Unsurprisingly, the actor who has appeared in the most Stephen King film and television projects to date is… Stephen King. From 1982 to the present, he has appeared in 15 different live-action takes on his writings, from Creepshow, to Pet Sematary, to IT: Chapter Two. He, however, is far from the only individual who has played parts in multiple adaptations and originals spurred from his imagination – and there are some actors who have done it quite a lot.
Reviewing the casts for all of the Stephen King movies and television projects we’ve seen going back to Brian De Palma’s Carrie (and not including cameos like the author’s), we’ve cultivated this select list of actors, including Misery's Kathy Bates, who have been in more King projects than just about anybody. To kick things off, let’s start with the top dog:
Matt Frewer (The Stand, Quicksilver Highway, Bag Of Bones, Desperation, Riding The Bullet)
While he has some actors nipping at his heels, Matt Frewer currently stands as the performer with the most Stephen King titles on his filmography – and that’s because he has starred in nearly all of the adaptations made by writer/director Mick Garris. Together they’ve only made one big screen King feature, 2004’s Riding The Bullet, but Frewer has worked with Garris on the TV takes of Bag Of Bones, Desperation, The Stand, and Quicksilver Highway (Note: Frewer is only in the half of Quicksilver Highway based on Clive Barker's "The Body Politic," as opposed to the half based on King's "Chattery Teeth," but we're going to count it anyway).
Henry Thomas (Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Desperation, Gerald's Game, Doctor Sleep)
Writer/director Mike Flanagan has made two Stephen King adaptations to date, and he’s brought Henry Thomas along for the ride both times – casting him in key antagonist roles in Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep. Prior to those films, however, he played a small part in the TV movie version of Desperation, and he has a co-starring role in the Nightmares & Dreamscapes episode “The End Of The Whole Mess.”
Steven Weber (The Shining, The Outer Limits, Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Desperation)
Steven Weber’s professional relationship with the work of Stephen King began in a tricky place, as he was cast as Jack Torrance in the 1997 miniseries adaptation of The Shining – but it started a successful run for the actor. One of his only two directing credits in his career comes from when he helmed the “Revelations Of 'Becka Paulson” episode of 1997’s The Outer Limits – in which he has a key supporting part – and he plays leads in both the TV movie Desperation and the "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band" episode of Nightmares & Dreamscapes (as a bonus, he also does a spectacular job as the narrator of the IT audiobook).
Jeffrey DeMunn (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Storm Of The Century, The Mist)
Jeffrey DeMunn isn’t from Maine, as he grew up in Buffalo, New York, but it’s easy to imagine that his authentic accent is what keeps getting him roles in Stephen King movies. He’s been in all three of director Frank Darabont’s adaptations of the author's books – The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist – and he also has a supporting role in the excellent original TV miniseries Storm Of The Century, which premiered in 1999.
Cynthia Garris (Sleepwalkers, The Stand, The Shining, Riding The Bullet)
Like Matt Frewer, Cynthia Garris has also appeared in a number of Mick Garris’ Stephen King projects (she’s been married to the filmmaker since 1982), though her count is presently one behind her co-star's. She also has supporting parts in Riding The Bullet and The Stand, but she also plays the 217 Woman in the miniseries version of The Shining, and has a small part in the 1992 movie Sleepwalkers (which is based on an original King screenplay).
Eric Keenleyside (The Dead Zone, Dreamcatcher, Kingdom Hospital, 1922)
In terms of Stephen King adaptations, Eric Keenleyside is probably best known for his exceptionally ugly death in Lawrence Kasdan’s Dreamcatcher (where he dies on the toilet after pooping an alien), but he has a much more extensive history than that. He has been in three other King projects to date, as he preceded the 2004 film with a one-off performance in an episode of the 2002 Dead Zone television series, and he followed it with a part in the finale of Kingdom Hospital. More recently he played a supporting role in Zak Hilditch’s 1922.
Leon Rippy (Firestarter, Maximum Overdrive, 11.22.63, Under The Dome)
Leon Rippey’s first role in a Stephen King movie is super brief, as he plays an agent working for The Shop who gets blinded while trying to kidnap Drew Barrymore’s Charlie McGee in Mark L. Lester's Firestarter – but it proved to be the start of a cool trend. He is notably the last human character killed in King’s Maximum Overdrive, and more recently he had key supporting parts in the miniseries 11.22.63 and the television show Under The Dome.
