John Carpenter’s Firestarter Score Has Some Fun Stephen King Movie History

John Carpenter is a significant part of Stephen King adaptation history, as 1983’s Christine remains one of the best King movies of all time – but had things gone differently, it would have been a different novel from the beloved author that the director brought to the big screen. The filmmaker was initially going to make a big screen version of the 1980 book Firestarter, but he ran into two issues: the version he was concocting would have cost $20 million to make, and he was coming off of The Thing, which was a big box office flop. That project fell apart (leaving Mark L. Lester to develop the version released in 1984), but it was shortly thereafter that Carpenter got his hands on a manuscript of Christine.

In that sense, his involvement with the brand new version of Firestarter is him coming full circle. While he’s not directing the movie, he has composed the score along with his son, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel A. Davies. It’s a cool Easter egg for Stephen King fans – so I naturally felt compelled to ask director Keith Thomas about John Carpenter’s history with the source material when I interviewed him late last month during the film’s virtual press day.

As captured in the video at the top of this article, I asked Thomas if he talked with John Carpenter at all about the original version of Firestarter that he was going to make back in the early 1980s. The director explained that he briefly considered asking if there was any music Carpenter had planned for the project before it got scrapped… but it never actually ended up being a part of the conversations that he had with the legendary filmmaker. Said Thomas,

You know, it was an interesting... when the conversation began and when it seemed clear that Carpenter would come on, I had spoken a lot with my director of photography, Kareem about, 'Should we bring up the Firestarter thing?' Because I was wondering, honestly, is it possible that he had score that he had planned? But once we got into conversation, it never came up. We never brought it up.

Because it’s not something Keith Thomas ever brought up, it’s unclear if John Carpenter did use any score ideas from his first go-round with the source material – but either way what he has created is fantastic. You can listen to the end titles track from the new Firestarter, which has been released by Back Lot Music on YouTube.

Continuing, Keith Thomas discussed what it was like working with John Carpenter, who has spent most of his career as a composer only making scores for films he himself has directed (the notable exceptions being Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, and David Gordon Green’s Halloween). The Firestarter director commended Carpenter for his dedication, and added that Carpenter’s different relationship with the movie had an impact on the way he worked:

John's all about getting down to business. He's a straight shooter, like 'Let's do this.' And he was excited enough about diving in and doing something that he felt that he hasn't really done before in that almost all the scores he's done are either for his movies or related to his movies. So this was something new and different, and it was kind of a breath of fresh air in a way in that John was like, 'I'm divorced from this, I'm just doing it.'

Unsurprisingly, Keith Thomas is a big fan of John Carpenter’s, and he makes it sound like the scoring sessions for Firestarter were basically a surreal experience. He added,

The experience itself was a dream come true, really, because if you had told me 10 years ago that I'd be on Zoom calls with John and Cody and Daniel, watching them watch my movie and then having John turn around in his chair and look at me and be like, 'Keith, what do you, what do you think?' What am I... I felt like I was gonna catch fire just having those conversations.

Fans will be able to listen to John Carpenter’s full Firestarter soundtrack when the movie premieres this weekend, set to both hit theaters and stream exclusively on Peacock. The film stars Zac Efron, Sydney Lemmon, Gloria Reuben, Michael Greyeyes, Kurtwood Smith, and Ryan Kiera Armstrong (who thinks she’d do quite well in a rematch with Pennywise The Clown from IT). You can also pre-order the soundtrack now and keep track of all Stephen King adaptations in development with our Upcoming Stephen King Movies and TV guide.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.