that to the screen, you change as little as possible, because millions of people have grown up with these characters and know how they're supposed to be.

Roland is that for Constant Readers. He is not someone you go changing just because you can. I know people want to make it a race thing, but to be honest, really none of the actors courted for the role of Roland have been actors I would have approved of. I might--might--have been okay with Craig or Jackman, because Jackman sorta looks like a young Clint Eastwood and Craig has the seamed, lined, not-handsome face that Roland from the books has. But I would strongly prefer an unknown, or lesser-known character actor who can embody the role rather than a big star. Doubtless if negotiations don't work out with Elba, they'll move on to DiCaprio or Downey, not because they'd be any good but because they're big stars.

Then there's the changes it would make to the story. Nine times out of ten, when a character is changed from white to black there's no real reason not to. I didn't mind Ossie Davis playing the Judge in The Stand or Andre Braugher playing Matt in 'Salem's Lot because neither role has anything to do with race.

But in the Dark Tower series, race does matter. In Book 2, The Drawing of the Three, Roland uses the mysterious "drawing" power he's been given to enter the mind of Odetta Holmes, a black woman with a split personality that she is unaware of. Odetta is reasonable and educated while Detta Walker, her other personality, is a psychotic criminal who hates white people. When Roland draws her into his world, she is an immediate liability because her hatred of whites causes her to work against them on principle.

I've seen comments on various web sites that say things like "Big deal, so she won't be able to call Roland a honk mahfah, does that really change things?" Well, yes, it does. Because making Roland a black man requires changing Detta Walker's character, causing her actions to not really make much sense. I suppose you could say that the fact that Roland more or less kidnapped her might be motivation enough, but then you've got the Odetta personality, who's willing to listen to Roland's reasons for drawing her away from her world.

Even Susannah has the occasional talk about racial issues with Roland and Eddie, and feels that neither can understand where she's coming from because they're both white. This all goes away if you make Roland a black man. The contrast and compliment are needed here. Otherwise you're screwing with the story for no other reason than so you can have a black man in the lead role.

And of course, this sorta kills me because this series' female lead is a strong black woman with a brilliant mind, who's an interesting character to boot. This is one of the few early King books in which there's already a prominent black character. I don't care if there's more than one prominent black character in a story, but in this case she's more than a token. She's a black Civil Rights activist from the 60's and her race and stance on race relations is a critical part of her character, a part that is underdone by putting more of "her people" around her. She's supposed to feel out of place, because she feels that herself. She's initially uncomfortable with her feelings for Eddie because he's a white man.

My point is, this is one story King wrote that's hardly lacking in race awareness, and yet producers apparently feel the need to race-lift the lead character for diversity's sake. And not just any lead character, but the focal point of King's entire universe.

Of course, the producers of this movie aren't thinking about Odetta/Detta/Susannah at this point, because she doesn't show up until the second book, and they, so far, are only filming The Gunslinger. Likely they haven't spared a single thought toward how the future films are gonna go, because they don't even know if this one will find an audience. Heck, they already seem to think it won't, since they've already decided to release it in January.

Now, of course, Roland isn't the only role in this film they seem to be determined to miscast. They've also got Matthew McConaughey tapped to play Walter, the Man in Black.
Yes, they want this actor... play this character.

I've already mentioned in my last post that Walter and Randall Flagg, the villain from The Stand, are the same character but a different persona. Without going into too much detail, Walter is an at least partially demonic being with many names that he uses for various guises. It's implied that the Walter persona from The Dark Tower is about as close as we've come to seeing his real personality, and it's also implied that Walter is in fact his real name. But he uses multiple aliases, and alters his personality for each one to various degrees. We're told in The Stand that he's been both a White Supremacist and a Black Rights activist, using different names but all with the initials "RF". His Flagg persona is supposed to be a sort of generic all-American, so McConaughey actually wouldn't be a bad choice to play that role. But McConaughey can't turn off his southern twang, and there is no way you can convince me that Walter, who is more like a Saruman-esque evil wizard, speaks with that twang.

In fact, the more I hear about casting for this thing, the more I hope this project folds. No, I don't insist that there be no changes whatsoever, but the way things are going, this is going to be so different that I won't even recognize it.

EDIT: It has come to my attention that Stephen King himself has tweeted about this and more or less given Elba his blessing. To some, that settles the matter. If the author doesn't care, why should we?

Well, really, there are only three possibilities here.

1. Stephen King has forgotten everything about the racial dynamics of the Ka-tet and why they matter within the story. (this is the least likely)

2. King, like many, is afraid of appearing racist for objecting to a black actor. I believe this one is at least partially right. Without getting too deep into it, we live in very thin-skinned PC times, and it takes almost no effort at all to call someone a racist these days. When you read stories about the San Bernadino shooters' neighbor saying he saw suspicious activity but didn't report it because he was afraid of being called racist, that tells you what kind of world we're living in.

