Maybe We Just Don’t Need a Big Screen Adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’

By  · Published on November 21st, 2013

Not everything is adaptable, and that’s okay. Such is the case with Stephen King’s sprawling, 800+ page epic “The Stand,” which has recently sloughed off its third high-profile director on its way to the big screen. The Wrap reports that Warner Bros. and director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) have parted ways when it comes to the project, as one source reports that the split came care of good old-fashioned “creative differences.” Cooper was brought on back to the project earlier this year, and he was set to both helm the production and re-write its script.

The adaptation has already hit some big bumps on the road – the film has already cycled through experienced filmmakers like David Yates and Ben Affleck – and when Cooper was brought on to rewrite and direct the film back in August, it seemed like a bold, if not exactly advisable choice. Cooper is a fine filmmaker, but he’s only got two features under his belt, and neither of them even remotely touch upon the scale and scope of “The Stand.” Let’s put it this way – if the guy who directed the final four Harry Potter films wasn’t the right guy for the job, Cooper certainly wasn’t either.

But the news still feels a bit striking, given that Cooper recently sat down (like, this week) with MTV to chat about his upcoming Out of the Furnace, and when the conversation turned to The Stand, he talked about his vision for the project and some possible casting ideas. Taken at face value, it sure seems like Cooper started this week thinking that he was still directing the film, and he was trying his damndest to ready himself for the work.

Cooper was quite clear-eyed about the challenges of his then-directorial gig, telling the outlet, “It’s a daunting challenge to take a long novel, a beloved novel, and condense that into a standalone film…It’s a process. There’s a reason that film hasn’t been made. It’s the themes, and the scope, and the size.”

The director also sounded off about his approach, telling MTV, “My approach, much like ‘Out of The Furnace’ is searingly realistic…That can be a very expensive endeavor, one that maybe doesn’t marry with how a movie like that should be shot, just because of the sheer expense.” Cooper even shared his vision for shooting, saying, “I prefer to shoot on location. It imbues the entire production with a sense of place and authenticity that I strive for. I’m certain that whether consciously or subconsciously it affects the actor’s performances, and the crew, quite frankly. It’s critical to my process that I shoot not only where I’ve written the screenplay, but shooting the exact locations I wrote it for.”

Cooper also talked quite freely about possibly casting his Out of the Furnace star Christian Bale in the film, sharing, “Christian’s a part of everything I’m writing, and I tend to share things with Christian in the infancy stage that I don’t share with other people.” He continued, “He’s become one of my, not just closest friends, but a great collaborator, and wouldn’t be surprised to see me and Christian teaming up on many things.” Hopefully the pair will be able to take that collaboration to another project.

“The Stand” has already received one adaptation – a 1994 mini-series that took 366 minutes to tell the sweeping story. While no official announcement about just how many films would be needed to tell the big screen “Stand” story, THR’s Borys Kit took to his Twitter to share some details as to why Cooper left the project, including word that “the studio can’t decide how many movies it wants.”

Splitting books into at least two other films has proven a popular route lately, at least for a certain genre of literature – the Harry Potter franchise did it for its final two books, just like The Twilight Saga, and The Hunger Games team long ago announced that its final book would also be split into two films. Director Gary Ross might not be helming the rest of the Hunger Games franchise, but he’s also expressed interest in doing a split, as his involvement with a new take on John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” is already rumored to be getting the two-part treatment. It’s a viable option, but if WB doesn’t know what it wants, that doesn’t mean much.

Many of King’s novels are unquestionably good picks for the big screen (even a couple of times over) – think classics like The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, It, and The Green Mile — and there’s currently a hearty batch of new King-penned features in various states of planning, including “A Good Marriage” and a giant mess of his short stories, set to get the short film treatment. But King’s sizable epics have proven tough adaptations, from “The Stand” to “The Dark Tower,” which has also been through so many different versions of “it’s on! It’s off!” that it’s hard to keep track (current status: “in development,” so basically, it’s off).

“The Stand” seems to be no different – there’s certainly interest in making it, but its long road to the big screen has only come up against road blocks, and if Warners is really unsure about basic bits like number of films, rating, and apparently even who is going to direct the damn thing, it’s time to put this one on the backburner for the forseeable future. King’s book is clear, imaginative, and consuming, and it deserves a feature that can meet those same aims. If that isn’t going to happen, this film shouldn’t either.