The accidental release of a plague decimates the majority of America’s population leading to a post-apocalyptic tale of survival amid an other-worldly clash of good vs. evil. That, in a nutshell, is the gist of Stephen King’s fourth novel, The Stand. Released in 1978, the weighty book – the original version is 823 pages long, while the 1990 uncut edition is over 1,000 pages – explores this wasteland as a group of survivors try to find meaning in a new reality, and end up choosing sides in a war of supernatural proportions.
It may have been just King’s fourth full-length book, but over the past four decades, The Stand has cemented itself as one of his best. It’s expansive in scope and dabbles in quintessential Stephen King ephemera, while also blending fantasy and horror in a weirdly wonderful way – something King has continued to do during his tenure as everyone’s favorite Master of Horror.
While Salem’s Lot was the first small-screen adaptation of King’s work – the made-for-TV movie aired in 1979 on CBS – the majority of the miniseries connected with the author hit ABC throughout the ’90s. Titles like The Tommyknockers, The Langoliers, and the Mick Garris-directed three-part miniseries version of The Shining all aired on the network. In fact, King has teamed with Garris numerous times to bring his stories to life (we’re talking Quicksilver Highway, Riding the Bullet, Desperation, and Bag of Bones) but The Stand, which premiered to ABC in 1994, was their first miniseries project together.
The epic four-episode story featured an all-star, very-’90s cast – Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer, Rob Lowe, and even NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabar appeared in the project. It was well-received by viewers, bringing in an average of 19 million viewers per episode, and received two Primetime Emmy Awards.
It’s been 25 years and, as with many Stephen King adaptations, the miniseries hasn’t really aged well. For those who have been itching for a more detailed take on the novel, an updated version of The Stand is in the works. With a new ensemble cast, the addition of an up-and-coming director, and a new chapter to the story added by King himself, the author’s iconic journey into the American apocalypse is about to get a much-needed makeover. Here’s everything we know about the remake of Stephen King’s The Stand.
It was announced back in 2011 that Warner Bros. was developing a movie adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand. This would be the first official adaptation of the novel since ABC’s miniseries. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 director David Yates was on board to direct the project but his attachment to The Stand was short-lived. Once he dropped off, other filmmakers eyed the film, including the likes of Scott Cooper and even Ben Affleck. Neither of them stayed.
Josh Boone, the director of The Fault in Our Stars, signed onto the project three years later. It was still on the books as a big-screen adaptation, but how exactly do you make one feature-length movie based on such rich subject matter? Stephen King’s IT, for example, is about 1,400 pages long, and that book needed two cinematic chapters — both in the 1990 miniseries and Andy Muschietti‘s horror blockbusters — to really do the literary story justice.
Needless to say, Warner’s adaptation plans for the project evolved. First, there was the idea of doing one epic movie. Boone even described it as a “three-hour, R-rated version with an amazing A-list cast across the board” to Vulture in 2014. “Every single one of those characters will be somebody you recognize and somebody you relate to. And it’s gonna be awesome. I’m really excited. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever got to do in my entire life.”
Later that year, the project evolved into a four-film series Boone described as “The Godfather of post-apocalyptic thrillers.” Plans for The Stand shifted again in 2015 from four films back to one. Much like Warner’s original notion of adapting Stephen King’s Dark Tower books into three movies and a supporting TV miniseries, Showtime was now going to air an eight-episode limited series for The Stand with a big-screen installment hitting theaters to close-out the epic story. Neither of those things happened.
The studio’s plans to bring The Stand to life fell through once their option on the film expired in 2016. No huge loss for them, though — Muschietti’s IT: Chapter One became the highest-grossing horror film of all time when it premiered in theaters a year later.
As for The Stand, CBS Films gained control of the project and soon, the 100% focus for this adaptation became the small screen. In January 2019, the official announcement hit that 10-episodes of a new The Stand miniseries will air on CBS’s new streaming platform, CBS All Access.
Josh Boone is probably best known for directing The Fault in Our Stars. And while the adaptation of John Green’s YA romance novel is nowhere near the horror genre’s ballpark, the writer/director has been connected with multiple high-profile genre projects over the years. From an updated adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire to the long-delayed X-Men: New Mutants movie to the since-scrapped big-screen take on Stephen King’s novel, Revival, Boone’s eclectic interests have sort of come into focus.