3. At this point, King is probably in "whatever, let's just get this done" mode, and might have stopped caring about who plays Roland as long as someone does.

What I do not accept is that at no point while writing the character did color matter to him. As my friend over at The Truth Inside the Lie aptly points out, Roland is based on the classic cowboy image, specifically the type of character that Clint Eastwood used to play. While there's no reason a cowboy can't be black, This does mean that King created this character as a white man, and he definitely is written as one, what with Detta hating Roland for being a "honk mahfah".

King knows what side his bread is buttered on, and I'm sure has no interest in saying anything that might delay this production longer. But did the color of the Gunslinger ever matter to him? Of course it did, and I don't know who he's trying to kid by suggesting otherwise.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Stand

We've arrived, folks. The first of three largest beams that hold this blog up. And the second most important.

Fair warning, this is gonna be a long post. If you want to read it all at once, your best bet is to set some time aside, say an hour or so.

What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said? It's easily one of King's most popular books, and a running joke among "Constant Readers" is that it's both ultra-cliche and yet utterly required that everyone's favorite King book is The Stand. And there's a reason for that. Reading The Stand is an experience like no other. It almost doesn't qualify as just "reading a book" and becomes something closer to "experiencing another world". I talk a lot about books taking me to other worlds, but in this case, it's less like visiting one and more like really living there for a while. If I had to name a book that puts me straight into the characters' heads, that turns them into people rather than just characters, that transports me into their situation and makes me feel like I'm really there, living it, rather than just reading about it, that book is The Stand.

Describing it in a thumbnail sketch utterly fails to do it justice, so I'm not gonna try. Instead, I'm going to assume that you've read this book, possibly multiple times. If you're a Constant Reader and you haven't read this at least once, then you are not a Constant Reader. I personally read the original version, the one released in 1978, once, and this is my second time all the way through the unabridged version, which is one of the longest books I've ever read.

My copy was 1440 pages long. In mass market paperback. Yes, my wrist got strained here and there. If you're thinking "well, I'd rather just read the abridged version" then you better go scour some second-hand stores, because the unabridged version is the only one being sold in chain book stores today. Hint: if there's a Page 1100, you do not have the abridged version.

Personally, I much prefer the unabridged version. This is the one you can immerse yourself in, lose yourself and just live in this world for a while. The abridged version is a novel. A good one, but just a novel. The unabridged is an experience. It'll be the unabridged I'll be adapting, for that matter.

The Stand is also unique on this blog as it's not only another that's already been adapted, but it's also the first casting I'll be doing for a production that's currently being planned as we speak. Hollywood wants this to be made again, and it's been in Development Hell for the past five to ten years, as major directors like JJ Abrams, Ben Affleck and David Yates (Harry Potter franchise) have all been attached and then dropped out. Presently it's in the hands of up-and-comer Josh Boone (Stuck in Love, The Fault in Our Stars).

Now, I'll be honest; I don't think Boone's gonna stick around much longer, either. He's stuck with it longer than the directors who came before him, true, but it's been almost two years since he signed onto this project, and in that time we've heard next to nothing about casting, location scouting, principle photography start dates, or release dates. Boone can't even nail down how this is going to be done. First he said he was doing a three-hour theatrical version. This cannot be done. If you've read the book, you know that there is simply no way to whittle down such a sprawling, yet deeply human story and still have anything resembling something coherent. Then he said he was doing four films, but that was more reason for concern because Hollywood rarely approves multiple movies at once, preferring to release the first one, and if it finds an audience, going ahead with other sequels.

Consider this; The Stand, while loved, is not a recently-popular novel that everyone's talking about. It's almost as old as I am, and it's written by a man whose box-office appeal is decidedly hit-and-miss. So, The Stand, Part I is hardly a guaranteed blockbuster, especially considering that it would be threeish hours of setup only.

But Boone apparently understood that as well, and is now talking about it being an 8-part television series on Showtime, followed by a big-budget three-hour movie, and he stresses that he'll be delivering a cast of A-listers that will "blow peoples' minds". I don't care if it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Denzel Washington and Hugh Jackman if it sucks, which is looking unfortunately likely.

Apparently the studio is determined that this be a movie, and seem to be set on it being their big tentpole project of whatever year it's released in. More stupid short-sightedness from producers. The Stand is not a "summer-tentpole" type movie. It's a gigantic epic, and I'm not even sure it could be effectively communicated in four films. I understand execs are hemming and hawing about this plan as well, for that matter, since it would require everyone who saw the movie to also be familiar with the TV series, and there's no guarantee of that at all.

