‘The Stand’: Ben Affleck on the Difficulties of Adapting Stephen King’s Book

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 4:30 pm,

The task of turning Stephen King’s The Stand into a feature-length movie has long been viewed as a difficult one at best (a near-insurmountable challenge at worst), for one simple reason: the original book – which varies from 800-1100 pages long, depending on the edition – is divided into three segments which could each suffice as an individual film on its own (amusingly, it’s the opposite of the dilemma facing Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, where one book is stretched over three films).

Ben Affleck was recruited by Warner Bros. a year ago to help screenwriter David Kajganich (Blood Creek) condense King’s tome into a manageable size, with the plan for Affleck to direct. The Oscar-winner has since been linked to other projects – and with good reason, given the (lack of) progress being made on The Stand.

For the uninitiated, King’s novel is composed of three sections. The first (“Captain Trips”) details the collapse of our civilization as the result of a human-engineered super flu; the second (“On the Border”) picks up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the few survivors rally around two spiritual leaders (one for good, the other evil); the third segment (“The Stand”) chronicles the final confrontation between the dual human camps, in a battle that will determine the future of our world.

Here is what Affleck had to offer GQ about adapting all three portions of The Stand:

“Right now we’re having a very hard time,” he says. “But I like the idea—it’s like The Lord of the Rings in America. And it’s about how we would reinvent ourselves as a society. If we started all over again, what would we do?”

Affleck is riding high on the success of his true story-based historical drama/thriller Argo, which has improved on both the critical reception and financial returns from his previous directorial efforts (Gone Baby Gone and The Town). However, King’s horror/sci-fi/apocalypse epic is another monster altogether – one that’s worlds apart from Affleck’s past adaptations – which makes it all the more understandable that the actor/filmmaker and Kajganich are struggling to make progress on The Stand.

Box Office Oct 14 Argo The Stand: Ben Affleck on the Difficulties of Adapting Stephen Kings Book

Ben Affleck in ‘Argo’

Reports emerged last month that Affleck is considering an adaptation of Live By Night, which would be based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (author of Gone Baby Gone). Indeed, it might be best that Affleck divert his attention to other projects for a while, since the process of streamlining The Stand is proving so difficult. That way, he can continue sharpening and improving his skills as a filmmaker, in order to be better prepared to realize King’s story on the big screen (once the script has been properly finished, that is).

Are you interested in a film version of The Stand, with Affleck behind the wheel? Or do you feel the only way to do the novel justice is to extend it out into a full-blown trilogy (one which infuses the story with a blockbuster sensibility that was lacking in the well-known 1994 TV mini-series adaptation)?

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Source: GQ [via Cinema Blend]

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  1. Three letters: HBO.

  2. There is so much that would have to be detrimentally chopped up, or plain left out if it was one film, it would be best to make it into a full trilogy.

  3. Gotta be a trilogy…and Flagg? Michael Fassbender is a shoe-in!!

    • Not a bad idea, but I’d go with Michael Shannon or Matthew McConnaughey.

  4. They already made a movie (mini series) based on this book. Heck Stephen King even shows up in it (like most of his movies). It didn’t have huge actors, but it was good. Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108941/ Cramming it into 1 movie I feel it would lose its touch.

    • They stated this in the article. Honestly, they didn’t do a very good job with it.

  5. Trilogy. There is no way to do anything remotely effective with that book in a single feature-length movie. Anything they try will be bad.

  6. I think to do The Stand justice it would have to be a full blown Trilogy, if anything less it will loose the whole story and all the great scenes that it could be. Like the TV adaptation of IT, it was OK but it did not even grasp the whole point of the story (Where was the Turtle). You can’t do these awesome Stephen King Novels justice without there being at least two to three movies.

  7. and please… for the love of god don’t put Kristen Stewart in it!

  8. Definitely needs to be a trilogy. I don’t see any way even the most talented adaptation could capture the epic feel of this story in one film alone. The nuance will be lost entirely. People are ready for the big trilogies. LOTR broke them in and proved that this was a worthy way for great books to be made into great films.

