What Psycho did for showers, and Jaws did for New England beaches, Misery would do for sledgehammers. And typewriters. And Kathy Bates.
“I decided when I die, it’s going to be Kathy ‘Misery’ Bates,” says Bates. “You know how they do, in People magazine, it’ll be “Kathy ‘Misery’ Bates passed away.” The actress is indelibly linked to her performance as the unhinged caretaker Annie Wilkes, one that won her an Oscar and reminded us of the fact that “fan” is actually short for fanatic. Playing both her victim and favorite author, legendary actor James Caan too learned to live with the legacy. “Because of that, I heard, maybe a hundred thousand times, ‘How are your legs, Jimmy?’” says Caan, laughing.
It’s been 25 years since Rob Reiner’s snowbound thriller first hit screens, and this week’s Entertainment Weekly has brought the two stars back together to reminisce fondly on cold locations and warm memories. Like, say, when he beat her head in, or when she smashed his ankles to bits. “That took a long f—ing time because, you know, then they didn’t have all the CGI stuff,” recalls Bates. “It had to be pulled at exactly the right time, when I was hitting the ankle, and sometimes the filament would break, and I was like, ‘Oy.’” The hobbling scene would be what stuck most in people’s memories (despite their best efforts), but the entire movie is a tense ride, made all the more impressive by the fact that it’s basically a two-person show.
Caan remembers that the film got its ultimate seal of approval when Stephen King, whose novel it was based on, saw it for the first time. “We had the screening in Westwood, and he was sitting in the back with Rob,” says Caan. “He really never came to any of his movies. He didn’t like his movies. He got so into it that… when she comes in at the end, with the tray, it’s dead quiet…and you hear, ‘Watch out. She’s got a gun!’ And it was Stephen.”
To continue reading more from the cast reunions of Misery, as well as those of The Rocky Horror Show, Felicity, Family Ties, Bring It On, and Muriel’s Wedding, pick up the new issue celebrating Entertainment Weekly’s 25th anniversary, on newsstands Friday, or buy it here.