I mentioned we haven't heard much about casting, and we haven't, but Boone apparently has his requisite supporting man on board, Nat Wolff, as well as having extended an offer to Matthew McConaughey, some sources saying he's been offered the lead role of Stu Redman, and others saying he's actually been offered the role of the antagonist, Randall Flagg. This rumor has been circulating for months upon months now, and we still don't know if McConaughey is going to 'jine up with this project, which to my mind, means he likely isn't.

On a side note, though, it's kinda funny that Matthew McConaughey has apparently been offered both the role of Flagg in this production and the role of the Man in Black in the Dark Tower adaptation that will allegedly be released in just over a year (similar to how my dead grandmother will allegedly be present at my daughter's second birthday). Again, I assume you have read those books, and thus, you know that Flagg and Walter, the Man in Black's "real" name, are in fact, the same man. It's almost as if the producers, like, care and stuff.

I'm not on board the McConaughey train. He'd be great as Flagg, but would make a horrible Walter, and despite these guys being the same man, their personas are different. As Flagg, this being is folksy and very modern in the way he speaks, and even McConaughey's signature twang, which I've never seen him even try to mask, would be fine in that role. But I cannot, no matter how hard I try, picture Walter talking that way.

I don't think Boone is long for this project. I really don't. I think in the next few months, we'll hear that he's left it and that likely the entire thing has been shelved. I almost hope for it because then another writer/creator, my choice would be Frank Darabont again, can come along and take this project where it really belongs, and do it the only way it really can be done.

I think it needs to air on NetFlix as a one-season, 13-episode television series. I say NetFlix for two reasons; their release-all-the-episodes-at-once format encourages binge-watching and they've shown that they have no issue taking on TV series for one season alone. Each episode would be a full hour, and I think that 13 hours would be just long enough to really do this story justice. It's probably as close as any visual format will ever come to watching a novel.

As it's just one season, I think stars who are considered film actors might be more likely to hop aboard, but don't get me wrong, I'm not going for the "all-star cast" that Boone is promising. More like I'm choosing dependable actors that people recognize. As there are currently more cast lists for this thing going around than there are communicable diseases, I'm sure people are going to have issues with some of my choices, but in each case I was trying as much as I can to edge as close to King's depictions of these characters as it's possible to get.

I even have an idea for the opening sequence. Picture scenes of germs under a microscope being looked at, played with, modified, then images of people getting sick, falling over, armies lining people up and shooting them, people in hazmat suits looking through windows, and finally street littered with piled-up bodies and vehicles, and while all these images are playing past us in the very center of the screen, small enough at first that we don't even see it, but getting closer as the credits play on, is a man in denim with glowing red eyes walking inexorably toward the screen.

In the background, we hear a familiar tune...

Take a little walk to the edge of town
Go across the tracks
Where the viaduct looms
Like a bird of doom
As it shifts and cracks
Where secrets lie
In the border fires
And the humming wires
Hey man, you know you're never comin' back
Past the square, past the bridge
Past the mill, past the stacks...

And the whole time the Walkin Dude keeps coming, finally close enough that we can see his red eyes and evil, grinning mouth.

On a gatherin' storm
Comes a tall handsome man
In a dusty black coat

BOOM! Credits end as Flagg's face fills the screen and all goes black, almost as if he's walked out of your TV and left emptiness behind.

Now, some of you are probably saying that there's no need to make this a full thirteen hours, as there's quite a bit of material that shouldn't, and won't, make it to the screen, such as the many times King gives us backstory that's not really needed to tell his tale. Here's the thing, though. I'd like this series to improve upon the only two areas that I felt the novel was a bit weak with. The first is that he doesn't give us more than a couple of glimpses into what's going on in Vegas before the final fourth of the book, and at that point it's too little, too late. We barely know anyone there, aside from Lloyd Henried and the Trashcan Man, and once we do get to know them, we find out that they're not one-and-all bad people, that in fact most of them only went to Vegas because it seemed like that was where the real progress was being made.

I'd like to see the TV series give us more scenes in Vegas, letting us see Lloyd's doubts growing and Trashy's mad devotion to Flagg erasing whatever vestiges of sanity he might have had left, while also letting us get to know some of the other characters, like Bobby Terry, Ace High, Whitey Horgan, Barry Dorgan (one of those last names is going to have to be changed) and Jenny Engstrom.

Another weakness is how in the last fourth or so, everyone starts more or less counting on divine intervention to do their work for them. God even is ultimately the one to step in and save the day, while our heroes do little but watch. A more active role and fewer scenes of "I just know we're supposed to do this!" might be called for. Mother Abigail receiving divine word is one thing. Frannie Goldsmith suddenly realizing they all need to leave the house right now is another.

See my last post about acceptable changes.

