Quint's chat with Stephen King!! The Dark Tower! JJ Abrams! Marvel! The Mist! And Much More!!!
Published at: Feb. 27, 2007, 12:54 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my nearly 20 minute long one on one interview with Stephen King.
Yes, I geeked out. Yes, I had the fear. I was the last of four journalists to talk to King, so that meant an hour of waiting outside the room, which meant an hour for the butterflies in the tummy to grow rabid and nasty.
I’ve only gotten like this in a few occasions. Once, when I went to the War of the Worlds set and was told Steven Spielberg wanted to talk to me. That walk up to him was a long one. Another time was when I was about to conduct a phone interview with John Cleese. I just worry about making a bad impression on these people who I greatly respect and grew up idolizing.
Plus it seemed like a little bit of “one of these doesn’t belong” while I was waiting to talk to King as the other reporters were from the Associated Press, New York Post and Maxim. What the hell was I doing in that line-up… okay, maybe Maxim and I could get along together, but the AP and New York Post?
At any rate, King turned out to be just as I expected. He was very laid back, an everyday sort of guy and didn’t seem put out by talking to me, which was my biggest fear. Not that I would turn into Chris Farley and just keep telling him that THE STAND and IT and the DARK TOWER series were awesome over and over, but that the interview would be boring and by the numbers.
It was a little intimidating to walk into that room, though. The interview happened with an audience of 6 or 7 people, including Marvel Editor In Chief, Joe Quesada. Once King and I started talking, though, I didn’t even register anyone else in the room… until they laughed at something King said.
In the interview, we go over lots of territory. Not quite as much as I would have liked to, but beggars can’t be choosers. I could have spent a day discussing DARK TOWER with Stephen King, but I think we got in a fair amount, including some encouraging specifics on what JJ Abrams is planning on doing with the Dark Tower.
We started with a talk about Frank Darabont’s adaptation of THE MIST and if he was going to visit. As I was turning on the tape recorder, King was talking about how at this time of year he lives South. Florida, I believe. Anyway, enjoy the chat!
STEPHEN KING: It’s not real close to where he is, but it’s a lot closer than Maine. I was thinking maybe I’d rent a car, pack up the wife and go up there.
QUINT: I’ve done that drive before. It’s a nice drive. It can get a little scary in the Ozarks…
STEPHEN KING: (Darabont) is real excited.
QUINT: Yeah, I bet. I’m good friends with Greg Nicotero and he’s doing the effects and the second unit directing. I bet he’s like a schoolboy right about now.
STEPHEN KING: Well you know… What finally broke the gridlock with Frank was shooting an episode of THE SHIELD. Has he told you that story?
QUINT: I remember him telling me that he just shot so fast, that it was almost like a boot camp for directors.
STEPHEN KING: He says it’s “combat photography.”
QUINT: I know he has a really short shoot for THE MIST.
STEPHEN KING: Twenty-Eight days or something. Forty days, maybe. Something like that.
QUINT: I live in Austin and Shreveport is a short drive. I’m going to go visit them soon, I think.
STEPHEN KING: I was just talkin’, to this guy who was here from Maxim, about music in Austin and about James McMurtry and Robert Earl Keen and Ray Wylie Hubbard and all those guys… I love it. Have you ever heard that Ray Wylie Hubbard song “Screw You, We’re From Texas”?
STEPHEN KING: That’s a great song.
QUINT: I’m sure it goes down well in Texas. That’s kind of the attitude down there. But Austin’s a little different.
STEPHEN KING: Yeah, Austin isn’t Texas.
QUINT: It definitely isn’t… I love that you’re wearing that SHAUN OF THE DEAD t-shirt. I’m also friends with Edgar Wright and he just came down to show the Austin AICN boys HOT FUZZ.
STEPHEN KING: I’m lookin’ forward to it.
QUINT: It’s great. I told him I was going to come talk to you and he was like, “You have to ask him if he has the Foree Electronics nametag we sent him!”
STEPHEN KING: Oh yeah, I do. You be sure, when you talk to him, to tell him I wore this shirt so they wouldn’t kill me at Comic-Con. It’s like, “Look! I’m one of you guys!”
QUINT: Yeah, it’s kind of like a geek shield!
[Laughter around the room]
STEPHEN KING: Yeah, it’s a geek shirt.
QUINT: I wanted to say that I grew up reading your books and I’ve been reading Dark Tower since I was 13. I was telling the New York Post and Maxim guys outside that I’m kind of experiencing this indie rock phenomenon with the Dark Tower. When I was first reading the books no one I knew had read them, even my friends who were also big fans of your work. Now it’s becoming really popular and it’ll just get even more popular with this new series from Marvel.
STEPHEN KING: I hope, I hope. I mean, it’s still… compared with what the other books sell, The Dark Tower… I mean, it’s like an acquired taste. It’s like anchovy pizza or something a little bit different.