  9. Trilogy. Though it was already done once as a mini-series, it left out quite a lot and altered way too much. I’ve read The Stand several times over the years and just finished the “unedited” version. Yay for Netflix on Wii as I was able to make the comparisons right away. Read part 1, watch part 1, etc. Stephen King books are generally massacred when made into movies as is. But with today’s technology computer generation (not to mention a few better actors these days as I was not pleased in some of the choices from the original), it might have a shot. But only as a trilogy.

  10. I would love to see this book as a film, but like the those who have commented before me, i don’t think that one film could do this book justice, bring on a trilogy!

  11. I’ve always found the problem adapting most books to the screen is character development. In this case why not make three movies. Broken down the same as the book. Otherwise too much will be lost and too many characters will have to be excluded.

  12. In the 10 years my husband & I have been together we have put together many variations of a dream cast (Ben Foster IS Trashcan Man for example) for a new version of the The Stand but never in all of the conversations we had about it did either of us ever conceive it to be a solo movie. I don’t believe it is possible without losing much of the story. I would hate to see yet another of Stephen King’s books turned into an awful movie.

    • Ben Foster would be a great Trashy! Good call.

  13. HBO or Showtime would be the only way to go with this. They could actually make it into a series with 10 or 12 hour long episodes.

  14. I THINK MAKING IT INTO 3 MOVIES WOULD BE GOOD,
    I FEEL THERE WAS A LOT LEFT OUT OF THE MINI SERIES, FROM THE BOOK. IF THEY DID A TRILOGY THE COULD REALLY AMP UP THE FEAR AND SCARE FACTOR ON IT. WHICH I THINK THE MINI SERIES KINDA LOST OUT ON BECAUSE OF THE VIEWER BASE. IT WAS A GOOD MINI SERIES AND I LOVE TO WATCH IT, BUT I RATHER SEE A TRILOGY WHERE YOU WOULD GET A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHARACTERS. mAKE THE FIRST ONE END WITH LARRY MAKING IT OUT OF NEW YORK AND FINALLY “GROWING UP” WITH HIS EXPERIENCE RITA ( WHO IS NOT IN THE MINISERIES). MAKE THE SECOND ONE REVOLVE MORE AROUND THE LOVE TRIANGLE WITH HAROLD AND FRANNY AND STU, MAYBE END IT WITH MOTHER ABIGAIL LEAVING AND HAROLD BLOWING UPTHE HOUSE, SO THOSE WHO HAVENT READ THE STAND WILLRUN OUT TO GET THE BOOK TO FIND OUT WHO SURVIVES. THEN THAT WOULD BE THE THINGS THAT REALLY PUSH THE GROUP TO MAKE THERE STAND INT HE 3RD MOVIE, REALLY GO INTO THE PEOPLE IN VEGAS WHO ARE SEEING THE LIGHT AND REALIZING THAT THAT RANDALL FLAGG ISNT THEIR HOPE AND SALVATION BUT ALMOST WORSE THAN THE AMERICA THAT DIED AND GO INTO THEIR DESERTIONS MORE AND GO INTO MORE DEPTH OF WHAT TRASHCAN MAN WAS GOING THROUGH WHY HE CHOSE FLAGG AND HOW IN HIS DEMENTIA HE UNWITTINGLY HELP THE SIDE OF GOOD. i WOULD PAY TO SEE ALL MOVIES FOR TWO REASONS …STEVEN KING AND BEN AFFLECK i THINK IT WOULD BE AN KILLER COMBO AND IF THE 2 MADE THIS TRILOGY WORK I WANT TO SEE MORE OF STEVEN KINGS MOVIES DONE BY BEN AFFLECK.

  15. This has to be a trilogy, at least. Despite the fact that it could be a long wait between movies if it is a trilogy, something like that would give the story an incredible chance to be more widely known in a bit more of a modern time period. The 1994 miniseries was fantastic, but wouldn’t have gained as much publicity or notoriety (both which it deserved), as it was broadcast on television. If done right, a movie trilogy adaption could add so much to the story’s reputation and reach.

