Author Stephen King knows a lot about adaptations. The prolific author has written more than 60 novels and 200 short stories, with more than 30 film and television adaptations coming from his deep bench of original works. But the upcoming Lisey’s Story, based on his 2006 novel of the same name that he's adapting into an eight-part limited series for AppleTV+, is — by his own admission — the story he loves the best.
“Lisey’s Story means a lot to me. It’s the story I love best,” King told reporters today during the Television Critics Association panel for the AppleTV+ series that will premiere on the streamer in Summer 2021. It will star Julianne Moore as Lisey, the widow of renowned author Scott Landon (Clive Owen). After his death, she has to process the complexities of his creative legacy along with their marriage in a multileveled story that’s part epic romance, thriller, and fantasy.
King says the story is an intensely personal one that’s all about love, marriage, and exploring creative impulses. He admitted that overall, his approach to participating in adaptations of his work has always been: “All the way in, as much as possible, or all the way out.” He often leaves the adapting part for others to figure out with his blessing, focusing instead on writing more books. But he left the door open for a passion project, and Lisey’s Story fits the bill.
The impetuous for the story came from King's serious battle with double pneumonia years ago, which put him in the hospital. While there, King said that his wife, Tabitha King, took on the job of cleaning up her husband’s office back home. By the time he was released, King said his wife explicitly told him, “Don’t go in there. You won’t like it,” because the office still wasn’t finished. But he did anyway, and found it was completely empty. “I was still feeling rocky and on meds, but it struck me that this is how the room would look like after I die…and that’s where Lisey’s Story came from.”
The novel is complex, told in a non-linear fashion with Lisey diving into her memories with Scott, their shared past, and even interacting in a liminal plane created by the author. When asked if he ever thought it was an un-filmable narrative, King said he doesn’t think any of his work is un-filmable now, especially if someone is able to distill the right themes, like he said director Pablo Larraín does with Lisey’s Story.
Larrain agreed with King that anything is filmable, but the better question is why would you adapt something? With this book, the director said, “The themes are about legacy, memory, and that Lisey has to build herself up to protect Scott’s legacy and be together in a combination of sensibilities. It’s a romantic suspense thriller with fantasy elements.” It was in the process of development that Larrain said they found the why: “We came to understand that every relationship has a very particular world.”
Executive producing along with Larrain and King are Bad Robot’s J.J. Abrams and Ben Stephenson. This will be the company’s third collaboration adapting King's work, after 11.22.63 and Castle Rock for Hulu. And it's a continuation of King and Abrams’ friendship that goes back to an Entertainment Weekly feature where the two creators talked about Abrams' hit series, Lost. “After, we went out to see a scary movie and then stayed in touch,” King revealed. "They’re a great organization and give great Christmas presents,” he laughed. “I love working with them.”
And King even tipped that there’s another collaboration with Bad Robot in the works called Tiny Horrors, a possible anthology series with a “down and dirty” approach to things that are really scary. No details on when or if that project will surface.
Lisey's Story premieres Summer 2021 on AppleTV+.