Then there's the question, to update or not to update? I'm going with update, because one of the ways this is powerful is how it feels like it could actually happen in our own future. King set the first version in 1980, and the updated one in 1990. As I read, I determined in each scene whether it would be impossible to move this ahead to a time frame we'd think of as modern, and honestly, there isn't.

Updating it would mean acknowledging social media, but that won't be too hard. Just replace the posted signs on campus with conspiracy theory websites and Twitter, replace the independent news rags with blogs, replace the radio host with a podcaster and give Nick Andros a tablet PC in his earlier scenes. You could even have Ray Holt break it when he beats Nick up, and now in a world with no electrical outlets to charge any new tablet he might pick up, he's forced to handwritten notes.

Aside from the obvious reference updates, fewer people using words like the N-word to describe Larry's singing style and Glen's theory about disasters taking place near the end of centuries (seeing as we're at the beginning of one instead), there's not much post-flu that needs changing, seeing as how it knocks everyone back to the stone age, or at least, the 30's. I see no reason that a version of this story released in, say, 2017, couldn't update the setting to 2020.

As I already said, Frank Darabont, the Kevin Feige of the King Cinematic Universe, is my choice to run this show and direct most episodes. He can bring along whatever writers and crew-members he wants from his time on The Walking Dead, which is such a Stand-like show. I didn't cast it with anyone he's known for working with, though. None of them really seemed to gel with the roles.

So, after all that, it's time to start casting. As this is going to be a TV series, I've divided the cast into three tiers; regulars, whose names will appear in the title sequence, recurring cast members, who will appear in multiple episodes but without being named in the title sequence, and guest stars, who will likely only appear in one or two episodes.

And now, without further ado...

