Stephen King and Pablo Larraín on the adaptation of ‘Lisey’s Story’ and Boo’ya Moon


After a career spanning nearly 50 years, Stephen King has written over 65 books (sometimes publishing three in the same calendar year) and over 200 short stories, making him arguably the most prolific author of our time. But when it comes to adaptations of his work, he mostly wanted to leave them (as he puts it) to “movie people” and “television people” – until just a few years ago, when he captured “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” on FX.

“Tom Rob Smith wrote every episode [of that limited series]», He remembers. “I watched this show and I said, ‘It’s absolutely fantastic and maybe I could do it with’ Lisey’s [Story]. ”’”

‘Lisey’s Story’ is King’s 2006 novel that focuses on the eponymous widow of a prolific author, who must tap into her memories of her love affair 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 her husband’s papers. Deeply personal to King and his wife, Tabitha King, the story was first written after being hit by a pickup truck in 1999. For this reason, King admits he has said no on several occasions when others asked if they could adapt. the story. But with the right inspiration and the partners of executive producer and director Pablo Larraín and streamer Apple TV Plus, “Lisey’s Story” has grown into an eight-part series that drops on June 4.

For King, who spoke with Variety over the phone ahead of the new show, revisiting the story, which explores themes of grief, family trauma, bloodshed and fanaticism, “was a chance to rewrite what I had done – to go back and looking at it without a lover’s eye but more of an editorial, colder eye, ”he says.

Plus, “I don’t have to worry about cutting things to fit or finishing them so they can access their Priolsec ads,” he laughs. “It’s a long book, but thank God for streaming because you have the chance to tell a story with a little more nuance, a little more texture. It’s totally immersive, working on a show, and if you want to take the time, you want to put all your heart and soul into it.

In doing so, he found things he wanted to change. For example, he reduced the number of sisters the main character (played by Julianne Moore, also an executive producer) has and removed some of the “inner language of marriage.” However, he found that other areas may have held up better than expected a decade and a half later, including the character of Lisey herself and her thoughts on fan culture.

Of the first, King said, “I wanted to see that she had a bit of humor about certain things and I also wanted to show her temper – that she is a woman who can defend herself without being a screaming machine like a woman in. danger in a standard horror movie. There’s a point where she talks to Dooley and she says ‘fuck you’, and there’s a point where the college professor tries to hold her back when she wants to see her sister and instead of just driving around her car, she puts the car in reverse and slams into her car. So there’s a certain amount of anger that comes with grief, I think.

And as for the latter, while social media didn’t exist when King was writing the novel, he had a lot of inspiration for characters who would take their idolatry of Lisey’s author husband Scott (Clive) too far. Owen). He quotes 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 he had a bomb” ( he didn’t), as did a woman who sued him in the middle of that decade “because she claimed I had flown over her house and stole her thoughts.” Since then, due to the rise of social media and fan sites, he has acknowledged, “The longer you are out there, the more likely someone will decide to shoot you.”

Every King story has an element of a different word and “Lisey’s Story” is no different. In this one, Boo’ya Moon’s fantastic location was another wealthy region that King felt easily translated both visually and for our new age.

Boo’ya Moon is where Scott used to escape as a child, to provide quick and literal healing from the wounds inflicted on him and his brother by their father, but also emotional catharsis. Scott takes Lisey there and shows her some of the special and specific areas, from the healing pool to Sweetheart Hill. Eventually, she must learn to return there on her own.

For the adaptation, these sets were built on “huge, huge sets in the Brooklyn Navy Yard,” says King, but Larraín “didn’t want to have an actor floating around on a green screen,” adds the EP and the director. . Instead, for both the forest decor and the pool, Larraín felt it was important to use real trees and rocks so that “whatever is near the actors is real.” The two places “are the places where the most painful elements can exist, and at the same time, it is a place of healing and beauty. This friction between these elements kind of gave us the tool to really figure out how to do it, ”he says.

“It’s a mysterious place: the sun never really sets on Sweetheart Hill, but it’s always about to set. The moon is always over the pool and it’s a place where it is always dark, ”King adds. “They all read the book. I didn’t ask them to do it because the scripts should be enough. But I went to a pre-production reunion in August, a few months before filming started, and immediately saw that they understood what Boo’ya Moon was supposed to be.

The adaptation also offers a more visual representation of how the characters “go” to Boo’ya Moon, using a water motif that King shares was Larraín’s idea. Even in the forest, Larraín notes, he wanted it to look like “they were under water but without water.” In order to flesh this out further, Larraín also wanted Lisey to have a swimming pool, so when the actual location they found for her house didn’t have one, production dug one out and “put plants around it.” ‘her to give him a Boo’ Ya feel like the moon, ‘King remembers. “It was great, but [the owner] said she didn’t want it when we were done so the pool is no longer there.

Larraín admits that it took him a while to fully understand, let alone believe, the fantastic elements of the series, however. “In that regard, I was a bit like Lisey,” he laughs. But he found an unexpected commonality between Lisey’s story and that of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whose story of grief and widowhood he recounted in the 2016 film “Jackie.”

“When we did ‘Jackie’ I learned that if you lead with a structure that is going to travel through her memory to different places and times in her life, what is very resonant is having a person. very ingrained – to understand where is she right now and where is she going. If you understand that, you can play, ”he explains.

To ensure that the audience for “Lisey’s Story” would be traveling with her new principal lady, Larraín worked with “wide angles but close to her so you could breathe and go through the process with her, but in at the same time you are able to experience the environment. “

King adds: “One of the things Pablo did that I thought was great was he had these clamshell boards marked Xs – X9, X10, X11 – and they were pretty much MOS close-ups of Julianne in the role of Lisey in various outfits. When you see it cut together, what you see is that it comes back every time, so you hit the base in the present. You go back and forth at different times, but you always know where you are. It’s the difference between what I do with words and with the eye of a very good director like Pablo.

King also credits Larraín with having a keen eye for the violence to be shown in a story that features the ‘brutality’ in Scott’s childhood, as well as the cutting behavior in Lisey Amanda’s (Joan Allen) sister today. ‘hui and in a gruesome scene when Scott fan Jim Dooley (Dane DeHaan) attacks Lisey in her own house.

“You have to tell the story. You have to be brave, and bravery always trumps political correctness or being too careful, but you never really see anything. It’s kind of like the shower scene in “Psycho” where your mind sees the knife going down but you never really see it. What you don’t want to do is let the effects, the sets, all the wonderful things that can be done with cinema today, wash over history, ”King says.

When King first published “Lisey’s Story” he mentioned anecdotally that his wife was not thrilled, which he notes because “it struck us a bit.” So many years later, he admits he didn’t show her the scripts while he was working on them, although she has seen cuts of the finished episodes now. But Larraín had Tabitha King in mind for much of the process.

“This show is kind of a testament to the relevance of Tabitha King in the life of Stephen King,” he says, telegraphed through “how relevant Lisey’s character is.” [is] in the work of Scott Landon. When he’s about to leave this planet, he needs her. This is also the subject of the series. And when I understood that [and understood] the meaning of someone who has been doing this for 50 years and who has shaped our culture, what it means to him, I wanted to honor him.

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