This summer, readers are once again reminded that Stephen King is one of the most popular authors of our time. If you haven't seen his new book, Mr. Mercedes, on bookstore shelves, you are either not paying attention or not going to the bookstore. Meanwhile, television viewers are enjoying the second season of Under the Dome, the adaptation of his 2009 novel of the same name.
That's hardly the first adaptation of King's work, and it won't be the last. Last week, in fact, I started taking a look at the forthcoming works of Stephen King that are being adapted for television and film. That article focused on King's novel-length stories. This week, I take a look at King's shorter works that have been optioned for television and film. Reader beware! Just because a film is optioned doesn't mean it'll get made. Even so, it's fun to see what caught Hollywood's attention.
Part 2: The Short Stories
Longtime readers of this column know that I'm a huge supporter of short fiction. I think short fiction, when done well, can provide just as much enjoyment as longer novels, if not more. That's why I'm overjoyed that some of Stephen King's shorter works are being considered for adaptation. Here, "shorter works" mean written stories that are not quite novel length—from shorter to longer, that means: short stories, novelettes and novellas.
First up is the short story "Gramma," which first appeared in King's 1985 collection Skeleton Crew. Nearly 30 years later, it's being adapted into a film. The film, which is retitling the story as Mercy, is being directed by Peter Cornwell, who directed the short film Batman Evolution. "Gramma" is the story of a single mother who, with the help of her two boys, helps take care of their grandmother. Doesn't sound like a Stephen King story? Here's the thing: The grandmother possesses mystical powers. This will not be the first adaptation of "Gramma." The story first turned heads when it was told in a 1986 episode of The New Twilight Zone which boasted a screenplay written by science fiction legend Harlan Ellison. I suppose what goes around once is worth going around again.
King's 1982 collection of novellas, Different Seasons, was itself a wellspring of ideas for Hollywood. Comprised of four separate and unrelated stories, each modeled after a different season of the year, the collection was the source of several major films. "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (subtitled "Hope Springs Eternal") was adapted into the 1994 hit film The Shawshank Redemption; "Apt Pupil" (subtitled "Summer of Corruption") was made into the 1998 film of the same name; and "The Body" (aka "Fall From Innocence") was adapted as the hugely successful Stand by Me in 1986. Now the fourth and final story, "The Breathing Method" (subtitled "A Winter's Tale"), is being adapted. Director Scott Derrickson, who helmed the mediocre 2008 remake of the 1951 sci-fi film classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, is set to direct.
King's 2007 short story "Ayana" appeared first in The Paris Review in the fall of 2007. It was later included in the 2008 collection Just After Sunset. Now it's being included in the list of King's upcoming adaptations. Universal Television is developing a dramatic television series based on the story. "Ayana" is about a man who is cured of pancreatic cancer after being kissed by a mysterious 7-year-old blind girl while on his death bed. The television series is being written by Screenwriter Chris Sparling and is being pitched to NBC.
Coming soon is Grand Central, a television series based on Stephen King's short story "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates." It was originally published in the October/November 2008 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction but was also collected in Just After Sunset. In this bizarre story, a woman receives a lifesaving warning phone call from her husband two days after his death in a plane crash. Two of the husband's warnings come true, which means it's a pretty safe bet that the one that threatens his wife's life might come true as well.
In 2010, Horror maestro King released another collection of four novellas in a book titled Full Dark, No Stars. Two stories from the collection are theater-bound. First is A Good Marriage, a thriller that posits what might happen when a husband's dark secrets are discovered after 25 years of marriage. This one will likely hit theaters in October of this year; it's being directed by Peter Askin and stars Kristen Connolly, Joan Allen and Stephen Lang. The second novella from Full Dark, No Stars is Big Driver, a story that features a revered mystery/thriller writer named Tess Thorne who becomes stranded on her way home from a late night book signing. Her savior turns out to be a serial killer, who repeatedly abuses her. The only thing that keeps Tess from total breakdown is the promise of revenge. Stars Olympia Dukakis, Joan Jett, and Will Harris are tied to the upcoming film.
And finally, there's King's short story "Bad Little Kid." You may not have heard of this one. Although published recently (in March of this year), it only appeared in e-book format in French and German languages as a thank you from the author to the people who were kind to him during a recent trip. It's a supernatural short story about a man whose life changes forever after he learns that a strange boy is causing the deaths of people he loves. The story has been optioned for a feature film by Laurent Bouzereau, proprietor of Nedland Media Inc. Bouzereau will direct this one, just like he directed the 2011 TCM film A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King, in which the author himself discusses horror films.