The Regulars
While this is mainly an ensemble cast, most feel that Stu Redman is the lead character. He's an East Texan factory worker, described as "old-time tough" and is somewhere around 35 years old. He was played by Gary Sinise in the mini-series, who was so good in the role that some are saying he should be re-used for a future adaptation. I don't like re-using old cast members in the same roles, plus Sinise is too old now, so while he was great, we're gonna go with someone else. Casting Stue was tough, because it seemed like everyone was either too old or too young, and Matthew McConaughey is a bit smirky for this character, who is more of a strong silent type. I'm not saying he couldn't do it, but he's far from my first choice. In fact, Stephen King's first choice, Jake Gyllenhaal, doesn't in any way suggest "old time tough" to me. Stu is a handsome guy, but I don't want a "pretty" actor in this role, which causes problems because it seems like a lot of leading men these days are just "pretty." This led me a bit afield, and I found our Texan in Australia. Joel Edgerton can do any accent you need him to, and with a bit of stubble, maybe a soul patch and sideburns, bicep tats and flannel shirts (hey, Stu is a Texan, y'all), I think he'd be great. He's a bit older than Stu is in the novels, but he can still believably play 35.
Then there's our leading lady, Frannie Goldsmith. A native of Ogunquit, Maine (hey, it's King, you know Maine's gonna figure in somewhere), she's a college student, 21, with a plan for her future that gets derailed when she learns she's pregnant by a boyfriend she's no longer even sure she's in love with. The plague takes care of that, and all her other plans, and makes her worry the most about what the future will hold for the next generation, her baby foremost. She's innocent, idealistic and still young enough to think with her heart rather than her head. If this does not sound like a good role for Molly Ringwald to you, don't worry, you're not alone, but she is the one who played her in the mini-series and the one in most dire need of being replaced. I'm not the first to make this suggestion, but I do like the idea of Shailene Woodley in this role. Something about her definitely says "Fran".
Our third lead is Nick Andros, who was played by Rob Lowe in the mini-series, and Lowe was another well-loved element of that series. Nick is a young drifter in his mid-twenties, handsome and resourceful, and incredibly smart, but also totally deaf and mute. As in, born without eardrums or vocal cords. Despite his handicap, he becomes one of the leaders of the straggling survivors left over after the plague. While some have called Rob Lowe irreplaceable, I don't think there's such a thing as irreplaceable, and like I said, I hate reusing actors in the same role. This is likely the role that Josh Boone secured Nat Wolff for, and while Wolff would be okay, this role is a fantastic opportunity to cast one of the best young actors Hollywood has to offer right now, one Anton Yelchin. King fans will remember him as Bobby Garfield in Hearts in Atlantis, but he's grown up since then and turned into a damn fine actor. Could he communicate the character of Nick, the heart of the Boulder Free Zone, with nothing more than actions and facial expressions? Absolutely he could, and win as many hearts, if not more, than Lowe did.
If Stu is Frodo, Fran Sam and Nick Aragorn, we need a Gandalf in the bunch, and that would be Glen Bateman, who prior to the flu outbreak was a Sociology professor with a way of thinking that allows for almost any possibility. Ray Walston played him in the mini-series and did an okay job, but was perhaps a bit too old. Glen is one of those guys who will even accept that something he doesn't believe in might still exist, seeing as how his belief in it is not required for its continued existence. Glen's a wise man with a lot of lines and we'll need a dependable character actor who everyone recognizes and likes. Also, Glen is about 60, bald and...wait...sounds a lot like JK Simmons, doesn't it?
Now let's check in on the other side, with a plague survivor that began on the wrong side and ended up there. Lloyd Henried is a criminal, and not a likable one either. When we meet him, he and his partner in crime Poke have just murdered a man, stole some guns and drugs and are on the run from the cops. Despite that, Lloyd does end up eliciting some sympathy; he's a bad guy with layers. He might be among the more tragic characters in this story. Miguel Ferrer played him in the mini-series and I wasn't happy with that casting, because Ferrer is known for playing boo-hiss bad guys, and I'd like someone there who's a bit more rounded. I know I'm not the first to suggest Sam Rockwell, who also played Billy Wharton in the film version of The Green Mile but here would be given an opportunity to be a bit more relateable.
Continuing our trip to the dark side, we now come to Harold Lauder, the only other plague survivor from Ogunquit, and as Frannie's luck would have it, someone she was never very fond of. In fact, much time is given explaining all the reasons Harold is something of a neighborhood pariah. He might be at least as smart as Nick, if not much smarter, and as much of an abstract thinker as Glen Bateman, but he's also very self-important and physically unattractive; very overweight with bad skin, greasy hair and other hygiene issues I'd rather not go into. And he's in love with Fran, which comes off as a little kid's crush on the only woman left in town. Having been made fun of or ignored by nearly everyone his entire life, Harold lets his seething hatred fester and becomes a tool for the Dark Man, even as he starts shedding all the things that made him unlikable before. While traveling to Boulder, and especially once he gets there, his weight begins to drop and he starts taking better care of his appearance. By the time things come to a head he's one of the more respected members of the Free Zone. This role will require a physical transformation, and by that I do not mean put an attractive actor like Corin Nemec (who played him in the mini-series) in bad pimple make-up and even worse baggy clothes and try to pretend people think he's hideous. I mean take an actor and Nutty Professor-ize him, then gradually take it down several notches until he looks like himself. I chose Will Poulter, who was recently hired to play Pennywise in Cary Fukunaga's It. But since it's not Cary Fukunaga's It anymore, I don't think Poulter's still attached there. If Fukunaga thought he could be evil enough to be Pennywise, he will nock people's socks off as Harold. He has this ability to radiate cold hatred. 
On a similar journey of self-discovery as Harold, but with decidedly different destinations, is Larry Underwood, a young, self-absorbed musician who's just hit the big time right as the flu breaks out. Larry starts off, if anything, worse than Harold, willing to use people, even his own mother, as long as he gets what he wants, but all he wants is to be a major recording star. His first hit, Baby Can You Dig Your Man?, has just hit the radio, and looks like it will be the sort of chart-topper that will give him the predictable Justin-Beiberesque fleeting popularity, but he wishes to be something more. Larry's better nature is gradually revealed as the book goes on. He's many people's favorite character. An actor named Adam Storke, who's done little else anyone would remember, played Larry in the mini-series, and while he wasn't awful he came off more like a slick Hollywood actor than a struggling musician who just hit big. The way he's written makes me think of a young handsome man with longish hair, and a smug expression that gradually softens. Apparently his look and supposed sound was based on Bruce Springsteen, so all these suggestions I hear that Justin Timberlake should play him sound nightmarish to me, and I think they would to Stephen King as well. Larry shows his appreciation for classic rock and blues, which is why he's so disappointed in how his career is going despite his recent success. I don't know how this guy's name came to me, but I went looking for pictures of actor Toby Sebastian, who I have only ever seen in two other places; the lame-as-fuck movie Barely Lethal and as a recurring actor on Game of Thrones. He plays a Larry-like character in the first one, and the second one proves he can act. So he's my choice for portraying Larry. My choice for Larry's singing voice is Johnny Lang, who, if I were in charge, I would also hire to flesh out and provide the music for Baby Can You Dig Your Man? and the only other song Larry wrote that we're told about, Pocket Savior, which I picture being about the kind of man Larry sees himself as; someone pretending to be a hero when inside he's riddled with self-loathing. Lang really is a white singer who sounds black, and once upon a time I thought he should just go ahead and play Larry himself, but I don't think he acts, plus he's getting a bit too old.
Toby Sebastian

