Nightmares and Dreamscapes TV Series
The Master of Horror Invites Repeat Visitors
Few authors in todayís world can claim the immense celebrity that Stephen King commands. As the most widely read author alive today, his is a household name that immediately evokes recognition from even the most non-literary people.
But when it comes some of Hollywoodís top actors, producers, directors and writers, itís more than just Kingís status as a "Master of Horror" that keeps bringing them back to his material over and over again. Thereís something magic in the way King is able to build compelling drama, nail-biting suspense and, yes, blood-curdling horror with a skill that makes other writers look like rank amateurs.
As TNT gears up for the July premiere of the high-profile anthology series NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES: FROM THE STORIES OF STEPHEN KING, several King veterans are on hand to lend their talents to the literary legendís stories. Heading up the list is producer Jeffrey Hayes, making the return to Kingís world after having previously produced TNTís wildly popular adaptation of Kingís Salemís Lot. But bringing Kingís short stories to the screen in NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES provided unique challenges for the producer. "Stephen Kingís short stories are extremely unique tales that lend themselves to an anthology type series, which hasnít been done for many years," he says. "Itís a massive undertaking in the sense that there is not a regular series set or leads. We are shooting eight shows that are basically each a stand-alone mini-movie. Our biggest challenge is to ensure each one has its own distinct look and feel."
For actor Steven Weber, star of NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPESí You Know They Got a Hell of a Band, this is his fourth Stephen King project. "Iíve always been a fan of his work," he says. "I did The Shining a long time ago. I just finished his miniseries Desperation. And I adapted and directed another short story that he wrote for The Outer Limits. Itís a real privilege to act in one of his productions. King is an amazing guy. Heís at the same time both odd and yet incredibly accessible. Thereís so much depth to his stories. Theyíre not just about being scared or frightened."
"I think that Stephen appeals to the fantasy that we all are looking for in both our childhood and adult lives." Thatís how Henry Thomas, who appeared in the King miniseries Desperation and who stars in The End of the Whole Mess, describes Kingís magic. "He comes up with ideas that are readily accessible that appeal to that need for fantasy. And the key to it is that he adds elements of believability and an environment where the fantasy seems plausible."
Writer Peter Filardi, who adapted Kingís Salemís Lot for TNT, has returned to pen an adaptation of The Road Virus Heads North. "I decided to write this screenplay because I had a great experience with TNT adapting Stephen Kingís Salemís Lot into a four-hour miniseries," he recalls. "I knew that TNT would bring first-rate actors, directors and production values to their NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES series. I also jump at the chance to work on any Stephen King project. He was the first Ďadultí author I read as a 12 year old and undoubtedly turned me into the horror fan I am today."
Also working on TNTís Salemís Lot and returning for NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES is acclaimed director Mikael Salomon, who is helming one of the most difficult adaptations in the series, The End of the Whole Mess. For him, Kingís magic lies first and foremost in his imagination and that successfully bringing a King project to the screen "Öis a matter of extracting the best from his imagination and putting it on film."
But imagination is just the beginning. Salomon also puts emphasis on Kingís ability to create interesting and believable characters. "When it comes down to it, Itís really all about character," he says. "Stephen King is all about character and build-up, and then we get the payoff in the very end."
Actress Samantha Mathis (The Fifth Quarter) has also worked with King material before, starring in TNTís Salemís Lot. She enjoys Kingís work because "itís always incredibly character driven. He writes about interesting people who are complicated, flawed and identifiable. For me, itís as much about the characters as it is about the supernatural or thriller aspect."
Producer Hayes agrees, "The true test of a good drama is caring about the characters that are put forth. One of the things that ties (these stories) together is really interesting character relationships and situations in which the characters find themselves. In reading the short stories, you find yourself involved very quickly with the charactersí dilemmas, predicaments and relationships."
Probably the person who has had the longest relationship with Kingís writing (other than King himself, of course) is Lawrence Cohen, who earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his screenplay adaptation of Kingís first novel, Carrie. He has adapted The End of the Whole Mess for NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES. "Iíve been an enormous fan of Kingís right from the very start," he says. "A few years after college, I ended up working for a veteran producer in Hollywood who had optioned Carrie. I jumped at the opportunity to write the script, my first movie. At one point during production, I was in New York where the film was being edited, and so was King. We met, and I invited him to come with me to see some dailies, so I guess you could say in a way I was there with him from the beginning. I subsequently adapted two more of his longer books, It and The Tommyknockers, as miniseries for television. The End of the Whole Mess is my fourth produced King adaptation."
Cohen sums up everything nicely when it comes to Stephen King and why he is so successful. He agrees that itís character that drives the King machine. "King writes really strong, identifiable characters drawn with great specificity and emotion," he says. "When stuff happens Ė and stuff always happens Ė the sense of horror is all the greater."