Updated May 20, 2020
In prolific author Stephen King’s novel The Stand, the accidental release of a world-ending plague decimates the majority of America’s population, leading to a post-apocalyptic tale of survival amid an otherworldly clash of good vs. evil. Released in 1978, the weighty book – the original version is 823 pages long, while the 1990 uncut edition is over 1,000 pages – explores this wasteland as a group of survivors struggle to find meaning in a new reality and end up choosing sides in a war of supernatural proportions.
Despite being only the fourth of King’s full-length books, The Stand has cemented itself over the past four decades as one of the author’s best. The expansive novel blends fantasy and horror in a twist-filled, quintessentially Stephen King way that has defined the works by the Master of Horror.
ABC’s four-episode 1994 The Stand miniseries was directed by Mick Garris and featured an all-star ’90s cast, with Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer, Rob Lowe, and even NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabar appearing in the project. It was well-received by viewers, bringing in an average of 19 million viewers per episode, and received two Primetime Emmy Awards, but after 26 years (and as with many early screen adaptations of King’s works), the series hasn’t really aged well.
For those who have been itching for a more detailed take on the novel, an updated version of The Stand is in the works. With a new ensemble cast, the addition of an up-and-coming director, and a new chapter to the story added by King himself, the author’s epic journey into his American apocalypse is about to get a much-needed makeover. Here’s everything we know about the 2020 remake of King’s The Stand.
Back in 2011 it was reported that Warner Bros. was developing a movie adaptation of the novel The Stand by King (pictured above in a cameo in the ABC miniseries). Names connected at various times with the project included director David Yates (Harry Potter franchise), Scott Cooper (Black Mass), and Justice League star Ben Affleck.
The Fault in Our Stars director Josh Boone was added to the mix three years later. Warner’s adaptation plans for the project evolved over time. First, there was the idea of doing one epic movie. Boone even described it as a “three-hour, R-rated version with an amazing A-list cast across the board” to Vulture in 2014.
“Every single one of those characters will be somebody you recognize and somebody you relate to,” Boone said. “And it’s gonna be awesome. I’m really excited. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever got to do in my entire life.”
The project expanded to a four-film series and then, a year later, slimmed back down to being just one movie. Showtime was even attached at one point, with an eight-episode limited series set to hit the cable network after the big-screen installment premiered in theaters.
CBS Films then gained control of the project, and the small screen became the 100-percent focus for the adaptation. CBS officially announced in January 2019 that 10-episodes of a new The Stand miniseries will air on streaming platform CBS All Access.
Boone is probably best known for directing The Fault in Our Stars, and while the adaptation of John Green’s YA romance novel is nowhere near the horror genre’s ballpark, the writer-director has been connected with multiple high-profile genre projects over the years. From an updated adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire to the long-delayed X-Men: New Mutants movie to the since-scrapped big-screen take on King’s novel Revival, Boone’s eclectic interests have come into focus, and the director is a self-proclaimed Stephen King superfan.
“I read The Stand under my bed when I was 12, and my Baptist parents burned it in our fireplace upon discovery,” Boone revealed during the CBS panel at the 2019 Television Critics Association winter press tour. “Incensed, I stole my Dad’s FedEx account number and mailed King a letter professing my love for his work. Several weeks later, I came home to find a box had arrived from Maine, and inside were several books, each inscribed with a beautiful note from god himself, who encouraged me in my writing and thanked me for being a fan. My parents, genuinely moved by King’s kindness and generosity, lifted the ban on his books that very day.”
Much like the original series that hit the air two-and-a-half decades ago, this new miniseries will be sporting one heck of a cast.
Alexander Skarsgård (pictured) plays the demonic leader of the evil survivors Randall Flagg – also known as the Dark Man – who was portrayed by Jamey Sheridan in the 1994 miniseries and by Matthew McConaughey in the 2017 big-screen adaptation of The Dark Tower.
The actor’s representation of the iconic character, Elmore told Vanity Fair, is softer than you’d expect which results in a fascinating performance: “Alex just plays it where you feel not only sympathy for this character, but you hopefully understand why it’s so easy for people to gravitate toward him. He’s just magnetic, he’s just absolutely fascinating to watch. He’s galvanizing as a leader.”
Showing up as Flagg’s right-hand-man, Lloyd Henreid is Nat Wolff (Paper Towns). He survived the virus but has been withering away in prison after committing a murderous robbery. Without Flagg’s intervention, he would’ve surely died in captivity.
CBS All Access dropped some big names as part of the show’s casting announcement during the 2019 Television Critics Association summer tour.
James Marsden will play Stu Redman, a good-natured Texas hero who was there at the very beginning of the outbreak; Amber Heard is Nadine Cross, a conflicted, selfish woman drawn toward the darkness; Henry Zaga is Nick Andros, a deaf man who’s tuned-in to the ways of human nature, but is not often understood in return; and Odessa Young takes on the role of Frannie Goldsmith, a young pregnant woman who is immune to the virus, but is fearful her unborn child won’t have the same fate.
“We do focus very much on that story of Fran and the baby,” showrunner Taylor Elmore revealed to Vanity Fair. “What are a modern woman’s motivations in this position, a 20-year-old kid who is pregnant when the world ends? She’s a formidable force in this story.”