Johnny Lang
Back to the bad side for a moment; Donald Merwin Elbert is another tragic character. A damaged burgeoning psychopath who nonetheless elicits much sympathy. He did from me, anyway. He's a pyromaniac who is referred to as the Trashcan Man, due to how in his youth he spent most of his time lighting fires in people's garbage cans. He was played by Matt Frewer in the mini-series, who portrayed him as an almost comic-relief nutcase from his first scene onward. Trashy has to start out being just a bit "buggy" and get worse as he goes. Trust me, one of the most memorable sequences in the entire book happens with this character, and it won't work if he's all bug-eyes and gibbering laughter. One actor who plays mentally unbalanced characters very well is Jackie Earle Haley, who also has that look of a person who makes people uncomfortable on sight. I think he'd play this role amazingly.
One role that was hard to cast was that of Nadine Cross, a woman Larry meets after some tragic circumstances and dedicates himself to protecting while on the road. There's an attraction there, too, but Nadine is strangely stand-offish, and there's a darkness to her that Larry can't figure out. With her is a feral child named Joe, who I will not be casting as he is a preteen, but "Joe", which is the name Nadine gave him because he refuses to speak, is a very important character and thus, great care will be needed that we don't end up with another Maitland Ward. Nadine is very beautiful, with a distinctive streak of white hair (obviously this can be added) who seems both innocent and sexy in an almost unplayable way. The mini-series is no help here, because they merged her character with another and had her played by Laura San Giacomo as a substance abuser with a braying laugh. I went with Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery, because she's very good at looking vulnerable and innocent, but can turn on the sexiness when she has to.

This role is somewhat minor, but has a lot of page-time and thus, will be one of the major on-screen roles, and I think a skilled actor could bring something to it. Ralph Brentner is an aging hick who is the first friendly person who can read that Nick encounters on the road. Ralph is present for much of the more memorable scenes, but his personality doesn't really climb out of the "friendly hick" type role. In the mini-series, he was played by an actor named Peter Van Norden, who did little with the part and few people remember this character's even around, which is a shame because I really liked him. I thought Tim Blake Nelson could bring this part out of its shell and make people feel the same way about this character that I did.
Then there's Tom Cullen. Ah, Tom Cullen, a part that could go so, so wrong so easily. Tom is a big, friendly, child-like mentally handicapped man, and the first man that Nick meets once the plague hits, who, as luck would have it, can't read anything, including hand-written notes, which is, of course, the only way Nick can communicate. Tom remains one of the most favorite characters in the entire book because he's just so pure and innocent and he has so many scenes that make one tear up...uh, I mean, smile warmly at. Men don't cry at novels, laws no. In the mini-series, Tom was played by Bill Faggerbakke, who was so good in the part that most people want to see him brought back, but he looks like an old man now, and that would be a bit awkward. Tom is of average height but a large, sturdy build (maybe even a bit tubby) and has blonde hair. He has a wide open, friendly face that makes him look like he's in his twenties when he's probably more like 45. So...why don't we cast an actor who has a large, sturdy build (maybe even a bit tubby, could be believably blonde, has a wide open, friendly face that makes him look like he's in his twenties when he actually is 45? Such as Zak Orth. M-O-O-N, that spells Zak Orth. He looks just like Tom Cullen, doesn't he just? Laws, yes.
We're nearing the end of the regulars now, and the last two roles are among the most important. I figure these two will be listed at the end of the credits as "with" and "and", if you catch my drift. The first is Mother Abigail Freemantle, a 108-year-old devout black woman from Hemingford Home, Nebraska, who is the sort that regularly receives messages from God and does not question His divine will. She's the "Big Good" of this story, a woman who the "good" side rallies around in the Boulder Free Zone. Strangely enough, she doesn't come off as the "magical negro" nor a walking plot device, as she might in other, less talented hands. The only thing I wondered about, as far as her character is concerned, was whether or not she should be kept at 108 or perhaps aged up to 138, so that her roots, having lived through a time when black people were barely better than slaves as an adult can be kept. After all, it could be hinted that there's something mystical about her longevity, couldn't there? But then, that might strain credibility past the breaking point and besides, a birth year of 1912 instead of 1882 might mean that her father might not be the first black land owner in their community, but it still means she would have experienced Jim Crow, having no civil rights, and etc., etc. But what actress can play her now that Ruby Dee, who played her very well in the mini-series, has died? Why not Cicely Tyson, who is 90 and still in very good health, and still acting? Hollywood, make this beast before she dies!
Then finally, there's the Walkin Dude, Old Creeping Judas, the Hardcase, the Dark Man, Randall Flagg himself. Jamey Sheridan played him in the mini-series, and honestly, his portrayal is probably why people got excited about the possibility of Matthew McConaughey taking it this time around. Sheridan played him with a bit of a southern accent and a mullet the size of Mount Everest. Now, like I said, I'm not going with Matthew McConaughey, but I am going with a chameleonic actor who seems able to play almost anything. I only recently learned he was American, because he does accents in nearly everything, and I know there's a bright future ahead for this actor, who is still up-and-coming enough to take a role like this one and not demand extended screen time or too much money. He's handsome but in an off-kilter sort of way, he can make his voice go hard and deep and frightening, or soft and kind as needed. He's got a face that can go from sweet to pure evil in seconds. And yes, this man is also going to be my choice to play all of the Dark Man's other incarnations. I'm talking about Lee Pace, of course.
That's it for the regulars, but as this is a one-season television show, there's a ton of supporting players, and I couldn't help but cast them all. So, here are:

