David Morse Recalls ‘Unhealthiness’ Making His First Stephen King Adaptation, Explains Why The Green Mile Was An Opposite Experience

In the world of Stephen King adaptations, David Morse is a veteran. In 1994 he starred in the TV miniseries The Langoliers, and years later he followed up that part with key roles in the films The Green Mile and Hearts In Atlantis. It’s a body of work to be proud of, as he does terrific work in all three titles – but apparently they weren’t all great experiences for the actor, who has revealed there was “little bit of unhealthiness” on the set in the making of his first King project.

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to interview David Morse and dig into all of his Stephen King-related work, the actor currently promoting the 4K release of The Green Mile, and while reflecting on The Langoliers he expressed some negative opinions about the production of the miniseries. I asked Morse how he reflected on the project, which is celebrating its 28th anniversary this year, and inquired if there was a link between the experience and the Oscar-nominated prison drama – given that both are intimate stories primarily set in one location.

He recognized the connection, but explained that the making of The Langoliers and The Green Mile were dissimilar otherwise. Said Morse,

Yeah – two very different experiences, though, I have to say. That experience up there in Maine… that story is supposed to be, it's totally silent, we're eight seconds behind time, somehow we've gotten [into] this, and the Langoliers are coming. We don't know what they are, but they're coming and people can hear them. And I'm afraid there was a little bit of unhealthiness on that set. It didn't... It wasn't a great experience, although I'm always happy to be acting, and I'm always happy to be with other actors, but it was not a great experience.

Directed by Tom Holland, The Langoliers was almost entirely shot at the small Bangor International Airport, filming scenes inside the terminal and a segmented airplane set up on a hydraulic gimbal. As summarized by David Morse, the story follows a small group of airplane passengers who fly through a quantum rip and find themselves stuck in time waiting for monsters called The Langoliers to devour the past. Morse plays a pilot named Brian Engle who is flying back east after learning about the death of his ex-wife, and the ensemble also includes Dean Stockwell, Patricia Wittig, Mark Lindsay Chapman, and Bronson Pinchot.

David Morse was vague about the described negative atmosphere on the set of The Langoliers, and instead opted to accentuate the positive – namely his time working with director Frank Darabont and the amazing cast of The Green Mile. The 1999 movie was primarily filmed in a soundstage where the titular death row was constructed, and Morse admitted that it wasn’t the breeziest filmmaking experience, but he looks back on the time as being with a group of people “at the top of their game.” He continued,

It was totally the opposite with The Green Mile, where even though there was a tension on the set – because we knew that this was behind schedule and it's gonna be a long process – there was a real bonding that happened between all of us, and it helps because everybody is so fantastic. They're great human beings. They're really fantastic actors. Everybody's at the top of their game, and we're in this completely beautiful story. So it was like I said: two different things.

The Green Mile is certainly a film with a great deal more prestige than The Langoliers, what with it being Frank Darabont’s follow-up to the beloved The Shawshank Redemption and co-starring the likes of Tom Hanks, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper, Patricia Clarkson, Bonnie Hunt, and Michael Clarke Duncan. It’s a movie that contains spectacular power in both its beauty and its darkness – exploring the human predisposition to snuff out the brightest lights among us and the best examples of our nature – and over two decades after its release it remains one of the greatest Stephen King movies ever made.

Now audiences everywhere have the opportunity to watch the brilliant 1999 film in the highest quality possible outside the big screen, as the brand new 4K edition of The Green Mile is available in stores everywhere (with an exclusive SteelBook on sale at BestBuy). If you’re hungry for more Stephen King-related cinema history, check out my Adapting Stephen King column, and discover all of the projects in the works based on the author’s books with our Upcoming Stephen King Movies And TV guide.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

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.