As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to. This week, Print to Projector presents:
The Eyes of the Dragon
by Steven King
“Once, in a kingdom called Delain, there was a King with two sons.”
An evil wizard named Flagg seeks to subvert the Kingdom of Delain by placing a monarch in power that will listen to his every whim. With King Roland’s two sons – Peter and Thomas – Flagg sees an enemy to fear and a child to manipulate into the tool of destruction he needs on the throne. Murdering the king and framing Peter, the wizard is well on his way to tearing the kingdom apart.
Hidden between “It” and “Misery” is a fantasy novel written by Stephen King that never quite seems to get the same attention – especially considering that both of those books have been adapted already. King is known by some as a horror writer, but others who have dug into his corpus realize that he writes far more than just scary stories. In particular, the massive following of the “Dark Tower” series are more than aware of King’s talents in the fantasy realm, and movie fans have a shining example in The Shawshank Redemption of a story that has more to do with the human spirit than it does things that go bump in the night.
With “The Eyes of the Dragon,” King utilizes his two main talents in telling a story of a faraway land that never existed. The first talent is shaping fantastic characters. The second is writing an inordinate amount of words.
That second skill comes in handy when writing fantasy because it allows King to describe in tapestry-tight detail the world in which dragons are slayed on the night of a young prince’s birth, a world in which a despot plants poison in the royal family’s minds and wine glasses, a world in which something as simple as a napkin can be the key to vanquishing evil.
The story is really about two young boys and the different paths they take. Peter excels at everything, earning the praise of his father, The King. Thomas, although more like his father, cannot seem to garner the same attention.
But Flagg is the true catalyst. He’s a man who has striven for nearly a century to gain complete power over the realm, and with these two boys, he sees his best chance.
What follows is a story about murder, about betrayal, and about a boy spying on his father from behind the glass eyes of the great, mounted dragon head in the main hall.
There are really no potential problems in bringing this story to the screen. It’s long, yes, but it’s a story that can retain its richness in a two and a half hour run time. Any supernatural effects could easily be handled by Hollywood magic. Some of the character depth will have to be sacrificed, though, in order to bring the 140 or so chapters onto the screen.
Seeing the world the way a dragon must see the world: as if everything was dried out and ready to burn.
For my money, there is still only one man to turn to when dealing with King’s brand of storytelling, and that’s Frank Darabont. The man seems plugged into exactly how King thinks. The fantasy genre might be a bit outside his wheelhouse, but Darabont proved with Shawshank that he understands how to tell an intimate story on a large scale, spanning a large amount of time. In a way, that’s really what an adaptation of “Eyes of the Dragon” would be – a closely knit, family story that happens to take place in the fantasy realm.
Who gets to peer behind the giant glass eyes:
Robbie Coltrane as King Roland: This would be a bit of a departure from the sweet role he plays in the Harry Potter films, but he’s clearly got a bit of bastard in him ready to call forth for the craft. King Roland is a lovable man who is blinded by his power. Although he’s never cared for women (read into that what you will), he clearly cares for his wife and he cares for his family in his own way. Still, he’s a grotesque shell of a man who spends most of his nights drunk and pissing in the fire. It’s a rounded part, and Coltrane could easily tackle it.
Kelly MacDonald as Queen Sasha: There is also a dichotomy of traits in Sasha – a shy girl who Roland chooses to marry because she doesn’t frighten him, and a girl who becomes a strong, focused-minded force who eventually proves a threat to Flagg. Not only would MacDonald (who got her start in Trainspotting and then destroyed audiences in No Country for Old Men 11 years later) be well-suited for the role, it would be great to hear her speak in her native accent for a change.
Jake Hathaway as Young Thomas: Thomas is around the age of twelve when he becomes King, and Jake Hathaway may be a bit younger than that, but he proved sufficiently creepy in the British horror film The Children. The role would require more than that, as Thomas is a lot like his father (a sweet fool who is led astray), but Hathaway would be great for the slow change that Flagg brings to that character.
Freddie Highmore as Older Thomas: Here is where King purists will probably part ways because Thomas is supposed to be a bit pudgy, and Highmore is downright scrawny. My solution – go for the acting talent first and ask him to put on the pounds. Thomas ages to around seventeen by the climax of the book, and Highmore is that perfect combination of age and acting ability that’s hard to find without going to an unknown.
Charlie Hunnam as Peter: It may seem strange casting a man of Hunnam’s age as Peter, but he hits a certain look and talent that can span the ages needed exactly. He can age down enough to still be believable in his late teens and then appear as a force to be reckoned with as the older version of Peter in his 20s. Peter is a brave, kind soul – which Hunnam displayed well in Nicholas Nickleby – but he’s also a bad ass – as seen with Hunnam’s current role on “Sons of Anarchy.”
Andy Serkis as Flagg: Unsettling, charismatic, charming, witty, fiendish, violent, insane – Serkis would make possibly the greatest Flagg I can think of. If you’re looking for it, stare into Serkis’s eyes as he goes from fragile and needy to murderous in a split-second during the river scene in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Flagg is buried there, and Serkis would be the best choice to bring him back out.
Who Owns It:
There was a time when WAMC Entertainment owned the rights and was planning on funding a $45 million animated movie, but those rights have since lapsed. Theoretically, they are up for grabs.
A fantastic epic that could become a gritty revenge tale, this book has all of the right elements to make it to the big screen with very few problems. It would have to shed some of its magnifying glass-level detail, but over all, the story could easily remain in tact – and there’s a lot there to work with. Fantasy films can still do big business, and a dark tale of wizardry, dragons that can’t be trained, and a family torn apart by evil is always going to fulfill that ache for soap operatic drama. Who doesn’t love a good sword and sorcerer story?