The myriad adaptations of Stephen King’s work are as inescapable as his novels, some perhaps even more so.
While the 11/22/63 Hulu trailer doesn’t confirm whether or not James Franco and J.J. Abrams’ work on the miniseries will elevate it to the level of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining or The Shawshank Redemption, both men have expressed their unbridled joy to be a part of bringing one of Stephen’s works to the screen. In fact, James even wrote a perturbed editorial for Vice when he learned that J.J. had managed to scoop up the rights to the project before him.
While he remarked that Abrams “got to do everything,” he spent the majority of that column praising King’s novel as one of his greatest. By the end, he even conceded that J.J. would be the “perfect shepherd for [Stephen] at his best.”
“11/22/63 does everything King is good at and more. His time-travel premise allows him to go back to one of his best eras for subject matter: the 1950s… He could just set his story in the past, as he has done many times before, but the time-travel aspect allows us to go on the ride with [Stephen] the writer as he set-designs the past… In the books that simply take place in the past, King can give us a plethora of details: the duck’s-ass haircuts, the slang, the old cars like Sunbeams and Chryslers, the dated racism—but he can’t underline them with the characters’ reactions as he does with his time traveler in 11/22/63.”
Soon after publishing the editorial, Abrams reached out to Franco to offer him the lead role in the series as Jake Epping, a high school English teacher who travels back in time to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing John F. Kennedy. While the eight-part drama for Hulu stays relatively faithful to King’s original, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that certain characters have been expanded to help tell the story. A high-level of passion from both James and J.J. should, however, assuage fears that the adaptation will fall prey to a cringe-worthy retelling of 11/22/63.
“They’ve been remarkable and incredibly collaborative, and as excited about this as we were. This is a book that I had loved long before Stephen reached out and asked if I’d be interested in getting involved to produce. We did go out to a number of places and had some offers, but the enthusiasm [at Hulu] was clear and it matched ours.”
Outside of staying true to King’s book, the team behind the Hulu miniseries was also confronted with another challenge in authenticity. With the ubiquity of cameras, JFK’s short presidency was still perhaps the best-documented up until that time. Because of that, the 11/22/63 team had to be scrupulous in creating an atmosphere that would feel genuine to an audience that — no matter what their generation — had a strong visual concept of the day Kennedy was shot, noted executive producer Bridget Carpenter.
“The era of Kennedy was probably, up until that time, one of the most photographed presidencies. You don’t have to know much about Kennedy to know those images. They’re emblazoned upon us. It seemed like a no-brainer to be in Dallas and be at the place that possibly the most analyzed piece of film was taken.”
Is your interest piqued by seeing James Franco in the J.J. Abrams-directed trailer? You can catch the miniseries of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 on Hulu February 15.
[Image via Larry Busacca/Getty Images]