The damage that many directors have done to Stephen King's stories and best-selling novels when bringing them to the screen is, well, downright scary. (Anybody remember "The Mangler"?)
That’s why once the 50-year-old author found a director who could follow his rules of horror, King has stuck with him. Helmer Mick Garris, 46, is about to begin shooting his sixth project with King, the miniseries “Desperation,” for ABC. “I like Mick because he respects the writer,” says the scare-master. “He wants to put up the stuff that I wrote.”
King’s desire to see his stories faithfully translated to the screen has led him to write the scripts for his five prior projects with Garris, including “Sleepwalkers” (1992) and the two hit miniseries “The Shining” (1997) and “The Stand” (1994). King, who is often on the set for more than half of each project’s shoot, says, “If I do the screenplay and get involved, then I want control.” For his part, Garris has no problem sticking to King’s vision. “A lot of directors don’t like the involvement of the writer,” says Garris, “but I’d be a fool to reject the input of Stephen King, of all people.”
The creative input flows both ways. King remembers rewriting one scene in “The Shining” after Garris recommended switching the setting of an encounter with a pile of corpses to a beautiful church. “Mick will accept coming onto a project where I have cast approval and veto power over script changes because he knows his ideas are gonna be heard,” says King. “I’ve never had the feeling with Mick that I do with a lot of directors — that they are trying to inject their own ideas, which are usually not that original, into the screenplay, so that later at cocktail parties they can say, ‘Oh, you know the script was terrible. We had to work and fix it. I really wrote that script.'”
Garris likens King to another entertainment heavyweight, Steven Spielberg, who gave the director his first Hollywood writing job on the 1985 series “Amazing Stories.” “I’ve discovered that people who are comfortable with their talent are not threatened by ideas from whatever the source,” says Garris. “It seems like the only sane way to work.” And everybody knows that working sanely is the only way to make movies about homicidal lunatics.