'The Stand' Might Be the Most Terrifyingly Timely Stephen King Adaptation Ever Made

Brady Langmann, Adrienne Westenfeld
·5 mins read

From Esquire

Aside from Love in the Time of Corona, we haven't seen too much out there—at least in terms of movies or TV—reckoning with our pandemic-stricken world. Ready or not, that's about to change. One of our first entries in this brave new genre? It's a show that finished filming before this whole thing started: CBS All Access's adaptation of one of Stephen King's most celebrated novels, The Stand.

Now, if you're even remotely familiar with the book, it almost goes without saying that it might be the most timely King adaptation we’ll ever have. It’s about a plague—the flu, masks, etc. Recently, even King said on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,"People will come along and say through their little masks, 'I feel like I'm living in a Stephen King story.' My response is, 'I'm sorry for that.'"

On Sunday night, CBS dropped the first footage we've seen of The Stand's newest adaptation, featuring a bunch of confused people walking around empty streets. (And not enough masks!) So, if you can handle living in another pandemic-stricken world, read on. Here’s everything we know about The Stand adaptation so far, including what it’ll change about the novel, who will star in the show, when it will debut, and more.

What’s the novel about?

In 1978, Stephen King published The Stand, a post-apocalyptic novel about a global pandemic (in the form of a weaponized strain of influenza) that wipes out 99 percent of the entire world population. The scant few American survivors, united in various groups, form new societies, including the Free Zone, a confederation based out of Boulder, Colorado where survivors can live free, lawful lives. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, other survivors are drawn under the spell of Randall Flagg, a charismatic leader with supernatural abilities who organizes a fascist dictatorship around his visions. Tension escalates between the two groups, resulting in espionage, nuclear explosions, and the ultimate reestablishment of society.

Who will star in the series?

James Marsden and Alexander Skarsgaard head up the principal cast, with Marsden playing Stuart Redman, a man immune to the virus who becomes a government guinea pig and later a leader in the Free Zone, while Skarsgard will bring his dark magnetism to the role of Randall Flagg. Whoopi Goldberg appears as Mother Abigail, a 108-year-old survivor who becomes a spiritual leader to the people of the Free Zone. Odessa Young will play Frannie Goldsmith, a young and pregnant woman who fears that her child will not be immune to the virus. Owen Teague appears as Harold Lauder, Frannie’s shy and awkward neighbor, who claims to want to protect her, but may in fact wish to control her.

Watchmen’s Jovan Adepo stars as Larry Underwood, a musician who scores his first hit after the pandemic ravages life as we know it. Heather Graham will play a socialite struggling to survive in a wasted world, while Henry Zaga plays a deaf man with extraordinary sensitivity to nature. Amber Heard appears as Nadine Cross, a troubled woman who falls in with Flagg, while Greg Kinnear will portray Glen Bateman, a widowed sociology professor who provides insight into how groups should reintegrate in the wake of destruction.

Has The Stand been adapted before?

In the 1980s, a film adaptation of The Stand lived in development hell, with George A. Romero attached to direct and King struggling to condense the doorstopper novel into a tight screenplay. Just when a mutually agreeable screenplay materialized, which would tell the story in approximately three hours, Warner Brothers backed out of the project. A few years later, in 1994, ABC adapted The Stand into a popular television miniseries starring Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, and Jamey Sheridan, which clocked in at eight one-hour episodes. Throughout the 2010s, Warner Bros. and King fought to give The Stand the big-screen treatment—with David Yates, Steve Klotes, and Josh Boone all having their hands in the mix at some point—but the project was shelved in 2016.

How will the miniseries change the novel and differ from previous adaptations?

The miniseries will shuffle the linear chronology of King’s story, which the 1994 miniseries followed to the letter, with the series opening after the pandemic has already ravaged society. The first episode, directed by Josh Boone (who directed The Fault in Our Stars), begins with survivors in masks and protective gear clearing dead bodies from a neighborhood in Boulder, Colorado. As we meet the major players in the story, we flash back to their lives pre-pandemic, hopscotching between life before and after.

When will The Stand debut, and has COVID-19 affected the production of the show?

Production wrapped four days early in March when the spread of COVID-19 began to shut down North America, so The Stand’s filming has been finished. CBS All Access will release the series on December 17, 2020.

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