Kindly supplied by Warner Bros
UNTIL quite recently Stephen King had never met the director
Lawrence Kasdan, but the master author knew instinctively that
they would get along just fine and that his latest work to be
adapted for the big screen would be in very safe hands.
For a start, he was a fan of Kasdan's work - both as a screenwriter
and as a director - and could see that Kasdan would have the opportunity
to marry the two sides of his creative talent as a film maker
- what King likes to call the 'big, flossy adventures' (Raiders
of the Lost Ark,
The Empire Strikes Back, both written by Kasdan) and the more
'introspective and funny' films (like The Big Chill and Accidental
Tourist, which he directed) - in one sympathetic story.
"I love Lawrence Kasdan," King says simply. "And
I love this film and that's why I'm here."
The here in question being a plush hotel in Westwood, Los Angeles,
where King is giving a rare interview to promote the release of
Dreamcatcher, and to talk about how the book made it to the big
Q. Are you pleased with the film?
A. Yes, that's why I'm here. Look my idea is, with people
who really know what they are doing - and the people at Castle
Rock, whatever else you want to say about them, they know what
they are doing and they are very savvy entertainers. They are
not like these people who say 'well, we are making a horror movie
and that's it'; they are saying 'we're making a movie.'
All those labels go by the board. So they have done a lot of good
stuff. I've known Frank Darabont, who did The Green Mile and Shawshank
Redemption, for a long time; I idolise Bill Goldman, who did the
screenplay of Misery, and he was wheeled on for this thing as
But my attitude, the way I show my respect, is to say, 'OK, if
you want to do it, you do it'. I'm going to get out of your way,
I have a lot of different contractual things - cast approval,
script approval, director approval, but generally speaking once
they get their creative team together, I just get out of the way.
Q. Do you exercise some of those creative rights?
A. I love Lawrence Kasdan. If they had come to me and said
'Michael Cimino wants to make Dreamcatcher, and we want to do
it', I would have said 'no'. I would have. There are a few other
people I would have said 'no' to, but most times, my tendency,
my inclination, is to say, 'let's roll the dice..'
There are two Lawrence Kasdans. There's the Lawrence Kasdan who
does Silverado and Indiana Jones and Star Wars, things that he
has written, that are big, flossy adventurous things, and then
there is a more introspective, funny Lawrence Kasdan, who did
pictures like The Big Chill, and this is actually a logical meeting
point between those two people.
You know, Larry said at one point that he could have written Dreamcatcher,
but if he'd written it, it just would have been four guys in the
woods, nothing would have happened specifically.
So this is the chance for him to get together both sides of his
creative persona, if you will.
And what he did, I thought, was really wonderful. Have you seen
it? Did you like it? It's hard not to like.
Q. When did you write Dreamcatcher. I know it was after your
A. That had a lot to do with this book. The accident was in
June of 1999. I got out of hospital in July.
Q And the first writing project was finishing On Writing,
is that right?
A. Yeah. I was in a wheelchair when I finished that, and I
was in agony, so that was about half-written, and my wife, God
bless her, knew.
She is the one who usually says to me, 'you are working too hard,
you are doing too much, and you need to lighten up', and when
I said in this kind of timid, tentative voice, after I had come
home and they had set up a sick room for me downstairs, I said,
'I think I should go back to work..' and right away she said,
'I'll set you up a place and she did...'
Q. So when did you start Dreamcatcher?
A. That was November of '99. I wrote it longhand, because
I couldn't really sit at the word processor, I wasn't comfortable
and I had a big easy chair, like that one, and I was sort of like
a pasha on his throne, I was surrounded by pillows and I had these
ledger books that I could write in with my fountain pen, and that's
how I did it.
And I was very very uncomfortable and I didn't have the big metal
fixator thing on my leg anymore but I was on crutches.
Q. Is it fair to say that a big part of Dreamcatcher is the
fear of the body letting us down?
A. Yes. It's pain let loose in the human body and trying to
that idea. And Jonesy, in the book, and in the movie, is a guy
who has suffered a terrible car accident, which I had been through,
so I just
put myself in his place.
It was a good way to get outside what was going on with me and
look at it and say, 'this is the outside view, this is what it
looks like from the outside'.
Q. And is it true that you thought of calling the book Cancer?
A. Yeah, cancer was the working title.
Q. And it was your wife that changed your mind?
A. Yeah. She hated that, she said she thought it was an ugly
title, off putting and she also said she thought it invited bad
things, so I called it Dreamcatcher.
Q. Tom Sizemore told me that you first got the idea for the
book when you were in the bathroom performing a certain bodily
A. Yeah. I had part of an idea and usually what happens to
me... is that I have a couple of separate ideas and then they
come together. And I had this thing where I wanted to bring these
guys together, I had a very clear image of these four guys who
were of a certain age, say 35 to 40, with some of the magic rubbing
off the world a little bit and the idea that childhood is over
and these are the lives they are gong to
have, and I knew they were all fairly unhappy but I didn't know
Q. Did you know at that point where the story would take them?
A. No, but I don't worry about that stuff, you write the thing
and if you have that, the story tells you what it is going to
But I didn't
have any transmission for the book, I didn't have any real drive
shaft for it and I thought, 'well, suppose they are out in the
woods in a cabin in a snowstorm?' Well, so far so good, I'd done
the snow storm and being cut off in The Shining, so it wasn't
And so then I was in the bathroom, and I had to move my bowels,
and I was just trying to sit down because nothing bent or anything
like that, and the idea occurred to me that nobody had ever really
done anything with what goes on in the bathroom, that that was
the last unbroken wall in the house.
