Stephen King is arguably among the best-known authors of all time, especially in the horror genre. Dozens of his books have been adapted — as movies, TV shows and even for the stage. The latest, Under The Dome, has just gone on air. We spoke to King about the adaptation and its challenges.
How is Under The Dome relevant in today’s world?
This tiny, little blue world is all we’ve got, so as far as we know, we’re all under the dome. There’s nowhere else to go. This is what we’ve got and the resources are finite. Population is exploding; the environment is degrading. So if you put one little town in Maine (because Maine is what I know) under the dome, you create a perfect metaphor for everything that we’re facing in the macrocosm. You’ve had several books adapted, for film as well as for TV.
Which medium is more challenging?
I love television. I loved it when television wasn’t cool, okay? I just try to see it and I want it to be the most visual medium it can possibly be. I will say this: I am one of the first of the first generation to grow up with movies and TV being a primary fictional input to start with, so we all have a tendency to see things in the frame.
It’s a pretty cool gesture to include a reference to The Simpsons Movie. The debate over copying one another must’ve been really trivial for you, right?
I never saw it. I was just totally gobsmacked and blindsided when people started to say, ‘Oh, The Simpsons already did this.’ And I’m thinking to myself, I’m so glad that I wrote my book. But you know what, I saw the previews to that movie and I don’t remember Springfield being under a dome.
Were you involved in the show’s casting, considering you’d have the clearest image of the characters you created?
I don’t really have a clear physical image of what these characters look like. So when they come to me and say, ‘You have casting approval’, my thing is like, ‘As long as you don’t cast a 12-foot tall transvestite basketball player as Dale Barbara, I’m going to be okay with what you do.’ The one character that I did have a clear image of in my mind was Big Jim Rennie, because he was based on Dick Cheney. And when they cast Dean Norris in that role, I thought this is great.
What’s the best part about adapting this story for TV?
The one thing that TV has is time. It has all the time in the world to spread out and tell a story. For years, I’ve thought that I’ve been so behind this concept of serial TV and of stories that are able to develop, say, the way a Dickens novel developed in the 19th century. When novels hit their stride back then, people said we have all the space in the world. Author Anthony Trollope wrote some that were four to five volumes long. TV has that same ability to create things like Lost, Brideshead Revisited, Downton Abbey and hopefully, Under The Dome. When people have time, they come back. They get to know characters and get involved with the situation. It becomes almost a part of their lives and that’s a wonderful thing.