Horror writer/director Mike Flanagan is no stranger to Stephen King, helming the critically-acclaimed adaptation of Gerald's Game for Netflix, so it might surprise fans of the genre that Flanagan landed his upcoming King adaptation, the Ewan McGregor-led Doctor Sleep, by way of the DC universe.
Writing for this month’s issue of Fangoria, Flanagan explained how he got the anxiety-inducing gig to follow up both Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick by adapting The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep. It started, as many adaptations do, with a love of the source material. “I had asked my agent to chase the project over the years,” Flanagan wrote, “and had never been able to get in a room to have a meeting about it. But Stephen’s reaction to Gerald’s Game made that conversation possible.”
This wasn’t because King set Flanagan up with Warner Bros., where Doctor Sleep had been gestating—well, stalled—for years. Instead, it was because when Flanagan went to WB for a different reason, King wasn’t a concern as a gatekeeper. “I got a meeting at Warner Bros. with [ex-DC film head] Jon Berg to talk about DC Comics films,” Flanagan recalled. “I went in to spitball about whether there might be a place for me somewhere in the DC Universe, and in the course of that conversation, Gerald's Game came up.”
Berg, now a producer of Doctor Sleep along with upcoming DC fare like Green Lantern Corps, was a fellow horrorhound and King fan. He brought up Doctor Sleep as a property that WB had been developing in the past, wondering if Flanagan knew it. Flanagan leapt at the opportunity, ad-libbing a film pitch in the room—and it must have worked. He was on his way back to his car when Berg called King with a proposal: Flanagan for Doctor Sleep. King, who’d enjoyed Gerald’s Game, replied, “Absolutely.”
That isn’t to say that King was onboard with everything Flanagan was planning—when the director pitched the author on returning to the Overlook Hotel, King replied that he “burned it down for a reason”—Doctor Sleep eventually pleased everyone behind the scenes, and gave fans enough spooky trailers to haunt their nightmares. Not bad for a few years work that could’ve been spent on a superhero movie that, like The Flash (for example), could've gotten delayed into a horror show of its own. In an alternate universe, however, what DC character would you like to see Flanagan bring to the big screen?
Doctor Sleep hits theaters on Nov. 8.