  16. Honestly if they can’t get a budget for a trilogy, they could make a really long movie and just cut it into two, even three parts.

  17. It just will not work as a single movie. A trilogy is a must. Side note: Jensen Ackles is perfect for Stu Redman.

  18. John Mayer = Larry Underwood !

  19. John Mayer as Larry Underwood !

  20. Series or mini-series on HBO/Showtime. The problem is the studios don’t think it’s bankable enough to warrant a trilogy and I seriously don’t want a crappy solo movie or a three-parter Michael Bay type idiocy with the focus on the explosions of Trashcan Man.

  21. Being a S. King fan I feel The Stand merits treatment as a trilogy. Otherwise the likelihood of box office success would be slim. King fans are very critical of adapting his work if not done well. Adapting his work to the big screen can be amazing if done properly. Considering the amount of material in The Stand trying to stuff its content into a two hour movie would bypass a significant portion of material and not meet standards of most King fans.

  22. Trilogy! The miniseries was a great effort, but with a number of damaging cuts.. including Rita & The Kid. Expand it to its best, dont trim it again to a half baked flik ;D

  23. How about this, why don’t we stop remaking movies? I am freaking tired of seeing people remake movies that have been made. I really hate when they do it to Stephen King movies. Look at Carrie, Then the remake of Carrie, and now another remake of Carrie. Come on give it at rest. They did that with Children of the Corn to.. If you don’t know there are actually three versions of the first movie, one was a student film that one wasn’t half bad. I am not even taking about sequels here. Just think about how many books there are to make. Eyes of the Dragon would be a good one. Rose Madder would be great to see. How about Insomnia? I for one would love to see the little guys that end our lives. I want to see something new. Not the same old same old. Just because we liked it once doesn’t mean we will like it again. I loved the Guys in the Stand I don’t think they could have gotten a better Tom the first time around. M-o-o-n That spells moon. Now move on and do something good for a change.

    • I don’t care that there was already a series, the material deserves better film-making than it’s gotten. I wouldn’t think of it as a “remake,” just another crack at an adaptation cause in my opinion the first one mostly sucked; a lot of the acting was bad, the characters were watered down, etc.

  24. Trilogy….most definitely. Affleck is right to take as long as they need to make sure it’s done right. As for Randall Flagg? Robert Downey Jr.

    • Oh, now that is an idea! I could see him as Flagg
      Now I must re read (only read it twice!)

    • No way. You’d lose my eyes on the project if you made him Flagg. Downey’s too much of a citified jerk type to play Flagg. Flagg was a good ol’ boy that’d turn on you. Downey can really only play Downey (or Charlie Chaplin, I’ll give you that)

  25. First off, let me say I loved the mini series…awesome!!!! If they are going to do The Stand any justice it needs to be a trilogy, anything else would be a waste of a good story…….

  26. I would prefer a similar level of faithfulness to the book as Peter Jackson lavished on The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit.
    If that meant two films per segment (6 in total)
    And they were done well, cinema goers nowadays would love it.

  27. Agreed with most…if it’s condensed into one film, too much would be cut out. Either that, or it would be so long most people would not go to watch it and would be straight to DVD. I think a trilogy would be the only way it could get the most viewers on the big screen. But seeing how many times The Dark Towers has been shot down out of fear by the movie industry, I think that same fear would be extended to making this one as well.

  28. I absolutely LOVE The Stand and read it every couple of years. I have to confess that, as a nurse, it scares the you know what out of me. I saw the miniseries not too long ago and it wasn’t half bad. They could have cast the walking dude’s woman better but I agree with Angel that Tom Moon was perfect. I also agree with her in that I, too, am tired of remakes especially when there are so many other books out there that haven’t been filmed. And I guess my sister and I were the only ones who liked Gone, Baby, Gone! LOL

  29. We center on Stu’s story for the first film.
    Thanks you guys for staying interested.
    This is happening.