Though it’s starting to look to anyone with any sense like Warner Bros. should let their dream of putting together a film adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Stand” go, they seem to still be soldiering on under not just the hope that they’ll soon get a The Stand movie into production, but that they’ll get one into production under the watch of an A-list director. So far they’ve had David Yates on board to helm the film, they’ve had Ben Affleck named as the man in charge, and most recently they’ve had Scott Cooper working to bring the project to life, but one by one they’ve all dropped off of the film and left Warners twisting in the wind, searching for yet another filmmaker who has what it takes to tackle such a huge undertaking.
So what are the problems that keep scaring all of the directors that Warners recruits away? If you listen to Cooper, it could be the sheer size and scope of King’s lengthy story—which is packed full of characters and subplots—and the fact that it would be next to impossible to bring everything in the source material together in a singular film that actually did it any justice. The budget on a The Stand movie would necessarily be huge, and there are reports going around that Warners is so confused about how to handle the financials that they don’t even know how many movies they plan on splitting the book into. Given all of the confusion, why don’t they just let this one go for now and focus their efforts on something a little less daunting?
Because the studios are desperate for projects with name value, and you can’t get much more name value than the recognition that comes from one of the most famous novelist on the planet’s most famous novels. With the right people involved, The Stand could be a huge moneymaker, especially in a film culture where apocalypse flicks are currently all the rage, and especially if the story were split into at least two movies, which could theoretically double the income the property generates if the first one is received well. That strategy requires some risk though, so much so that the plan seems to be to mitigate said risk by bringing in a filmmaker with a proven track record.
Heck, of course the plan is to split this one into at least two films. That’s what literally everyone who has a high-profile literary adaptation in production right now is doing. So, debates as to the particulars of budget, rating, and number of films aside, the true problem the studio has had with getting this one together seems to be that they just haven’t found the right filmmaker to make their financial risk look like a calculated risk rather than a risky risk. If they were truly desperate to get this thing made they could have pushed it through under the watch of any number of journeymen hacks at this point, confident in the knowledge that, with a big enough advertising budget and a big enough movie star in one of the lead roles, the name The Stand would be enough to get a return on their (likely conservative) investment. They seem to be intent on doing things right though, by finding a high-profile and highly acclaimed filmmaker who can get the most out of the story as it exists on the page, and that’s not something we should hold against them, even if things didn’t work out with Yates, and even if Affleck and Cooper probably weren’t good fits for the material in the first place.
Seeing as the studio has been so stubborn about not letting this one go, of course there are already rumors out there about who they’re looking at to take over for the recently departed Cooper, and though their directors version of musical chairs is starting to look a little bit farcical at this point, it would be disingenuous to say that their Plan D isn’t one that would be exciting to see come to fruition. According to a report from Badass Digest, they’re now looking at Captain Phillips and The Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass to be the next hot director who was at one point supposed to direct The Stand.
Given Greengrass’ talent for staging large scale action, and his penchant for presenting epic-scale stories with documentary-style realism, it would probably be pretty awesome to see him bring a world where 99% of the population has suddenly died to life. And seeing as we’ve never seen him tackle anything supernatural over the course of his career, it would also be interesting to see how he handled the more biblical type stuff that starts to creep into this contagion story as it develops. Actually, if they invested enough in the budget so that it could be done right, and they split the story into two movies so that it had some room to breathe, a Paul Greengrass version of The Stand would definitely be something that would get film fans all over the planet excited to make a trip to the cinema.
Whether the studio is ever going to get a solid plan put together regarding the particulars of this production and whether Greengrass would even be interested in taking it on as a job is impossible to predict at this point though. And even though the word on the street is that Greengrass is Warners’ first pick to get this thing made—or at least their first pick after the previous three—you know that he’s not the only director they’re currently trying to contact. Though one could take the cynical route and say that The Stand will eventually just become a Brett Ratner production, and will probably try to cram everything into one movie with half the budget necessary to do things right, there are still plenty of names out there who would be appropriate picks to do the thing right if the studio sticks to their guns and refuses to compromise. Here are four of the most obvious picks that immediately spring to mind, for example:
If you’re looking for someone to adapt a gigantic literary work with a ton of different characters and decades worth of fan expectations, there isn’t anyone with more experience tackling those challenges than Peter Jackson. He adapted the “Lord of the Rings” books, he super-sized “The Hobbit” into three movie adaptations, and now he doesn’t have much on his Hobbit post-production docket other than the vague promise that he’s eventually going to direct the Adventures of Tin-Tin sequel, if that even ends up being made in the first place. When you’re dealing with a story that exists on the scope of The Stand, there are few directors who a studio would feel more comfortable handing the reigns of a huge budget over to than Jackson, so you know he’s a name who’s been bandied about in their board room.
Recently Rupert Wyatt has been the next great hope for studios looking for a director to attach to big blockbuster projects. After he took on the impossible task of making a Planet of the Apes prequel watchable and knocked it out of the park so thoroughly that he actually made it good, he’s become one of the most in-demand talents in the game. So far all of that demand has mostly just translated into his being briefly associated with big movies and then dropped off of them though. Seeing as Warner Bros. seems to be intent on bagging some sort of directing white whale to handle The Stand, getting Wyatt on board could be the big success that washes the bad taste of all their previous false starts out of everyone’s mouths.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men was one of the best movies of the last decade, and it took place is a dystopian future not too far off from the one that King’s story details, so you know that he’d be a good pick for handling the tone of this potential project. Plus, now that he’s made a huge financial success with Gravity, suddenly he’s looking like the sort of money-making director who a studio would be pretty stoked to hand a big franchise over to. Seeing as he’s already done a Harry Potter movie, there’s a precedent for him taking this kind of work in place as well. Chances are Warner Bros. has already left about a hundred messages on his voice mail. The mystery is whether or not he’s called them back.
Now that Francis Lawrence’s Hunger Games sequel came out and proved to be a bigger hit with critics than Gary Ross’ original film, he’s got to be seen as a director who’s going to be receiving newfound interest from studios. Sure, he still has to make the next two Hunger Games installments before he would be able to move onto doing any other adaptations of literary dystopias, but those movies are already filming, and it’s hard telling how long it will actually be before the Warners people get all of their ducks in a row and are ready to shoot on The Stand anyway. Will King fans finally see this one sometime in the next five years? The next decade? At this point it’s starting to look like all bets are off. Warner Bros. better figure something out soon. Hopefully for them their Greengrass dreams will come true, because there are only so many more times they can go back to the drawing board before they will have knocked on the doors of every credible director in Hollywood. And you know what happens after that: enter the Ratner.