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Stephen King explains his ‘laissez-faire attitude’ to movie adaptations

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Oct 20, 2017

Remember that time a director or studio totally butchered one of your favorite books and you weren't able to sleep for a week after seeing such a trainwreck onscreen? Now, imagine you wrote the source material that was gutted to the point that it no longer resembled your original vision. You'd be pretty pissed, right? Yeah, well, Stephen King is pretty chill about all that stuff. 

In an interview with Vulture, he explained his laid back attitude when approached by filmmakers who want to turn his books and stories into movies and TV shows. "Even the worst movie I saw was f-----," he said. "As far as I’m concerned, if somebody wants to make a movie [from my stories], I’m behind that idea and I’m always interested to see what they come up with."

This isn't surprising as King makes it super easy for aspiring cinematic storytellers to use his works with what he calls "Dollar Babies." If a filmmaker has a good enough idea for an adaptation, they can buy the rights to the book or story for $1. The most famous Dollar Baby is Frank Darabont's Shawshank Redemption and there's even an entire page on King's website showing all the stories that are not currently being optioned for movies or shows that can be purchased for the low, low price of $1. 

King says he's been cool about adaptations since the making of Carrie in 1976, just two years after the book was published. "With Carrie, my feeling was, 'They’re gonna make this movie. If it’s a success, it will help me do what I want to do, which is to write books.'" he told Vulture, stating that the book or story remains unchanged, even if the movie ends up sucking. "In a way, the book is untouchable," he put it. 

He went on to say, "I think part of my laissez-faire attitude comes from a) I’m doing okay financially so I can afford to take a risk, and b) I’ve been prolific enough so that I don’t feel upset about it," explaining that writers like William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist) and Ira Levin (Rosemary's Baby) would be more protective of their works because they hadn't written as much. 

The prolific element and King's can-do mentality are probably why there are so many movies and TV shows based on his writing on air, on their way, or in development. 1922 and Gerald's Game are now both on Netflix, Castle Rock comes to Hulu in 2018, IT: Chapter Two comes to theaters in 2019 while Josh Boone (New Mutants) has been tapped to pen The Talisman screenplay.

The motto of the Maine-based writer can be summarized thusly: "My idea is, 'If you’re going to make changes, hopefully they’ll work.' There are changes in IT that work very well, and with Mr. Mercedes, which is on TV now, there are some terrific changes from the book. Sometimes you make those changes and they don’t work really well, and I’m always sorry when that happens."