What's the right length for an adaptation of The Stand, Stephen King's epic story about a flu that wipes out most of humanity and the struggle that follows? For a long time Warner Bros thought the answer was 'around three hours,' and that's the movie version they were going to make. The TV miniseries version clocks in at six hours, once all the commercials are cut out. Many of us in the fan world thought two movies, clocking in at around four or five hours, could do the deed. But all of that thinking is out the window, and The Stand has ballooned up to be not just a movie, not just a pair of movies, but a whole quartet of films.
Yes, The Stand will be four movies. Let's assume they're two hours a piece (but I bet they're longer) - that's eight solid hours of The Stand.
Josh Boone, director of The Fault in Our Stars, is the guy who got Warner Bros to agree to this. He came on and looked at some of the previous drafts (which I wrote about here) that were way more blockbustery in nature. But he didn't want to do an action The Stand, so he drew it back into something more character based. But to do that he had to find a new structure. Talking on Kevin Smith's podcast Boone said:
I told the story non-linear and that was the way I was able to compress that book and get everything into that script. You open with Mother Abigail dying and sending the guys off, and then you jump back in time…
The budget was at 87 million bucks, which Boone realizes was very high for a horror drama, but it turns out Warner Bros wanted it to cost more. They want the movie to play overseas, and character dramas don't play overseas. They wanted set pieces, big action set pieces - exactly what Boone didn't want to make. But his reluctance to action up his three hour movie made Warner Bros rethink everything:
They came back and said “would you do it as multiple films?” and I said “fuck yes!” I loved my script, and I was willing to drop it in an instant because you’re able to do an even truer version that way. So I think we are going to do like four movies. I can’t tell you anything about how we’re going to do them, or what’s going to be in which movie. I’ll just say we are going to do four movies, and we’re going to do THE STAND at the highest level you can do it at, with a cast that’s going to blow people’s minds. We’ve already been talking to lots of people, and have people on board in certain roles that people don’t know about. We’re looking to go into production next year, maybe in the spring.
He keeps saying he has A-list actors lined up, so I'm excited to find out who he means. I imagine he'll shoot these four films back to back, Middle-Earth style, and spend a year or so on main production.
Comparing this to Middle-Earth is no accident - this could be the same kind of bold stroke that made The Lord of the Rings films so successful. Or it could be the next ridiculous level in splitting a book in half - split those halves in half! It's a risk, but not as big a risk as it might seem. Unless Boone blows it with the first film - really just makes unwatchable garbage - they'll be able to open the next three. Producing all of them at once should help lower some costs (although the Salkind rule makes sure the actors will get paid for four films). And the reality is that the studios have marketing down to such a science that they likely feel very confident in being able to open these films. Again, unless Boone just shits the bed the four films should at least break even, and will likely live as catalogue titles forever.
This could all change - god knows the path to The Stand has been long and complex and full of setbacks. But this is the closest we've ever been, and unless there's a regime change at franchise-hungry Warner Bros, I'm betting this happens.