After an almost 50-year career, Stephen King has penned more than 65 books (sometimes publishing three in the same calendar year) and more than 200 short stories, making him arguably the most prolific author of our time. But when it came to adaptations of his work, he mostly wanted to leave those to (as he puts it) “film people” and “TV people” — until just a few years ago, when he caught “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” on FX.
“Tom Rob Smith wrote every episode [of that limited series],” he recalls. “I watched that show and said, ‘This is absolutely fucking fantastic and maybe I could do that with “Lisey’s [Story].”‘”
“Lisey’s Story” is King’s 2006 novel that centers on the eponymous widow of a prolific author, who has to mine her memories of her love story and her husband’s tragic past, as well as his special sanctuary (Boo’ya Moon) to save her mentally ill sister from a state of catatonia and save herself from an overzealous fan determined to get his hands on her husband’s papers. Deeply personal for both King and his wife, Tabitha King, the story was first written as a what-if after he was hit by a van in 1999. For this reason, King admits he said no several times when others asked if they could adapt the story. But with the right inspiration and partners in executive producer and director Pablo Larraín and streamer Apple TV Plus, “Lisey’s Story” has become an eight-episode series that bows June 4.
In doing so, he did find things he wanted to change. For example, he lowered the number of sisters the title character (played by Julianne Moore, who also executive produces) has and removed some of “the interior language of the marriage.” Other areas, though, he found held up perhaps better than expected a decade-and-a-half later, including the character of Lisey herself and his musings on fan culture.
Of the former, King says: “I wanted to see that she had a little sense of humor about certain things and I also wanted to show her temper — that this is a woman who can stand up for herself without being a scream machine like a woman in jeopardy in a standard horror movie. There’s a moment where she’s talking to Dooley and she says, ‘Go fuck yourself,’ and there’s a moment where the college professor tries to hold her up when she wants to see her sister and instead of just driving around his car, she puts the car in reverse and slams into his car. So, there’s a certain amount of anger there that goes with grief, I think.”
And when it comes to the latter, although social media didn’t exist when King was writing the novel, he had plenty of inspiration for the characters who would take their idolization of Lisey’s author husband Scott (Clive Owen) too far. He cites the man who broke into his house in the early 1990s, “convinced that I had stolen the idea of ‘Misery’ from his aunt’s head and said that he had a bomb” (he didn’t), as well as a woman who sued him in the middle of that decade “because she claimed I flew over her house and stole her thoughts.” Since then, because of the rise of social media and fan sites, he acknowledges, “the more out there you are, the greater the chance is that somebody’s going to decide to shoot you.”