Stephen King’s name has featured in the credits of over 60 movies to date, with memorable efforts including Shawshank Redemption, The Dead Zone and Christine.
It’s not always been plain sailing when it comes to adapting the prolific horror scribe’s work for the big screen though, with plenty of misfires along the way – those Children of the Corn sequels were never likely to trouble The Academy.
But while, for the most part, King has kept schtum when it comes to talking about his big screen turkeys, there are a couple of movie projects which, over the years, he’s let it be known he is no fan of.
Here are a few of his least favourite movie adaptations.
The Lawnmower Man
Supposedly based on King’s 1975 short story of the same name, King actually sued the filmmakers to have his name removed from the title.
He had a point too: New Line Cinema, who held the film rights to King’s story, had essentially slapped the title on the script for a film called Cyber God and rebranded it Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man, with the finished film bearing little resemblance to the writer’s work.
Despite the presence of a pre-James Bond Pierce Brosnan and some top work from Jeff Fahey, King took New Line Cinema to court and won. The film is not listed among those based on his work, according to his official website.
The story of a giant rat that lives deep beneath a newly reopened textile mill where workers are being offed between the hours of 11pm and 7am was always going to be a tough sell and while the film was a modest box office success, the critics hated it.
Not that King was particularly keen on Ralph S. Singleton’s big screen reimagining of his work either. Asked by Deadline to name his least favourite movie based on his work, King wasted little time in giving an answer:
“I guess there are a number of pictures that I feel like, a little bit like, yuck. There’s one, Graveyard Shift, that was made in the eighties. Just kind of a quick exploitation picture.”
King stepped into the director’s chair for this tale of rough and ready truck drivers who end up stranded inside a diner and under attack from any number of electronics as well as their own precious trucks.
A difficult production from start to finish, King would later tell Tony Magistrale, in an interview for the book Hollywood’s Stephen King, that he was “coked out of [his] mind all through its production, and [he] really didn’t know what [he] was doing.”
The result was a movie that landed King a Razzie nomination for worst director and a film King ranks as arguably his worst adaptation to date.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 version of the King classic is arguably the most critically lauded of all of his big screen adaptations but the man himself has other ideas.
Speaking in an interview with Rolling Stone years after its initial release, King explained, at some length, his gripes with the Kubrick movie:
“The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy.
“And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, ‘Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.’
“And it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that’s just me, that’s the way I am.”
So incensed was King by the finished film he even went as far as directing his own TV miniseries of the book starring Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay which was, well, pretty garbage actually.
We’d like to think King is not too proud to admit this version is also terrible.