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Parts of 'The Stand' Hit a Little Close to Home for All of Us
December 17, 2020  | By Mike Hughes  | 1 comment

For most authors, Hollywood wonders if any of their stories should be filmed.

For Stephen King, it's a different matter. They all should be filmed, apparently, so there's another question: Which ones should be done a second time?

The latest is The Stand, which arrives Thursday for a nine-week run on CBS All Access. It follows plenty of other King two-timers, including Carrie, It, The Shining, Salem's Lot, Pet Semetary, Creepshow, The Dead Zone, and more.

In short, Hollywood really likes the guy. "He's one of the great storytellers in the history of humanity," said Benjamin Cavell, The Stand showrunner, in a virtual session with the Television Critics Association (TCA).

TV had a four-hour Stand in 1994, but Cavell figures this will feel different – "partly because we're nine hours long and in part because of what technology and (special effects) allow us to do."

Whatever the reason, Whoopi Goldberg is happy it was re-made. "I've been trying to do this since the original miniseries came out," she told the TCA.

Goldberg relishes playing 106-year-old Mother Abigail: "I've been looking for a horror movie to do my whole career," she said.

Now her chance arrives at a time when viewers might have a different perspective on the story.

It starts after a global pandemic has killed 99 percent of the people. Two strong forces tug the survivors; one (played by Goldberg) is spiritual; the other (Alexander Skarsgård) is darkly visceral. 
Cavell – previously a producer-writer for Justified and SEAL Team – says he started working on this three years ago, with "no idea it would have this resonance with (what) we're going through."

The principal filming ended on March 12, just as the pandemic was taking hold. When it was time to re-shoot some scenes, the work had changed.

"It's very bizarre to get your hair and make-up done from people in HAZMAT suits," said co-star Amber Heard, "for a film about a pandemic."

Still, Cavell said, the mass-infection is only a plot device to get to something bigger.

"I've never regarded The Stand as a book about a pandemic," he said. "The pandemic in the book exists as a kind of mechanism to empty out the world."

The real goal: "King has been very upfront about the idea that this book was his attempt to do Lord of the Rings in America," he said. With the world on re-set, there is an "elemental struggle between good and evil."

Goldberg represents the good; Skarsgård offers an attractive sort of evil.

"There is a certain kind of appeal to that sort of authoritarian, charismatic, cult-of-personality kind of leader," Cavell said.

The story leaps back and forth in time, possibly confusing the audience – and the actors. Some had to check which period they were in; some didn't.

"My job was very easy," Odessa Young said. "If I was pregnant, it was one time period. And if I wasn't, then it was before."

She plays Frannie, whom we meet as a bitter and suicidal teen. She evolves, leading to the surprise: The final episode, Cavell said, is a fresh coda that King wrote for this miniseries.

"The thing that he had been thinking about for 30 years is: Frannie doesn't go on the stand in the book, (because she's) seven, eight months pregnant by that point."

So now King has created a new ending. You can do that when people keep filming new versions of your stories.

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