What Does Stephen King Really Think About The Movie Versions Of His Books? Honest Thoughts From The Author Himself

The King of horror (sorry) rightfully has a lot to say about his own work, especially when it’s in the hands of filmmakers. Stephen King has created some of the most iconic novels of our time, including It, Carrie, Pet Sematary, and The Green Mile But with over wonderful 60 novels and novellas under his belt (and hundreds of short stories), Stephen King has also passed some of his creative wisdom onto the world of film. So if you haven’t read one of his books, there’s a chance you’ve seen a film based on it.

There’s a never-ending debate on how to properly adapt a novel into a film, a debate that will never have a solid answer. In lieu of solid answers, we’ve gathered some films based on King’s work. These movies changed major aspects of their original sources. What did the writer of those original sources have to say about that? Read more on Stephen King’s thoughts below.

He Wanted ‘Pet Sematary’ To Be Hopeful

Photo: Paramount Pictures

The 2019 version of Pet Sematary took more than a few liberties in its adaptation of King’s work, including a fairly major plot point. The filmmakers didn’t just make a major change to the beginning of the film, but to the finale, as well. 

Pet Sematary ends with a bleak moment where the Creed family is slain and brought back by the force of the Micmac burial ground. They then descend upon the young Gage Creed who’s locked in a car before the film cuts to credits. That’s not what King says he wanted at the onset of this new adaptation; he initially wanted the film to end with something optimistic. He explained:

I talked about an ending where [toddler] Gage is walking up the middle of the road. We see dawn, and we hear a truck coming, and think, “Oh my God, he’s gonna get greased in the road. That’s how this is gonna end!” Then at the last second, this woman pulls him out of the road and rescues him, and says, “Where’s your mommy and daddy?” And that’s how you end the thing.

He Thinks The New Ending To ‘The Mist’ Was ‘Terrific’

Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Dimension Films

While it’s not rare that King gives praise to directors who adapt his work, it’s striking when he admits that an adaptation actually manages to take his story and make it better. After the release of The Mist in 2007, King was open about his love of the way director Frank Darabont changed his ending. 

In the original story, King’s protagonists find themselves questioning what to do after leaving the grocery store that was standing between them and a world full of strange monsters. Darabont’s version of events has the film’s protagonist, David Drayton, shoot his family before realizing that the military are on the situation and things are turning around. King praised its nihilism:

When Frank was interested in The Mist, one of the things that he insisted on was that it would have some kind of an ending, which the story doesn’t have – it just sort of peters off into nothing, where these people are stuck in the mist, and they’re out of gas, and the monsters are around, and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. When Frank said that he wanted to do the ending that he was going to do, I was totally down with that. I thought that was terrific. And it was so anti-Hollywood – anti-everything, really! It was nihilistic. I liked that. So I said you go ahead and do it.

He Didn’t Really Like ‘The Shining’ And Found Stanley Kubrick To Be An ‘Insular Man’

Photo: Warner Bros

If there’s one thing that everyone knows about Stephen King, it’s that he absolutely does not like Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining. It would not be exaggerating to say that King hates what Kubrick did to one of his most personal stories. King has spoken out about how Jack Nicholson was the wrong guy to play Jack Torrance, and he also feels like the climax of The Shining is indicative of Kubrick’s version of events as a whole.

While speaking with IndieWire, King noted that at the end of the book the hotel bursts into flames, and at the end of the movie, everything is frozen, which reflects the icy nature of Kubrick’s adaptation and his entire approach to filmmaking. King said:

I think he did some terrific things but, boy, he was a really insular man. In the sense that when you met him, and when you talked to him, he was able to interact in a perfectly normal way but you never felt like he was all the way there. He was inside himself.

He Appreciates The Love The Characters Have For Each Other In ‘It: Chapter Two’

Photo: Warner Bros.

By the end of Stephen King’s It, the Losers Club has been through hell and back. After making their way down through the sewers where Pennywise dwells, they destroy his heart and leave Derry for the last time, slowly forgetting one another.

In It Chapter Two, the Losers still face down Pennywise and destroy his heart, but prior to the climax, Richie admits that he’s in love with Eddie and then Eddie is taken out by the demonic arachnid version of the evil clown they’ve been fighting for decades. King says that he appreciated the fact that the characters still have love for one another in the finale, even if some of the events changed. 

He Wrote The Finale For ‘The Stand’ Miniseries To Follow Up On What Became Of His Characters In The Book

Photo: ABC

Stephen King has been rewriting The Stand since the 1970s. After the release of his initial version of the book that ended with two of the main characters, Stu and Frannie, leaving Boulder for Maine, an unabridged version of the book was published in 1991 with a moody coda that showed the demonic villain Randall Flagg waking up on a primitive island and beginning to work his cult leader mojo all over again.

A miniseries version of the book was released in 1994 with a script penned by King. King ended with the members of the Boulder Free Zone picking up the pieces after returning from Las Vegas and getting things back to normal. A new miniseries is scheduled for distribution by CBS and King announced that he wrote a new ending for this version that takes the story beyond what we can find in the book to show how the world goes on after it’s ripped apart.

He Rejected The Initial Pitch For ‘Doctor Sleep’

Photo: Warner Bros.

It has to be nerve-wracking to bring an adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining that’s steeped in lore referencing Stanley Kubrick’s version of events, but that’s exactly what happened when director Mike Flanagan pitched a new ending for Doctor Sleep. Flanagan is such a King fan that he says he wouldn’t have made the film if the author didn’t sign off on his changes.