The way it started was the first bunch of stories were published in Fantasy & Science Fiction and Don Grant from Grant Publishers asked if he could do the book. The whole thing is just a fuckin’ accident. It’s an accident that I ever found those stories again. They were in a box in the cellar when we lived in this little town called Bridgeton and the box was all swelled up because the pipes dripped on it and the pages were all wet inside, but they had been done on this hard, heavy stock or else the pages would have melted.
But it was still there. My agent at the time read some and said, “I think I can sell these,” and he did one by one, then Don wanted to do the book.
He did some ridiculously small number of books with this beautiful Michael Whelan artwork… you know what I’m talkin’ about it. And that was it. I did a signed edition and he had a few that were unsigned. They sold out and that was it.
And then, when PET SEMATARY got published, I put The Dark Tower on what they call the ad column where you list the other books that you’ve done. We were all at once flooded with letters from fans going, “What’s this Dark Tower book? I never heard of this! I never saw this at the book store!”
I was like, “You can’t get it. It’s sold out.” And they’re like, “Don’t tell me I can’t get it! I want the fuckin’ book! I got the fuckin’ money!”
It’s like… you say to people, “Well guess what? The Rolling Stones said You Can’t Always Get What You Want, so you’re outta luck!”
And it just kept up and finally some people said to me, “You really outta do a paperback.” And I got really red-assed about it and I said, “No, I’m not going to do a paperback. Let these people find out that just because they live in America, in an information society, that they can’t get everything that they want. It’ll do ‘em good.”
But finally I relented because I’m just a big pussy. After that, people wanted more and I wanted more myself, but the whole thing was just this series of accidents, really. It’s amazing it exists at all.
QUINT: I don’t have enough money to get the first edition of Gunslinger…
STEPHEN KING: Me either.
QUINT: But I do have all the other Grant editions. Like I said, I was addicted from a young age…
STEPHEN KING: By the way, I love the website. I go there all the time, surf around.
STEPHEN KING: Yeah. I went there to see… this guy did a review of 1408, which I haven’t seen, but the guy thought it was good. [King pumps his fist in the air]
QUINT: I saw some footage at the American Film Market in LA. It looked great, which was a bit of a relief because I loved the short story.
STEPHEN KING: I love that story.
QUINT: I’m a big fan of your short work, so I’m both worried and excited every time someone takes one of your short stories and makes it into a film. When it’s somebody like Darabont you can have complete trust…
STEPHEN KING: Anything can go wrong!
QUINT: True, but you have that stellar batting average.
STEPHEN KING: Yeah, but it’s like saying a guy’s batting a thousand because he has two at bats and he gets a hit both times. Although, I admit… Frank hit a couple of homeruns.
QUINT: But the 1408 footage I saw looked fantastic, had great atmosphere.
STEPHEN KING: It’s got good buzz.
QUINT: When I hit the seventh book, The Dark Tower, I don’t know… I got that dread. I had it with The Stand as well, but you really don’t want it to end, where I wish the book was more of a portal into the world that I could just pick up and keep following these characters on new adventures.
STEPHEN KING: When you came in we were talking about Charlie Huston, this guy who has written a trilogy. One’s called “Caught Stealing” and one’s called “Six Bad Things” and the last one, which I’m reading now, is called “The Dangerous Man.” I feel the same way.
QUINT: When you finished the seventh book did you think, “Okay, I’m not closing the door on The Dark Tower, but this is going to be it.” Did you imagine there was going to be…
Warning... story spoilers for those who haven't read the last book!!!
STEPHEN KING: One thing that I thought about the way that the book ends is that it allows people, if they want, to go to from the end of Book 7 to the beginning of Book 1 to start over again, which in a way is the great theme of the books, which is that Ka is a wheel and it turns. That’s all it wants to do is turn.
End of spoilers!!
But the books themselves aren’t done. I was sayin’ this in the panel. I’d like to rewrite them. Whether or not I’ll actually get that chance I don’t know, but I’d like to because to me they’re a first draft.
QUINT: Beyond rewriting, do you think you’d ever revisit them in short form again, like you did with The Little Sisters of Eluria?
STEPHEN KING: I might, yeah. I think that’s a possibility.
QUINT: I could imagine you might get a little hungry to do that again by working on this comic and getting to explore more of Roland’s story that way.
STEPHEN KING: I’m not sure… the comic itself might satisfy that, to tell more stories, because they’ve got a lot of space there to tell new stuff, but on the other hand… I’m working with Peter David and Robin Furth and they don’t really need me. They’ve got up a head of steam and they can handle it on their own. If I have an idea I’ll tell them. Or I’ll save it for myself. Either way.
QUINT: Do you think there’ll be more connections in your work to The Tower? I can’t imagine you can avoid it in something like the third Talisman book…
STEPHEN KING: Yeah.
QUINT: But that’s one of my favorite things about the idea of the Dark Tower series, that it connects damn near everything you’ve ever done.
STEPHEN KING: That was always the idea, to see if I couldn’t hook it all up together. It wasn’t based on The Dark Tower itself, it was like… when a book like INSOMNIA would come along or a book like IT… You know, immediately I started to think in terms if there’s something cosmic going on here it’s all hooked together. I sort of went with that.
