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Exclusive: Jonathan Demme Exits Stephen King Adaptation '11/22/63'

by Kevin Jagernauth
December 6, 2012 8:59 AM
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Jonathan Demme 11/22/63

Moving easily and often between documentaries and feature film projects, Jonathan Demme has always got a few things on the go at any given time. This year alone has seen him direct theater legends Wallace Shawn and André Gregory in their re-teaming in "Wally And André Shoot Ibsen," hit the festival circuit with "Enzo Avitabile Music Life," get involved as a producer on "Song One" with Anne Hathaway set to star, and pick up a directing credit on "Old Fires." But it looks like one project has fallen off his slate.

With the Marrakech Film Festival in full swing, Demme is one of the directors receiving a tribute, and our own Jessica Kiang got to quickly sit down with the filmmaker and chat about what he's working on, or in the case of Stephen King's "11/22/63," no longer working on. "That's off the table," he shared about the film that he was first attached to in 2011.

To be certain, it's an ambitious undertaking, with the nearly 900-page book centering on Jake Epping, who travels back in time from the present to try to stop the assassination of JFK, by going to 1958 and starting a new life that will, he hopes, allow him to change the course of history. But of course, that is just one thread in a dense novel, and over the summer Demme told us, "There’s a dozen movies in '11/22/63.' We’re finding the one that we think is kind of the best of all." But it seems the director and the author ultimately couldn't see eye to eye.

"This is a big book, with lots in it. And I loved certain parts of the book for the film more than Stephen did. We're friends, and I had a lot of fun working on the script, but we were too apart on what we felt should be in and what should be out of the script," Demme said, before confirming he was off the project. "I had an option and I let it go. But I hope it's moving forward, I really want to see that movie." 

Fans of King needn't be too worried, as you can't throw a rock without hitting something written by the author that is being brought to TV or the movies. In fact, just a few days ago THR reported that "The Walking Dead" and "Super 8" kids Chandler Riggs and Joel Courtney are starring in "Mercy," a film based on the King short story "Gramma." And "Under The Dome" also recently got a series order at CBS. So we're sure it won't be too long until "11/22/63" finds some new life. 

As for Demme, he too has a number of things brewing, so stayed tuned as we'll have more from our conversation with him in Marrakech soon.

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  • John | December 9, 2012 1:56 PMReply

    This is good news, I'm tired of novels being butchered for film. The best king movies were always the closest adapted ones. And to answer another posters comment, I enjoyed the Steven Weber version of the shinning a lot more, it made more sense and had better emotion. People need to read more instead of having terrible mangled stories spoon fed to them through film.

  • Nuschler | December 7, 2012 3:07 PMReply

    11/22/63 was on the top ten list of best books of 2011 garnered by the New York Times. NOT best-selling books but best written books. 11/22/63 is a wonderful novel! Do yourself a favor and read it! In fact read EVERY book on both the 2011 list and 2012 list of the NY Times. Superb reading: non-fiction, fiction, it's all there...

  • Maxim | December 6, 2012 9:49 PMReply

    Dreamcatcher had a fantastic first half. The second half was, well, weird. I wouldn't call the film anywhere close to awful though.

  • Daryl Hannah | December 6, 2012 12:04 PMReply

    Sounds like King wants Mick Garris to adapt this shit to the letter. And be completely unremarkable at best, unwatchable at worst.

    This is the guy who for the longest time didn't like the Shining after all.

    King's writing does NOT work on film unless you tinker with it.

    Dreamcatcher is a great example of adapting a King book with all its quirks and getting a product that is unfathomably awful.

  • MartiniPistache | December 7, 2012 7:03 AM

    @CHACDE: Good to know that you possess the absolute truth. I agree with Daryl, adaptations that stick with the book to the every little detail are quite boring. The book is here for that. An adaptation is what the name say: it is adapted. Some stuff don't work on the big (or small) screen. Besides, an adaptation is the vision that the filmmaker have of the book, it is more interesting to see how he sees it. With one book you can make hundreds of movies, depending on what specificity of the book you decide to keep. Kubrick decided to go with the madness of Jack, Mick Garris decided to not think at all.

  • Daryl Hannah | December 7, 2012 1:12 AM

    Anyway, my point is... Give me a Demme adaptation that *doesn't* include some parts of the book in service of making a great movie, over a slavish adaptation any day. Who likes the Steven Weber version of the Shining better than Kubrick's?

  • DARYL HANNAH | December 7, 2012 1:09 AM

    I'm mainly talking about some of the more fantastic elements that King uses, that he pulls off in a book, but in a visual medium aren't that great. In Dreamcatcher I'm talking about the memory warehouse specifically. In 11/22/63 it would be the entire concept of the Green/Yellow/Red/Black Card Man and the "time guardians" or whatever they were. In the Dark Tower, it would be... well... pretty much everything. For instance Jake and Oy switching consciousnesses. It seems like in the low rent TV adaptations, this kind of thing is usually left intact.

  • Chacde | December 6, 2012 11:30 PM

    Wrong, sorry to say. The best King films are those that stick extremely close to his written work, two best examples being The Shawshank Remeption and The Green Mile. And Dreamcatcher was nothing like the novel, not even remotely close. I honestly believe you haven't read any of his works and then compared them to the films. If so you'd see you are talking out of your ass.

  • MJ | December 6, 2012 11:37 AMReply

    This is kind of disappointing, it would have been interesting to see Demme take on this material, but it's true that the book is far too long for a feature to tell it with any kind of cohesion, it'd make for a great miniseries on HBO though.

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