Of course, it also helps that Boone is a self-proclaimed Stephen King superfan. “I read The Stand under my bed when I was 12, and my Baptist parents burned it in our fireplace upon discovery,” Boone revealed during the CBS panel at the 2019 Television Critics Association winter press tour. “Incensed, I stole my Dad’s FedEx account number and mailed King a letter professing my love for his work. Several weeks later, I came home to find a box had arrived from Maine, and inside were several books, each inscribed with a beautiful note from god himself, who encouraged me in my writing and thanked me for being a fan. My parents, genuinely moved by King’s kindness and generosity, lifted the ban on his books that very day.”
Much like the original series that hit the air two-and-a-half decades ago, this new miniseries will be sporting one heck of a cast. During CBS All Access’s presentation at the 2019 Television Critics Association summer tour, it was announced that the ensemble would include James Marsden as Stu Redman, Amber Heard as Nadine Cross, Odessa Young as Frannie Goldsmith, and Henry Zaga as Nick Andros.
Just one month later, Stephen King paid ABC’s The View a visit to spread the news that one of the show’s co-hosts, Academy Award-winner Whoopi Goldberg, will be playing Mother Abagail – the 108-year-old woman who ends up becoming the leader of the good survivors. Additional cast announcements included Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood, Owen Teague as Harold Lauder, Brad William Henke as Tom Cullen, and Daniel Sunjata as Cobb.
And then Marilyn Manson entered the fold. The shock-rocker told Revolver that he partnered with Shooter Jennings to contribute a cover of The Doors’ classic, “The End,” to the series. Oh, and he’ll be acting in the series, too. The character he’s playing has been kept under wraps, leading many to speculate who he’ll play. But since the role of Randall Flagg has been claimed, we have to assume Manson will be sliding into the pyromaniac role of Trashcan Man.
This brings us to Randall Flagg, who was played by Jamey Sheridan in the 1994 miniseries and by Matthew McConaughey in the 2017 big-screen adaptation of The Dark Tower. The demonic leader of the evil survivors – also known as the Dark Man – will be played by Alexander Skarsgård. His younger brother Bill has already made a name for himself in the Stephen King universe, playing Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the new IT movies, and appearing in the first season of Hulu’s Castle Rock TV series. Flagg’s right-hand-man, Lloyd Henreid, will be played by Nat Wolff.
The cast announcements have continued to roll in. Joining the series is Shadowhunters star Katherine McNamara who plays evil survivor Julie Lawry. Lawry was pretty much a side character in Stephen King’s book. Shawnee Smith brought her to life in the 1994 mini-series, in a three-episode story arc that helped flesh out the role a bit.
How will McNamara’s Julie Lawry differ? The Arrow actress gave a little insight to Rotten Tomatoes. “We’re staying really true to the story, but they do make some really smart shifts. And Julie’s story is one of those shifts and it’s exciting just to play that out and to explore such a different character and a different world than what I’ve been doing for the last several years.”
Heather Graham will take on the role of one-percenter Rita Blakemoor; her character wasn’t featured in the ’94 mini-series, instead, her personality traits were melded into that of the evil Nadine Cross. The most recent addition to the project has come in the form of actor Greg Kinnear, who will be playing Glen Batemen, the cranky yet kind-hearted professor was previously portrayed by Ray Walston.
Not only are we getting a more detailed and expansive retelling of the classic novel, Stephen King lent his expertise to the new miniseries by writing a new never-seen chapter to help close out the on-screen story. CBS All Access’s EVP of Original Content Julie McNamara revealed in August that King’s contribution will stray from the original source material, giving fans a completely new ending to The Stand.
“For fans of the book who wondered what became of the survivors of The Stand, this episode will contain stories taking them beyond the book,” McNamara said. King admitted to The New York Times that he’s had this new ending in his mind “for years.” “I always wanted to find out what happened to Stu and Frannie when they went back,” he added. King took to Twitter in August to update fans on the project. “The script for that final episode is written,” he said. “I was glad Josh Boone gave me the chance, because that final story has been in my mind for 30 years.”
The script for that final episode is written. I was glad Josh Boone gave me the chance, because that final story has been in my mind for 30 years.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) August 2, 2019
The production for The Stand kicked off in the fall in Vancouver, Canada, surprising some Gastown residents with “highly visible graphic content.” Shooting for the highly-anticipated CBS All Access series is set to wrap in March.
During CBS All Access’s executive session at the 2020 Television Critics Association winter tour, it was announced that The Stand is expected to premiere to the streamer in the fourth quarter. So, get your survival plan in order as it looks like the apocalypse will hit the platform before the end of the year.
Thumbnail image courtesy: 1. Rachel Luna/WireImage; 2 and 3. Jason Mendez/Everett Collection