Owen Teague plays Frannie’s odd neighbor, Harold Lauder. Some conflict will surely come from their relationship dynamic as Harold has held a long-standing crush on Fran. Does he want to protect her, or control her? Other characters include Watchmen‘s Jovan Adepo who plays up-and-coming musician, Larry Underwood, Brad William Henke as Tom Cullen, and Daniel Sunjata as Cobb.
In the fall of 2019, Stephen King paid a visit to ABC’s The View to spread the news that one of the show’s co-hosts, Academy Award–winner Whoopi Goldberg, will be playing Mother Abagail, the 108-year-old woman who ends up becoming the leader of the good survivors.
“She is very, very righteous and very good. But really flawed, I feel. I’ve been fighting with not making her the Magic Negro because she’s complicated” Goldberg told Vanity Fair, which released some first-look images of Goldberg and her costars, including Skarsgård as Randall Flagg.
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FIRST LOOK: Stephen King’s #TheStand is coming to life once again. Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden, and legions more, the upcoming limited series adaptation—which was in production just as COVID-19 hit—puts a new spin on the author’s legendary plague novel. “It’s about the fundamental questions of what society owes the individual and what we owe to each other,” says showrunner Benjamin Cavell. “Over the last however-many years, we have sort of taken for granted the structure of democracy. Now, so much of that is being ripped down to the studs. It’s interesting to see a story about people who are rebuilding it from the ground up.” See more at the link in bio.
Shadowhunters star Katherine McNamara plays evil survivor Julie Lawry. Lawry was pretty much a side character in Stephen King’s book. Shawnee Smith brought her to life in the 1994 mini-series, in a three-episode story arc that helped flesh out the role a bit.
How will McNamara’s Julie Lawry differ? The Arrow actress provided a little insight in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes: “We’re staying really true to the story, but they do make some really smart shifts. And Julie’s story is one of those shifts and it’s exciting just to play that out and to explore such a different character and a different world than what I’ve been doing for the last several years.”
Eion Bailey appears as Teddy Weizak – a role King played in the original program – and Hamish Linklater plays military disease specialist Dr. Ellis. Heather Graham takes on the role of one-percenter Rita Blakemoor, who wasn’t featured in the ’94 mini-series; instead, her personality traits were melded into that of evil Nadine Cross.
Greg Kinnear’s Glen Batemen is the widowed, grief-stricken sociology professor previously portrayed by Ray Walston. The character was the entry-point into the story for King’s own thoughts on what could rise from the world’s destruction.
“He’s able to say these things that are part of my idea of the way that human nature works. First there’s chaos, and then there’s reintegration,” King told Vanity Fair. “So it’s a question of, do things reintegrate in a way that’s good, or do they reintegrate in a way that’s Hitlerian and bad? It could go either way, so I wanted to write about that. I wanted to put those two forces in conflict.”
And then there’s Marilyn Manson. The shock-rocker told Revolver that he partnered with Shooter Jennings to contribute a cover of The Doors’ classic “The End” to the series. Oh, and he’ll be acting in the series, too. The character he’s playing has been kept under wraps, leading many to speculate who he’ll play. Since the role of Randall Flagg has been claimed, we have to assume Manson will be sliding into the pyromaniac role of Trashcan Man.
The name of the disease in The Stand is “Captain Trips,” and there are some notable differences between that virus and what the world is currently facing with COVID-19. For one, the virus in King’s apocalypse kills nearly the entire population of Earth. Secondly, it was man-made and weaponized. But while the coronavirus won’t be mentioned at all here, it’s difficult to ignore some of the similarities between the fictional world and what we’re currently dealing with in real life.
“It was very surreal, obviously, to start to realize that there was a creeping pandemic the way there was at the beginning of our show,” showrunner Benjamin Cavell told Vanity Fair.
There are two polarizing factions who eventually form in the story, and while we’ve not experienced anything supernatural (yet) during COVID-19, it’s worth noting the differing world-views and seething contempt with which these groups see each other – similar to how circumstances have been playing out in parts of America today.
“When you hear reports that 100,000 or 240,000 people are going to die, you’ve got to take notice, and it is going to be bad. It’s bad right now,” King added. “It’s brought the economy to a complete stop. In a lot of ways, I mean, you see the pictures of Times Square or London, and you say, ‘It really is like The Stand.’”
King lent his expertise to the new miniseries by writing a new chapter to help close out the on-screen story. CBS All Access EVP of Original Content Julie McNamara revealed in August that King’s contribution will stray from the original source material, giving fans a completely new ending to The Stand.
“For fans of the book who wondered what became of the survivors of The Stand, this episode will contain stories taking them beyond the book,” Julie McNamara said.
King told The New York Times that he’s had this new ending in his mind “for years,” and that “I always wanted to find out what happened to Stu and Frannie when they went back.”
King took to Twitter in August to update fans on the project: “The script for that final episode is written,” he said. “I was glad Josh Boone gave me the chance, because that final story has been in my mind for 30 years.”
The script for that final episode is written. I was glad Josh Boone gave me the chance, because that final story has been in my mind for 30 years.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) August 2, 2019
The production for The Stand kicked off in fall 2019 in Vancouver, Canada, surprising some Gastown residents with “highly visible graphic content.” Shooting was set to wrap in March, but they were forced to end production four days early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the CBS All Access executive session at the 2020 Television Critics Association winter tour, it was announced that The Stand is expected to premiere in the fourth quarter, but no exact date has been announced.