I mean, there was a time with fiction and movies when the bedroom
that was where the action stopped. Rhett Butler sweeps Scarlett
into his arms and they go into the bedroom, the door closes and
you are on the outside, and now we are very used to the idea of
the camera going in the bedroom and it's going to watch the love
And I thought, but even in a book, when the action is going on,
it never says 'and then John had to pause in his search for the
killer to take a leak'. I mean, we never acknowledge this part
of our lives, every day in every normal person's life, they have
to go to the bathroom and from there I thought to myself I might
Q. It's a very vulnerable place to be in a way...
A. Yes, and we get a lot of bad news in the bathroom. A lot
of bad news, it's where you take your clothes off, look at yourself
in the mirror and maybe that's where you see you got a lump on
the side of your neck, or maybe that's where you go to the bathroom
and you look down in the
bowl, and maybe you see that besides a little bit of urine there's
a little bit of blood, too, and that's when you go to the doctor
and the doctor says, 'you've got something seriously wrong with
you'. And I'd rather deal with that fear, because that fear is
unexpressed and unexpressed fear is the strongest. Nobody had
really done that before.
And for my mind, the strongest scene in the movie is when they
break into the bathroom, and the guy is in there, because we've
never seen that scene before in the movie and we don't know how
to react and the audience.... one of the reasons I came out here
was to go to the movies tonight, and see how people react to that
Do they laugh? Do they scream? Do they do both? What did they
do when you saw it?
Q. A bit of both actually...
A. Well, the scream and the laugh are both defence mechanisms
and they are both for the same reason, it's a way people say,
'oh you are in my space, you got past my defences.' And I relish
that. I relish that when I get right up into your face with something
you didn't expect.
Q. How are you now physically?
A. Not bad. Not bad. Sore a lot of the time. Stiff. I don't
have a lot of stamina still. I do a lot of rehab exercises but
I'm certainly a lot better than I was three years ago. Thank God,
I can walk.
Q. Which films of your work have you been pleased with? Because
I know you re-made The Shining (as a television mini-series) which
everybody considers a classic...
A. I thought it was boring. If you go back and read the reviews
when it was released, most of the critics thought it was boring
So I wanted to re-do it, and turn it back... and whether it was
a good film or a bad film, we could argue about that, it didn't
have much to do with the book, which was very passionate and fiery
and the movie is very cold.
Kubrick's movie ends in ice, and my version ends in fire. So I
had a chance to do that, and I was fortunate to be able to go
back and, again, whether it's good or it's bad, the mini-series
are not gold mines, it's something you do for love, and I love
the format, the mini-series format.
The Brits know about this, they are used to their Helen Mirrens
and their masterpiece theatre, and programmes that have a beginning,
a middle and an end, but they might take five or six episodes
to tell. In America, it's been a little bit slower. There have
been a lot of mini-series, but they are all formulaic in the sense
that they were all stories about empire building, they were all
pretty much Rich Man, Poor Man, told over and over again.
Q. But you must be pleased with quite a lot of the films.
I mean, there's Shawshank Redemption for a start..
A. Yeah, if you talk about films. Man, there have been a lot
of films that I liked. I liked Cujo, I liked The Dead Zone, Carrie
doesn't travel well over the years, but at the time I liked it.
Dreamcatcher is fabulous entertainment...
A. Yeah, Misery is a good one. Shawshank, Green Mile. I'll
tell what is a really good one, if you see the whole thing, is
It was cut down for theatres to run about an hour and fifty minutes,
but there is a version that TNT and the Movie Channel runs over
here and that's about four and a half hours, and that's terrific
Storm of the Century. You've got to get that. Promise me you will.
It's great. It was a mini-series. And that's my favourite thing
of all the things I've done.
Q. There's endless speculation about the future of your writing.
You were quoted a few years back, saying there might be a finite
number of stories to tell..
A. There always is because God shuts you up in the end. The
next couple of years are very busy, because there's a lot of stuff
that I've been doing, I've been using the writing frankly as a
pain killer, it's a place to go, and it gets you out of your own
head and people have wanted the Dark Tower series to be done.
And the people who read it are very passionate about it, there's
about half of the people who read my other work who don't even
bother with those books, but I kind of always had the feeling
that they might go to 'em if they knew it was all there, it was
finite from the beginning to an end.
But mostly for myself, I wanted to finish those books and they
are done now.
One of them is totally done and is ready to be published in November,
but the other two are written and they need to be edited and polished
and all of that stuff, but the bottom line is if I drop dead today,
and I hope I don't, but if I did, those books could be done.
And there is a TV series called Kingdom Hospital, that's based
on a Danish TV series.
Have you seen it by any chance? No, well it's great anyway. And
Lars Von Trier, who did Breaking The Waves, did this thing for
Danish TV about a haunted hospital, and I saw it and I thought
this would be terrific for American TV, and finally we got the
rights to do that.
It's a limited series, there are 13 episodes, it's not like a
26 episode run like Buffy. So there are those two things, but
beyond that I haven't made any plans, but I don't have any contractual
obligations and that's the way it's going to stay.
I'm going to slow down and a lot of what I write will stay in
the drawer a lot longer than it did.
But I never said I was going to retire.