The Recurring Cast
I'm listing these roles alphabetically by actor, as I figure they'll probably all have equal-ish screen time on the show. The first is the Rat Man, one of the more highly-placed members of the Dark Man's crew, a black man who dresses like a pirate and is apparently creepy enough to creep out all the crooks and creepers the Dark Man has gathered. This was tough, but I went with an actor named David Ajala, a Brit who most people probably will recognize best as one of the Joker's creepier henchmen in The Dark Knight. As I said, we're going to be seeing more of him and the other Vegas people, so his role will be beefed up a bit, as will others.
 Next up is a role that's a sort of one-scene wonder in the book, but ripe material to get a bit more development in the series. Bobby Terry is a stupid guy who figures out firsthand what happens when you don't follow Flagg's orders to the letter. I see him as being one of the people Trashy hangs around and jokes with, at some point telling Trashy that he's been picked for guard duty at a picket up in Oregon. He'd be played by Ike Barinholtz.
Susan Stern is one of the more prominent female character in the Boulder Free Zone. I'd like to see her character beefed up as a strident liberal who sees the plague and the Boulder Free Zone as an opportunity to correct many of the mistakes she feels America has made. I'd also like to see her friendship with Dayna Jurgens beefed up so that their goodbye is more touching. For whatever reason, I see Jennifer Carpenter in that role. 
Lucy Swann is another character who could use some beefing up. In the book she's just Larry's girlfriend, and most of her time is devoted to wondering if Larry loves her or secretly still wants Nadine. I wanted people to instantly feel for her, and be on her side, so I made her a tad younger than she's described in the books, and honestly, it still fits the character, since Lucy is very much still a girl in her mindset. I went with Kaitlyn Dever.
The next role is problematic because it will be so easy to get her wrong. Julie Lawry is a young girl that Nick and Tom meet on their journey. She almost immediately wants to have sex with Nick, and he finds himself too weak to resist, but afterward, she reveals herself to be vapid, airheaded and with a volatile temper. When Nick refuses a second round of sex, she turns hostile, even trying to turn Tom against him, and Nick begins to realize that she's insane. It's the insanity part that I'd like to play up with this character, rather than the slut part, because as Nick correctly surmises, her brazen sexuality is just a symptom of a deeper problem. I went with Kerris Dorsey because she's shown herself unafraid to take on sexually precocious characters and there's something a little crazy about her eyes.
Ace High is another of Flagg's cohorts, apparently somewhat highly placed. He's the subject of a memorable joke, but otherwise has little to do in the book, so he's ripe for playing up on the show. He's described as young and skinny with a patchy beard, and for some reason that reminded me of The Bastard Executioner's Darren Evans.
Whitey Horgan is the principle cook among Flagg's cohorts, and becomes something of a close friend and confidant to Lloyd. The image of Matt Jones in this role rose up and wouldn't leave. I think he works quite well.
Then there's a role that often gets overlooked, that of Brad Kitchner, who is the man that gets the Free Zone's power going again. I grew to really like Brad this time, and saw him as a more major character than he probably is. He is also kinda funny, because while he knows what he's doing at the power station, any time he's called upon to give a formal report on the progress, he becomes jittery and nervous like a junior high student giving an oral report. I saw him as this chubby, jolly black man (and really, there aren't many characters in this book written as black, which causes problems these days). He'd be played by Faizon Love.

Missy Peregrym will play Dayna Jurgens. There's not much to this character in the story except that she is sent as a spy to the Dark Man's camp in Vegas and has a confrontation with Flagg himself. Honestly this role could be played by any actress.
Over in Vegas, Dayna makes friends with a woman named Jenny Engstrom, and comes to like Jenny so much that she wonders what drew her to Flagg's camp instead of the Free Zone. This is a wonderful opportunity to explore that character and find out just why, other than "he's the strongest". Emilie Ullerup can play her.
And last of the recurring roles is Barry Dorgan, who in the book doesn't appear until near the end but is one of the first to openly state why he's on Flagg's side; he makes the trains run on time. Well, okay, no, but the sentiment is the same. Flagg's more organized and has more real progress happening, so Barry figures he's gonna win. He's a retired cop, and that made me think of Robert Wisdom.

