Fans of Stephen King books, movie buffs who enjoy late-night comedies, and TV-watchers who enjoyed James Franco’s performance in the recent JJ Abrams-Stephen King effort 11.22.63 may remember that back in mid-March, Entertainment Weekly reported Franco would be narrating his first Stephen King-penned audiobook ever: King’s 1979 classic paranormal thriller The Dead Zone.
Well, the recording was finally released today, and James Franco sat down once again with Entertainment Weekly to talk about his experience preparing for the reading, plus the positively eerie ties between the nearly 40-year-old Stephen King book and today’s political scene.
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“He’s one of the most pleasurable authors to read,” Franco said in reference to Stephen King.
“He guides you along so well, and, even though we’re from different generations, all his influences and the things that he references and the subjects he’s interested in seem to be the things that I’m interested in.”
With those words, Franco taps into one of the marks of a great author: that his or her writing frequently makes the reader feel that the author is in the reader’s own head. Especially writers like Stephen King who are popular in mainstream culture have to be able to identify and flesh out ideas and concepts that interest an extremely wide range of people. Stephen King has proven to be a master at doing just that, which is why he was one of the most popular authors of the 20th century and is currently making his everlasting mark on the 21st.
Franco also notes that the plot of the book itself is very gripping, even without the personal associations. And don’t let the fact that Stephen King wrote the book fool you; it’s more than just supernatural horror.
“There’s a great romance in The Dead Zone that really go me,” Franco reflected. “Reading those sections, I found myself getting really emotional.”
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“The other time that I found that I was really struck by what I was reading was the sections involving this villainous character, Gregory Stillson, who is this up-and-coming politician,” Franco added.
And speaking of Stillson, Franco commented how shocked he was at the uncannily close resemblance between his fictional arc and today’s political situation.
“You’ll find that the parallels to now are hauntingly close,” James said. “It basically shows that Stephen King is a psychic.”
“Considering that this was written 30 years ago, it makes it even spookier, the closeness of the parallels.”
Franco didn’t come right out and say it, but anyone who is familiar with The Dead Zone, either the book or the iconic 1983 movie adaptation, will know he is talking about Donald Trump.
Sites like Mashable have stated that Stephen King predicted Donald Trump’s rise with the story, and even King himself explicitly compares Trump to Stillson in an essay he published in The Guardian earlier this month.
The similarity is so close, mentions the above-mentioned Mashable piece, that many of the quotes about Stillson from The Dead Zone could easily be about Trump if the names were changed.
“He is laughed at when he runs for mayor in his small New England town, but he wins. He is laughed at when he runs for the House of Representatives (part of his platform is a promise to rocket America’s trash into outer space), but he wins again,” reads one.
“The man is a clown. He goes charging around the speaking platform, like that at every rally […] He’s a clown, so what? […] So people want a giggle or two. Even more, they want to thumb their noses at a political establishment that doesn’t seem able to solve anything,” reads another.
James Franco wasn’t too far off when he said the parallels are hauntingly on-point.
What with The Dead Zone being such a deep and resonant Stephen King novel, it is surprising it has not been read as an audiobook in the past.
It has now been immortalized in MP3 format, though, and James Franco seems to have loved every glorious minute of it.
[Featured Image by Sasha Haagensen/Getty Images for Fast Company]