When one compares a book and its adaptation, there are always particular details that are lost – regardless of how faithful the latter may be to the former. For example, when prose is written in the first person, the depths of a main character’s perspective and internal insight are perpetually challenging to directly translate into the language of cinema (voice-over narration can only do so much before it gets viewed as a crutch).
In the case of writer/director John Lee Hancock’s Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, the new movie based on the novella of the same name by Stephen King, this was something that was recognized by star Jaeden Martell, and it led him to have a very close connection with the source material.
Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is now available to stream for those with a Netflix subscription, and when I recently interviewed Martell about his work on the film, I specifically asked about his relationship with Stephen King’s story (which is featured in the 2020 novella omnibus If It Bleeds). He told me that he had recently found the copy of the book he had during production on the coming-of-age/horror movie, and the first notation he made to himself in the margins says everything about how he saw the prose as he was getting into character:
Jaeden Martell (who has significant Stephen King movie history) plays the mentioned Craig in Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, and the movie begins chronicling his relationship with the eponymous Mr. Harrigan (Donald Sutherland). As a kid, Craig is hired by his wealthy neighbor to read aloud classic literature, and over time the two of them form a close bond. When the very first iPhone is released, the young protagonist decides to purchase one for Mr. Harrigan, having just won $10,000 from a lottery scratcher that was given to him as a gift by his employer.
It’s a thoughtful gesture of gratitude, but the device becomes a source of horror as Craig buries it with his friend after he dies, and it ends up giving him a connection to the surprisingly vengeful and spiteful Mr. Harrigan in the afterlife.
Stephen King writes the novella in the first person from Craig’s point of view, and Jaeden Martell read the text and saw an opportunity to get deeper into the mind of his character than what was presented in John Lee Hancock’s screenplay. He continued,
You can learn about more films, miniseries, and shows based on King’s work that are on the way with our Upcoming Stephen King Movies and TV guide. My Adapting Stephen King column provides weekly dives into the long history of King adaptations, and you can also check out my ranking of the best Stephen King movies of all time.
NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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