How the unrivaled horror master conquered Hollywood while not having to work
It’s a rare instance to be able to follow your passion to a successful career. But to follow it to a net-worth of $400 million,
In an interview with Vulture, King said, “Nothing succeeds like excess!” He may have been referring to the number of projects with his name on it in 2017. This year sees the theatrical releases of It and The Dark Tower; the Netflix releases of Gerald’s Game and 1922; the television debuts of The Mist and Mr. Mercedes; and, finally, the book release of Sleeping Beauties. What seems to be a resurgence of all things King is more of a reminder that he never left.
You’ll Float Too
King has been at the forefront of the horror zeitgeist for several decades. Ever since Carrie, covered in pig’s blood, killed her classmates during prom. Even while the axe-wielding Jack Torrance tried to murder his family at the Overlook Hotel, or as the ravenous clown Pennywise ate children in the small town of Derry. King’s name resonates so strongly in horror that all three of these films based on King’s novels (Carrie, The Shining and It) have been remade.
Several of his narrative tropes appear in many movies by way of “inspiration”. It is often the case that Stephen King clichés are as recognizable as a brand. Children in peril, a group of friends travelling along railroad tracks, young girls with hidden powers, and more. There is no better example of creators drawing inspiration from him than the hit Netflix show Stranger Things, which is set to release its second season in late October.
Commercially, Stephen King is a huge draw in film and television. The box office of his 10 highest-grossing movies is over $1 billion. And with over 350 million books sold, he is one of the wealthiest and most successful writers on the planet. Despite his wealth, King seems to prefer watching the adaptations than getting paid for them. He told Vulture, “I love the movies. Even the worst movie I saw was … terrific. 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.”
Presenting the Dollar Babies
“Dollar Baby” is the name King coined for aspiring filmmakers who want to create a movie based on one of his short stories. He grants any student filmmaker the right to make the movie as long as the film rights are still assigned to King. For this, he asks for a mere one-dollar fee. One of his “Dollar Babies” is Academy Award-nominated director Frank Darabont. Since making King’s “The Woman in the Room” (1983), Darabont’s career seemed to be an homage to the famous writer. He even adapted three King novels in quick succession, making acclaimed films of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist.
Darabont isn’t the only big name to enjoy Stephen King’s work to such a degree. J. J. Abrams, best known for his work on the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, expressed as much. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Abrams described first reading King’s novels as, “Revelatory… My jaw hit the floor at the realization that stories like The Shining or The Dead Zone or those from Night Shift could actually exist.” In 2016, along with James Franco, Abrams produced the mini-series 11/22/63, based on the Stephen King novel about a time traveller trying to prevent the Kennedy assassination. This year, he’s at it again with the upcoming show Castle Rock, based on several of King’s short stories.
The King’s Stable
King’s level of influence doesn’t end in Hollywood. Both of his sons decided to walk in their father’s footsteps and become writers themselves. Care to guess what genre? Elder son, Joe Hill, is an award-winning writer of books and graphic novels with one movie adaptation (Horns, starring Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe) to his name. Hulu is recently casted Danny Glover and Jack Mulhern for a pilot episode of Hill’s popular graphic novel, Locke and Key.
His other son, Owen, had the privilege of co-writing Sleeping Beauties with his father. They’re currently doing a book tour to promote their 700-page apocalyptic novel. The story is set in a world where all women mysteriously slip into comas where they generate cocoons and, if broken from said cocoons, they turn into murderous psychopaths. The description alone seems like prime material for another movie or television series.
What makes Stephen King such an enduring facet of pop culture? During one of his book tour stops, a fan said that King’s stories allow readers to “escape from the real scary world. And into another scary world.”
And despite all the fame, money and success, it has never felt like a chore for him to take readers into a fantasy world. King says, “I don’t consider what I do work. It’s making stories up in my head.”
Alex Correa | The Edge Blog