QUINT: I know Grant Books is publishing another hardcover of THE GUNSLINGER.
STEPHEN KING: They’re doing Little Sisters…
QUINT: They’re releasing a hardback that’s Gunslingers and Little Sisters of Eluria with new Michael Whelan art, right?
STEPHEN KING: Yep, they are.
QUINT: They announced that a long time ago. Do you know when that’ll be released?
STEPHEN KING: It’s just been pushed back because he did a Jae Lee. Michael Whelan did a Jae Lee, he said, “I want more time! I want to rework these sketches,” or something like that.
QUINT: I talked a little bit earlier about being both terrified and excited when I hear one of your stories is optioned, but Dark Tower has always been so close to me that when the rumor hit that JJ Abrams might be doing it, then you confirmed it on the panel this afternoon…
STEPHEN KING: Well, the only thing that I can confirm is that we’re talking about it because there’s nothing firm yet.
QUINT: Well, he doesn’t have it set up somewhere yet, but he has the option right?
STEPHEN KING: Well, he doesn’t have anything yet, but he will have eventually… if he wants it. I think he does.
QUINT: I’ve never met JJ, but Harry talks with him quite a bit and the impression I get from him is he’s very much in line with geeks like me and the readers of the site.
STEPHEN KING: He’s a good guy. He’s one of us.
QUINT: Do you think he’ll attack the series as a television series like LOST or…
STEPHEN KING: No. It oughta be movies. It’s gotta be big. I’d like to see it done (that way). I’m not going to close any doors because that’s not my way…
QUINT: What about a cable series, like an HBO or Showtime series?
STEPHEN KING: We’ve talked about it, but (Abrams and Damon Lindelof’s) impulse, too, is to go with the big screen. JJ has a deal with Paramount Pictures. I know that he’s talked with somebody at Paramount and said, “Yeah, it probably oughta be pictures.” But why close any doors?
QUINT: Yeah. I’d love to see it on the big screen, though, because the books are so cinematic. Especially when you get to Drawing of the Three, which was the book… I liked Gunslinger on my first read through, but when I got to Drawing of the Three, that’s the book that hooked me.
STEPHEN KING: It kinda hooked me, too. I loved the way that that took off from the very beginning.
QUINT: Well, with the first book there’s very little interaction, just with Roland and Jake, but when he draws his group in the second book… I just love the chemistry of those characters.
[The lovely Marvel PR rep gives me a 2 minute warning]
STEPHEN KING: She’s a harsh mistress.
QUINT: What are you working on now? I know you have BLAZE coming out soon.
STEPHEN KING: Blaze is done. That’ll be out later this year, but that wasn’t my book. That was Richard Bachman’s. So, it’s just a posthumous novel and I fixed it up for the poor fella… Otherwise, I don’t know. I’m workin’ on some stuff, but nothing that I really feel like talkin’ about. A lot of times, until it gets past a certain stage, I’d rather not say anything. But I’m happy and I’m workin’, so life is good. I’m workin’ on my tan down there in Florida.
QUINT: Well, if you go out to Louisiana… don’t know what kind of sun you’d get, but the humidity will sink into your skin…
STEPHEN KING: There’s been some talk about doing a sequel to DELIVERANCE…
STEPHEN KING: Speaking of Louisiana.
QUINT: They wanting to do a follow-up to the movie or…
STEPHEN KING: They’re talking about doing a sequel to the book.
QUINT: Oh yeah? That’s crazy. That’s something you just never even consider happening…
STEPHEN KING: That’s one of the only reasons it sort of interests me to think about. It’ll be something different. Probably never happen, but…
QUINT: If someone gets a bug up their ass to do it, they gotta get it out some way.
STEPHEN KING: Sure. “This one’s got a purty mouth!”
QUINT: What’s your favorite dirty joke?
STEPHEN KING: My favorite dirty joke? Let’s see… Dirty Johnny’s in a classroom. The teacher says, “Can anyone use the word ‘Rotterdam’ in a sentence?” Right away Johnny’s hand is up. She hates to ask him, but she has to because he’s the only one who has got his hand up. She says, “What is it, Johnny?” He says, “My Grandmother has poison ivy and I hope it’ll Rotterdam arm off!”
It’s the first one to come to mind. Sorry. [The room laughs] It’s a literary joke!
There you have it, squirts. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll get to dissect the books a little bit more with King. As you can see, we didn’t delve too deeply in our short time together, but King was very open and honest. He put me at ease straightaway, which was something considering how long I had to get wound up and nervous beforehand.
How about that JJ Abrams bit? I love that he’s trying to make the Dark Tower series into feature films, but he’s got himself a mountain to climb. On one hand I believe that the movies will cost less than something like LORD OF THE RINGS, but they have to contend with the ratings board. Detta/Odetta can’t work as PG-13. The demon raping is not PG-13. Roland’s pistol abortion is not PG-13. What a wonderful world this would be if we see the series as an ongoing hard R rated feature film series. The dream is there.
I hope you enjoyed the chat. Thanks for reading!