The Stephen King Book That Hasn't Been Adapted But Would Make 'A Great Movie,' According To King Himself

While it's true that more than 90 Stephen King film and television adaptations have been produced and released since the mid-1970s, the wild additional truth is that not every King book has been given a live-action treatment. Some projects are announced but are never able to escape development hell, and other works don't even get that far. One novel that fits into this category is 1995's Rose Madder – and the author seems to think that's a shame, as he thinks it could be source material for a "great movie."

With the latest Stephen King adaptation, Mr. Harrigan's Phone, having hit Netflix this past week, the author was interviewed by Tudum (opens in new tab) and asked about books of his that haven't been optioned. It was the aforementioned Rose Madder that he namedropped, and added that he sees it as a novel that could have potential if brought to the big screen. Said King,

I don’t think anybody ever optioned Rose Madder, which I thought would’ve made a great movie.

Stephen King is a tad mistaken in his memory here, as HBO optioned the book back in 1996, and decades later Assaf Bernstein tried to develop a movie version, but there is a bigger point here: Rose Madder has not yet been made into a movie, and the author thinks that Hollywood is missing out.

The book centers on Rosie Daniels, who, after 14 years of being trapped in an abusive relationship, decides to flee from her police officer husband. She travels to the Midwest in the hopes of starting a new life for herself, and she does... but in very unexpected ways. When she pawns her wedding ring, she trades it for a painting of a woman in a rose madder gown, and she ends up discovering that it functions as a magical portal.

Admittedly, Stephen King hasn't always been the most kind to Rose Madder as part of his bibliography. He writes about the novel in his must-read non-fiction book On Writing (opens in new tab) (which was released in 2000, a.k.a. five years later), and he deems it a plot-driven work that doesn't totally work:

I have written plotted novels, but the results, in books like Insomnia and Rose Madder, have not been particularly inspiring. These are (much as I hate to admit it) stiff, trying-too-hard novels.

Of course, it's absolutely possible that Stephen King's perspective on Rose Madder has shifted in the 22 years since On Writing was published. Upon further reflection, perhaps his criticisms has softened.

His quote makes it sound like he thinks that a Rose Madder movie will never happen, but there is plenty of history to suggest that he shouldn't give up hope. Twenty-seven years is admittedly a lot of time between a books publication and adaptation, but sometimes things end up working out. For example, Mike Flanagan made Gerald's Game 25 years after the eponymous novel hit store shelves, and now that Netflix original is regarded as one of the best Stephen King movies of all time.

We'll have to wait and see what the future possibly has in store for Rose Madder on the big screen. In the meantime, you can keep track of all the projects that are in active development via our Upcoming Stephen King Movies and TV guide, and look back at the long history of adaptations via my weekly Adapting Stephen King column.

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.