It turns out tackling two Stephen King adaptations can be as harrowing an experience as the nightmares faced by the characters in one of his novels. Screenwriter David Kajganich recently chatted with King fansite Lilja’s Library about his work on the Pet Sematary remake and the upcoming big-screen version of It.
Kajganich revealed his approach to Pet Sematary and his enthusiasm for the source material:
“I should say up front that Pet Sematary is my favorite King novel and adapting it was one of the best screenwriting experiences I’ve had, creatively speaking. In its modern way, I think it is easily the equal of anything in the literary canon by Hawthorne or Poe, so I approached the book as a piece of literature as opposed to a horror concept to be pillaged. It was a pure pleasure.”
However, an unfortunate turn of events derailed his plans:
“After I turned in my first draft, Paramount went through a top-down regime change and I was given a new executive who had creative ideas I just couldn’t stand behind. They wanted to appeal to younger audiences, so there was talk of making a teenaged Ellie the main character, and etc. It was really heartbreaking, but that’s how the process works sometimes. The studio was gracious enough to let me out of my contract and the project was dormant at the studio until very recently.”
Matthew Greenburg was later brought on board to write a new script after his work on another King adaptation, 1408. While Kajganich confirms that the Pet Sematary remake is still moving forward, he’s unclear what direction they’ve decided to take with it.
“I think the Pennywise in this adaptation is a less self-conscious of his own irony and surreality than was Tim Curry’s Pennywise. I think it will be harder to laugh at his antics since, under the permissiveness of an R rating, I was able to give him back a lot of his more upsetting moments from the novel, ones that could never be aired on network television.”
He also reveals the challenges of condensing such an expansive narrative:
“I think the biggest difference is that we’re working with about two-thirds the onscreen time they had for the miniseries. That sounds dire, I know, but it doesn’t necessarily mean two-thirds the amount of story. I’m finding as many ways as I can to make certain scenes redundant by deepening and doubling others. To me, this is an interesting process because it has the effect of thematically intensifying the whole, but it can lead to dramatic surprises. Certain scenes I thought would be crucial to the coherence of the whole ended up cut, while other scenes, which were somewhat cursory in the book, ended up being pivotal in the script.”
While I’m generally opposed to remakes, Pet Sematary and It are two properties I don’t think they necessarily nailed the first time out. I’m particularly excited about the prospect of an R-rated version of It. Even though Tim Curry’s performance inspired many a nightmare when I was a kid, anyone that’s read the book knows that it’s infinitely more horrifying and disturbing than what was depicted in the miniseries. It does seem like an awful lot of ground to cover in just two hours, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they manage to deliver a solid adaptation.
How do you feel about the Pet Sematary remake and the feature film version of It? Were you satisfied with the previous adaptations or are you excited for a new take on the material?
Source: Lilja’s Library.