By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 1, 2011 at 2:36AM
Regardless of his qualities as a writer (while he's extremely good at what he does, his most ardent admirers sometimes confuse 'prolific' with 'writer of capable prose'), there's little doubt that few novelists have had as many truly great films made from their work as Stephen King. "Carrie," "The Shining," "Stand By Me," "Misery," "The Shawshank Redemption" -- all classics, and all derived from novels or short stories by King. Recent years haven't been so kind, however, with films like "Dreamcatcher" and "Hearts in Atlantis" lining up alongside "Maximum Overdrive" as some of the worst King adaptations.
But with the recent news that the writer's magnum opus, "The Dark Tower," is finally heading to screens big and small thanks to Ron Howard, the writer seems to be back in vogue, and in anticipation of that film, more adaptations are being lined up, including a new take on one of the novelist's very best known works. According to Heat Vision, "The Stand," a 1978 book by the writer that numbers as one of the best-selling novels of all time, is finally being prepped for a big-screen version, courtesy of Warner Bros. and CBS Films.
The book follows a virus that kills off 99% of the world's population, and a pack of survivors who come head to head with another group led by Randall Flagg, a creature of pure evil with supernatural powers (the character returns in "The Dark Tower" series: crossover!). George Romero worked on a film version in the 1980s, as did "Excalibur" scribe Rospo Pallenberg, but it never came together, with a six-hour ABC miniseries starring Gary Sinise and Rob Lowe the only adaptation of the work so far. A recent graphic novel adaptation by Marvel, has, however, seen a renewed interest in the property.
CBS have had the rights for years, but have paired with WB and Mosaic to develop and produce the eventual film, with "The Strangers" producer Roy Lee set to take charge. No writers and directors have yet been appointed, but the studios are expected to start taking meetings in the coming weeks, including a decision on whether the expansive novel should be tackled in one go, or across multiple pictures.
There's no doubt that CBS in particular could use a hit: the studio's four films to date, "Extraordinary Measures," "Faster," "The Back-Up Plan" and last weekend's "The Mechanic" have all under-performed, and we can see why they'd be interested in a potential tentpole like this. At the same time, the book's been so influential over the years, on everything from "28 Days Later" to TV's "Lost" and "The Walking Dead," that there's the risk that the film could come across as over-familiar to audiences. But with the right creative team behind it, this could be an intriguing franchise property.