Guest Stars

These characters won't be around for long, but they make a big impact on the series.

First up, again, alphabetical by actor, is Douglas Bennett, who will play "Poke" Freeman, Lloyd's partner who causes all kinds of trouble.
Andy Buckley was who I kept picturing as Len Creighton, the second in command of Project Blue, which is what was working on the superflu plague in the first place. His face stuck with me and wouldn't shake, so he's my choice.
Dr. Denninger is the young, nervous physician at the CDC who's assigned to get samples from Stu Redman early in the story, and isn't able to due to Stu having bigger balls than he does. The nervousness made me think of Adam Busch.
While still in New York, Larry runs into an older woman, a former socialite with a drug problem who proves to be completely unprepared for life after the fallout. He takes her under his wing but fails to protect her from herself. This haunts him and helps him change. The mini-series merged her character with Nadine and quite frankly, I think taking away the beginning of Larry's catharsis hurts. In a full season, there's room for a guest star to play her, and I chose Lauren Graham, who is now the right age but still pretty enough to turn the head of a younger man.

This is a role I initially wasn't going to bother casting, but when I read the conversation between Frannie and her father Peter about her pregnancy, I couldn't help but see Battlestar Galactica's Michael Hogan in the role. He fits it like a glove.

The role of Judge Richard Ferris was kind of a nothing role that any older actor could have played, but since he was played by Ossie Davis in the mini-series, plenty of people now see this role as black. There's no reason it can't be. The Judge, who is almost never called by his name, is 70 but "hale and hearty", and one of the three who acts as a spy (or is supposed to). And yes, Constant Readers, his initials made me do a double-take the first time I saw them, as all of the aliases Randall Flagg uses on this plane of existence use the initials "RF", but no, the Judge is not a guise of Flagg. I picked hale, hearty, nearly-70-years-old Ernie Hudson for this brief but memorable part.
When the CDC officers working with Project Blue aren't getting anywhere with Stu, they send in Dick Dietz to talk to him and reason with him. Dietz is a small role, but memorable. I picked Jay Karnes to play him.
Ray Booth, another small but memorable role, is the man who beats up Nick in tiny Shoyo, Arkansas, just before the plague hits. He made me think of True Blood's Todd Lowe, and so that's who I picked.
The man that starts it all is Charles Campion, a guard at Project Blue who sees that something has gone wrong, but has no idea what, and realizes it's time to put rubber to road. As a direct result, the plague spreads beyond the walls of Project Blue. For whatever reason I pictured him as Jerry Minor.
The role of the Bakers, Sheriff John Baker and his wife Jane, take in Nick and are kind to him right as the plague starts to hit, robbing him of his only friends. I pictured them as being played by Nick Searcey and Kellie Overbey, the latter of whom played Dayna in the mini-series, and I thought having one actor come back for a different, more minor role, would actually not be a bad thing.
Nick Searcey

Kellie Overbey

I could picture no other actor than Robert Patrick in the role of General William Starkey, commander of Project Blue who memorably oversees the project as the world goes to Hell.
I saved the best for last. The Kid is a character that's never seen on screen, and honestly would be one of the first elements to be written out of any big-screen or mini-series adaptation, should it go that route. He's not essential to the plot, and he seems to just sort of pop in out of nowhere and then disappear back into nowhere almost as fast. But damn, does he make an impression while he's there. How do you make the Trashcan Man truly sympathetic? Introduce a character that makes ol' Trashy look sane. In fact, the best scene ol' Trashy has is when he and the Kid part company. The Kid is a killer, a wild, thoroughly unpredictable personality who's too crazy for Flagg. He's described as being very short and having "a doll's face", topped by an Elvis pompadour and elevator boots. Seeing him on screen would be an unmissable treat, and the episodic nature of this planned series would allow for him to show up for an episode, get Trashy far enough that he can walk to Vegas on his own, and then go out in a bang. Ed Skrein, a rising actor who definitely has that "doll's face", is my choice to play him. You believe that happy crappy? Don't tell me, I'll tell you.
Man, I tell you, it feels good to have this post up. This is one of the big reasons I even started this blog; wanting to see this story done on screen and done right. It's also one of the more hotly debated topics among Constant Readers, so I hope you all like this one. Like I said, I tried very hard to make this as true to the book as I could.

And now I sale into purely uncharted waters. In my early days reading King, for some reason I skipped a large portion of his late 70's and early 80's output, so the next several weeks will be spent with books and stories I've literally never read before. I'm not sure how many of them I'll be blogging about, but I can, for the first time in quite a while, include this:

Next up: The Long Walk!