Initially, Flanagan pitched adapting Doctor Sleep as is, but bringing back the Overlook Hotel as it was in Kubrick’s film. In the book version of Doctor Sleep, the finale takes place on the grounds of the destroyed Overlook, but Flanagan thought he needed to make the two films and King’s book act in conversation with one another. King said that he wasn’t interested in the new ending

Flanagan says that he didn’t let King’s distaste for the new ending get him down. He told The Daily Beast:

I pitched one very specific scene that takes place in the hotel toward the end of the film, and when I mentioned that as the reason I wanted to go back, he thought it over and came back and said, “OK, do that.” I saw it as this gift, to me as a fan, and from me to him as well – that yes, we’re going to bring back this Kubrickian Overlook world, and I wanted to celebrate that film. But what if, in doing so, at the same time, you get elements of that ending of that novel, The Shining, that Kubrick jettisoned? Then you start to get the ending you never did, and that King was denied.

He Liked The Different Ending Of ‘The Dead Zone’ For A Surprising Reason

Photo: Paramount Pictures

The Dead Zone was one of King’s first hits that showed he could be understated in his horrific storytelling. When it came time to adapt the film, the producers asked if they could make some changes, specifically about a child that’s used as a human shield in the final moments.

While speaking with Deadline, King opened up about the adaptation process as well as his positive outlook towards producers and screenwriters. Furthermore, he noted that the version of events in his book were great for reading, but that they wouldn’t work for a theatrical film that was meant to be a crowd-pleaser, or at the very least leave audiences happy when the credits roll. He explained:

I was a young writer at the time and this is a case of them showing some deference to the writer when they didn’t have to, contractually, because they did that. A lot of movie people are not sharks. They’re not fiends. And they’re not stupid and they’re not untalented. And they’ll come to a writer and say, give us some input on this. And I remember them saying, you know, at the end of the novel the little boy died, and they said, jeez, what would you think if we let the little boy live at the end? I said, if you didn’t, I think they’d want to [end] us all at every theater in America. So they made that change and they had my complete approval to do that.

He Knew Audiences Would ‘Be Crying’ When They Watched ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

Photo: Columbia Pictures

In a look back at The Shawshank Redemption for the Academy Awards, Stephen King wrote about how Frank Darabont brought an emotional heaviness to the film that was lacking in his short story, although Darabont didn’t realize what he’d accomplished at the time. 

King wrote that Darabont was more worried about how Tim Robbins’s makeup looked than anything else. King told him that the audience wouldn’t care about the makeup because they’d be crying. He continued:

Frank is mostly right, but that time I was. He’s gone on to make other great films, two from my work, I’m happy to say, but Shawshank is its own thing – an American icon – and I’m delighted to have been a part of it.

He Thinks ‘Stand by Me’ Really Captures The Story

Photo: Columbia Pictures

One of the most important stories by Stephen King is The Body, his novella about four friends in Maine who go searching for a rumored cadaver in the woods. The story ends with the protagonist, Gordy, returning home where he bumps into his old bully. 

Rob Reiner’s version doesn’t change that much of the story, but rather than bring Gordy back to Castle Rock, he flashes forward to the present, where he is played by Richard Dreyfuss as a family man and author. Reiner told the Chicago Tribune that the finale of the film brought King to tears:

We showed the film to Stephen King alone in a screening room and when it was over he was pretty broken up. He excused himself for about 15 minutes. When he came back he said, ‘That’s the best film ever made out of anything I’ve written, which isn’t saying much. But you’ve really captured my story. It is autobiographical. All that was made up was the device of the hunt for the body.

He Thinks The Ending Of ‘Carrie’ Works…But The Ending Is Dated

Photo: United Artists

It’s safe to say that Stephen King wouldn’t have the career he has without the success of Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Carrie. Rather than stick with the ending of the book, which is a dry report about Carrie White’s demise, De Palma hits the audience with one final scare.   

King said that even though the film feels dated, the final moments still work. While speaking with the Fort Myers Florida WeeklyKing said when he first saw the film in theaters the audience “squealed like little girls” when Carrie’s hand sprung up out of the ground and grabbed Sue.

He Liked The Brutal Ending Of ‘Misery’

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Rob Reiner is one of those directors who understands Stephen King. Whenever he adapts King, he sticks close to the original novel and only makes changes when it helps the narrative along. With Misery, Reiner conflated a few characters and actually took out Annie Wilkes onscreen rather than letting her perish in the barn. 

This change seems to have delighted King to no end. James Caan spoke to Entertainment Weekly about screening the film with the author and hearing him shout at the screen during the bloody finale:

We had the screening in Westwood, and he was sitting in the back with Rob. He really never came to any of his movies. He didn’t like his movies. He got so into it that… when she comes in at the end, with the tray, it’s quiet… and you hear, “Watch out. She’s got a gun!” And it was Stephen.

He Changed The Ending Of ‘Cell’ Due To Some Complaints He Got

Photo: Saban Films

CellStephen King’s story about cellphone zombies – had a lengthy trip to the cinema. It was initially in the hands of Eli Roth, but after disagreements with the production company, Roth exited the film. Along the way, Stephen King took over screenwriting duties and made a few changes. 

The most notable update came at the finale of the film. In King’s book, the action ends with a cliffhanger, something that fans weren’t happy about. When the film hit theaters, it had a much darker ending that was less of a cliffhanger than it was a total bummer.

So why the change? King told fans at a book signing for Under the Dome in 2009 that he “changed everything” because he received “some complaints.”