Anthony Breznican
May 04, 2018 at 12:00 PM EDT

John Lithgow will play the kindly but lonely country neighbor Jud Crandall in the new film adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, Paramount Pictures tells EW.

The movie, which will shoot this summer with plans to be in theaters April 19, 2019, has already cast Jason Clarke as Louis Creed, the dad who strikes up a close friendship with the old-timer next door.

Jud has lived in the area long enough to know its many secrets, and he takes the young family on a tour of nearby woods that leads to a peculiar pet burial ground. Later, he guides Louis far beyond the rudimentary “pet sematary” to an even stranger place deep in the wilderness after a speeding truck on their rural road claims the life of the family’s pet.

The role of Jud Crandall was previously played by the late Fred Gwynne in the 1989 adaptation of King’s novel. At 72, Lithgow is a decade younger than the character of Jud, who was 83 in the book, but a decade older than Gwynne, who was only 62 at the time he played the role.

Lithgow actually fits the part just as neat as you please.

In the 1983 book, here’s how King describes Louis seeing Jud for the first time: “He turned and saw an old man of perhaps seventy — a hale and healthy seventy — standing there on the grass. He wore a biballs over a blue chambray shirt that showed his thickly folded and wrinkled neck. His face was sunburned, and he was smoking an unfiltered cigarette. He held his hand out and smiled crookedly…a smile Louis liked at once.”

Later, Louis is shocked to learn that Jud is actually much older. (It’s not the last thing that takes him by surprise in this story.)

The new version of Pet Sematary will be directed by Starry Eyes filmmakers Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch, with a script by Jeff Buhler (showrunner of Syfy’s George R.R. Martin space series Nightflyers.)

Pet Sematary is  being produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, best known for the Transformers movies and the 2007 King adaptation 1408, which starred John Cusack as a writer who spends a mindbending night in a haunted hotel room.

The other producers are Mark Vahradian, another veteran of the Transformers series, and Steven Schneider, best known for the Insidious movies.

Plans for the remake were in the works for several years, but the success of It last year, as well as the popularity of Netflix’s King adaptations Gerald’s Game, 1922, and Hulu’s JFK assassination thriller 11/22/63, put Pet Sematary on the fast track.

Lithgow is represented by United Talent Agency, managed by Anonymous Content, and his attorney who helped broker the deal is Walter Teller.

One strange bit of trivia: Lithgow just won the Emmy for best supporting actor in a drama series for playing Winston Churchill on The Crown. The name of the family cat in Pet Sematary that comes back…?

Church.

Short for Winston Churchill.

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