Owen Teague (Cell, IT, IT: Chapter Two, The Stand)
There’s a debate to be had whether or not Owen Teague’s turn as Patrick Hockstetter in Andy Muschietti’s IT and IT: Chapter Two counts as one adaptation or two, but even beyond those blockbusters he has made a significant stamp in the world of Stephen King adaptations. He played private school student Jordan in Tod Williams’ Cell, and most recently portrayed Harold Lauder in the 2020 limited series version of The Stand.
Kathy Bates (Misery, Dolores Claiborne, The Stand)
Kathy Bates is the only actor to date who has won an Academy Award playing a Stephen King character (namely Annie Wilkes in Rob Reiner’s Misery), so it makes all kinds of sense that she would dip her toe back into those waters. She stars as the titular character in Taylor Hackford’s underappreciated Dolores Claiborne, and has an uncredited role as rebellious radio DJ Rae Flowers in the 1994 miniseries adaptation of The Stand.
John Cusack (Stand By Me, 1408, Cell)
John Cusack has experienced some real highs and lows in the world of Stephen King stories. Tod Williams’ Cell, in which he plays protagonist Clay Riddell, is a total mess, but he does some great work as paranormal investigator/author Mike Enslin in Mikael Håfström’s 1408, and has his extremely memorable role in one of the greatest King adaptations of all time: Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me.
William Sadler (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist)
William Sadler has a special place on this list, as while he currently has three Stephen King movies on his filmography, he has a brand new one on the way. Like Jeffrey DeMunn, he’s starred in all of the Frank Darabont adaptations, playing three very different parts in The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist, but coming up in 2022 he will be a part of the ensemble featured in Gary Dauberman’s upcoming Salem’s Lot movie.
Bruce Davison (Tales From The Darkside, Apt Pupil, Kingdom Hospital)
It was back in 1984 that Bruce Davison first brought to life a Stephen King character, playing the world-changing protagonist of “Word Processor Of The Gods” when the short story was adapted as an episode of Tales From The Darkside. Years later he got the part playing Brad Renfro’s father in Bryan Singer’s Apt Pupil, and in 2004 he starred as the principal villain in King’s short lived TV series Kingdom Hospital.
Thomas Jane (Dreamcatcher, The Mist, 1922)
Like John Cusack, Thomas Jane’s track record in Stephen King movies would be fantastic if it weren’t for one extremely bad entry. In Jane’s case the regrettable title is Lawrence Kasdan’s Dreamcatcher, in which he plays one of the leads, but he’s excellent in both Frank Darabont’s The Mist and Zak Hilditch’s 1922, which are two of the better 21st century King adaptations.
Samantha Mathis (Salem's Lot, Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Under The Dome)
While Samantha Mathis has appeared in three Stephen King TV projects to date, only one of them has seen her play a character that actually originated from the author’s writings. In 2004 she played female lead Susan Norton in the miniseries remake of Salem’s Lot – but Dr. Alice Calvert, her part in Season 1 of Under The Dome, and Karen Evans, her role in “The Fifth Quarter” episode of Nightmares & Dreamscapes, were invented for the respective adaptations.
Ed Harris (Creepshow, Needful Things, The Stand)
Of all the actors on this list, Ed Harris’ history goes back the longest. After all, it was back in 1982 that he had a key part in the “Father’s Day” segment of George A. Romero’s Creepshow, and that was only the fourth Stephen King project produced in Hollywood. A little over a decade later he starred as hero Sheriff Alan Pangborn in Fraser C. Heston’s Needful Things, and after that he played the uncredited role of General Starkey in the 1994’s The Stand.
Other actors with four Stephen King credits: Anthony Ulc, Peter MacNeill
Other actors with three Stephen King credits: Ari Cohen, Bill Croft, Brian Libby, Campbell Lane, Chosen Jacobs, Conor Price, David Hughes, David Morse, Deborah Allen, Eric Woolfe, Frances Sternagen, Frank C. Turner, Janet Porter, Jason Davis, Joan Gregson, Joel Freckelston, Kandyse McClure, Laura Warner, Lee J. Campbell, Leslie Carlson, Michael Daingerfield, Michael O’Neill, Miguel Ferrer, Molly Atkinson, Nicholas Hamilton, Paul Butler, Stephen Bogaert, Terence Kelly, Tom Skerritt, William B. Davis
For a journey through the long history of Stephen King adaptations, check out my Adapting Stephen King column, and to see all of the projects that are on the horizon head on over to our Upcoming Stephen King Movies and TV guide.
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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