Stephen King is one of the most-adapted authors of all time. In the nearly 50 years since Carrie first hit the big-screen, almost every King novel, and many of his short stories, have made it to the screen in some form, and many of the ones that haven't are already on their way. All that means that King has a pretty clear perspective on what it means to have so many other people playing in the various worlds you've created. It also means he's well aware that some adaptations have worked much better than others.
In a short new interview with The Washington Post to promote the arrival of Mr. Mercedes — the series adapted from his trilogy of detective novels of the same name — on the Peacock streaming service, King was asked about the often vast difference in quality between adaptations of his work. While he offered praise for Mr. Mercedes, which he has script approval on, King also chose to contrast his view of that show with his view of another: The CBS TV adaptation of his mammoth novel of Under the Dome, which ran for three seasons and nearly 40 episodes from 2013-2015.
"The characters [on Mr. Mercedes] seem true to me," King said. "They seem like they’re doing things I would do in those situations. … Under the Dome was one I felt like went entirely off the rails, because the people are doing things that don’t seem realistic. One thing that killed me was you never hear the sound of a generator anywhere. The electric power is fine. Everything looks clean. Everything is great, except that they’re cut off from the world. And that isn’t what would happen …
"If you ask people to accept those ideas, there has to be a sense of realism that goes with it, that pulls you along."
This isn't the first time King has been critical of the Under the Dome series. Though he served as an executive producer on the series and had some creative input, including scripting the second season premiere, King was apparently unhappy with the eventual direction the show took after the departure of initial developer and showrunner Brian K. Vaughan. Last year, King and his son, writer Joe Hill, hinted as much on Twitter, with King arguing Netflix should pick up the novel for a new adaptation with the aim of "actually doing the book."
Despite his apparent ongoing disappointment with Under the Dome, though, King is pleased with more than just Mr. Mercedes these days. He also teased the upcoming adaptation of his acclaimed 2006 novel Lisey's Story, a deeply emotional work of dark fantasy, and seemed happy with the direction that's headed.
"I’m now working with a very talented director named Pablo Larraín on a limited series for Apple Plus called Lisey’s Story. He’s got a lot of ideas that don’t depart from the throughline of the story but are beautiful visual things, with a lot of energy involved," King said. "It’s like having more depth perception, because I’m like one eye and he’s the other eye. … If you’re going to really succeed in this business, get people you know are talented and then say, 'Okay, I’m going to step back. I’m not going to be looking over your shoulder and fiddling in your stuff. Go ahead and do the stuff you’re good at doing.'"
Lisey's Story, starring Julianne Moore in the title role, does not yet have a release date.