The Biggest Challenge In Adapting Stephen King Books, According To IT And 'Salem's Lot Writer

Pennywise the clown smiling It: Chapter 2

Stephen King is the king of horror on the page, but Gary Dauberman is ruling the horror world on screen. He's a longtime writer for The Conjuring Universe, and he's making his directorial debut with Annabelle Comes Home, which he also wrote. Dauberman was one of the writers adapting Uncle Stevie's novel IT for the big screen in 2017, and that film was a massive hit. He's back as the lone credited screenwriter for IT: Chapter 2, which comes out this September. Dauberman was also recently announced to be writing the script for the new screen adaptation of King's book 'Salem's Lot.

CinemaBlend's own Nick Venable talked to Gary Dauberman about his many projects, including his new Swamp Thing series, and of course asked him about adapting Stephen King's books. What are the biggest challenges in that daunting process? Here's Dauberman response:

There's a lot of challenging things, but it really is an editing process of know you're not going to get all the fucking great scenes in there. You know, they always say you have to kill your darlings. But it's like, [they're] not. They are my darlings, but I'm such a fan of the books and the scenes, and so it's a challenge to sort of decide, 'Okay, well I really like this, but I love that. Is there a way to get the two ideas in there and maybe put it somewhere else?' It's one of those things where I tried to preserve as much as I can of the book, in the spirit of the book, and why it works.

Stephen King's IT is quite a tome, but it is one book. Gary Dauberman, director Andres Muschietti, and company decided to split that into two films for the respective youth and adult timelines. That might've been a relatively easy decision, but there were harder editing calls to make. The first film took out one of Uncle Stevie's most controversial scenes from his book. However, the second film is including a different controversial scene that was cut from the previous TV miniseries.

When it comes to 'Salem's Lot, that's a book that Stephen King previously called one of his favorites. But just because King did something his way doesn't mean it translates well to the screen for viewers. Plus, the guy is notoriously iffy on book endings, and that can make a screenwriter's job interesting. Gary Dauberman continued on the challenges of adapting King's tomes:

I mean, there's books out there that have great concepts, but they're not executed so well. So you're like, 'Well, I like the concept, but I'll kind of just run with it.' Or it's got a good first half, but the second half is not great, so you can depart from it. But these are not those, right? They work so well. There's a reason they've been around as long as they have been. So you're just working very hard to preserve as much as you can of it and give it the respect it deserves.

There's a lot of pressure on Gary Dauberman to do justice to Stephen King's novels, and that seems to be his first priority. He's a fan himself. King is usually pretty candid about when he likes an adaptation (Pet Sematary) and when he doesn't (The Shining) so he may just go ahead and mention if he's unhappy with what Dauberman does with his work next.

Being able to be a part of the team that brings these things to the big screen has been a remarkable experience and a whole hell of a lot of fun. So at the end of the day, man, we're working on IT or 'Salem's Lot, and I just don't want to... [Pauses.] I just hope Stephen King likes it. [Laughs.] At the end of the day, if he's okay with it, then I'm okay with it. That's kind of what I'm working towards. I've talked about keeping my head down and doing the work, and to not try to think about the pressure of when I read this for the first time, or all the fans and all that stuff. You just try to go, 'Okay, this is a fucking great book. How can I make this a great movie?'

That's all you can do, really, then hope for the best.

IT: Chapter 2 opens in theaters September 6, 2019. The first trailer recently came out, with Pennywise creeping on the now adult Bev (Jessica Chastain). Annabelle Comes Home, both written and directed by Gary Dauberman, opens June 26. Dauberman's Swamp Thing premiered May 31 on DC Universe. Stay tuned for updates on 'Salem's Lot as it moves forward. Keep up with all of the movies already scheduled to open in 2019 with our handy release guide.

Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.