It’s rare for Hollywood to go very long between Stephen King adaptations. In fact, there hasn’t been a year without the premiere of a new King project or new season of an existing King show since 2008. In 2021, Constant Readers were treated to a double dose on the small screen – with Lisey’s Story on AppleTV+, and Chapelwaite on Epix – but 2022 is all about feature films, and the first set to arrive is Keith Thomas’ Firestarter.
Anticipation for the movie’s release this May is high – with Firestarter sporting a stellar cast including Zac Efron, Michael Greyeyes, Gloria Reuben, and Kurtwood Smith, and the source material being among the best books that Stephen King has written. The novel is definitely worth a read before the adaptation comes out, but if you don’t think you’ll have time for that in the coming weeks, the good news is that we’ve got you covered. I've put together this spoiler-free guide for you to get to know all of the main characters in the story, and, if it does its job, it will only serve to get you more excited for the upcoming film.
When Andy McGee was a college student, he didn’t have a lot of money, and after hearing about a drug trial on campus that needs volunteers, he sees it as an opportunity to make a quick buck. As it turns out, it’s a decision that changes his life forever. He is administered an experimental serum that has been dubbed Lot 6, and while most of Andy’s fellow participants experience horrible deaths as a result, he is special, and actually gains psychic gifts. Specifically, he has the power to “push” people – which is to say that he can temporarily control the minds of others. The character was played by David Keith in the 1984 original adaptation of Firestarter, and in the remake it’s Zac Efron who takes on the role.
I emphasize “most” in the section above when referring to the volunteers who die after being dosed with Lot 6, because Andy McGee isn’t alone in his incredible reaction to the drug. Vicky Tomlinson, whom Andy meets and flirts with at the drug trial, also finds herself with special mental powers: the gift of telepathy. Vicky and Andy get together as a couple shortly after the experiment, and wind up getting married. Shortly after they are wed, they give birth to a child – and only after doing so do they discover that psychic abilities are passed on through DNA. Sydney Lemmon is playing Vicky McGee in the new film, the torch being passed from Heather Locklear from the original (fun fact: it was Locklear’s first movie).
Ryan Kiera Armstrong will be looking to fill the shoes of Drew Barrymore in Firestarter, playing the titular character, a.k.a. Charlie McGee. She is the daughter of Andy and Vicky McGee – though her gift is quite a lot different than her parents’. Rather than controlling minds or broadcasting her thoughts, young Charlie has the ability to set fires with her mind. It’s an incredible power that has only gotten stronger as she has grown older, and it’s something over which she doesn’t have full control. She is targeted by a shadowy government agency known as The Shop that wishes to perform experiments on her and test her limits, but Andy and Vicky refuse to let their daughter be a guinea pig, and defend her at all costs.
The extreme danger that the McGees are in has a name, and it’s John Rainbird. Played by George C. Scott in the original and Michael Greyeyes in the remake, Rainbird is, in polite terms, an independent contractor that The Shop enlists in their pursuit of Charlie McGee. The agency is aware that he is a homicidal sociopath, but they think that he can be controlled. They are wrong. After learning about what Charlie can do, the villain develops an obsession with her, and while he operates under the guise of being a pawn for the shop, he has his own plans for the girl. He’s not only a violent and deadly threat, but an expert in deception.
The individual who thinks that they are pulling John Rainbird’s strings is Captain Hollister, who is the appointed head of The Shop. The upcoming Firestarter remake is changing the character a bit, as he is a white man in the book (played by Martin Sheen in the 1984 film), but will be portrayed by Gloria Reuben in the new movie. What’s definitely not changing is their ultimate goal: to harness the power of Charlie McGee and weaponized her. To quote Hollister from the 2022 Firestarter trailer, she sees Charlie as potentially being the world’s first superhero, and you can be sure that she doesn’t care in the slightest about what it means for the little girl’s life.
Dr. Joseph Wanless
Played by Freddie Jones in the 1984 movie and brought to life by Kurtwood Smith in the upcoming adaptation, Dr. Joseph Wanless is a key character from the start in Firestarter, as he is technically the individual who serves as the catalyst for the whole plot. After all, Wanless is the doctor who oversees the original Lot 6 experiment that gives Andy McGee and Vicky Tomlinson their powers. The ultimate difference between him and Captain Hollister, though, is that while Hollister is fascinated by Charlie McGee’s potential, Wanless is utterly terrified of it. The notion of such spectacular gifts being harnessed by a prepubescent girl fuels apocalyptic nightmares – believing that in enough time and with enough focus, she could have the capacity to crack the planet in half.
Firestarter will be debuting both in theaters and on Peacock (opens in new tab) on May 13. We’re going to keep our fingers crossed that it makes us update our ranking of the best Stephen King movies, and you can get hyped about every forthcoming adaptation based on the author’s work my heading 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.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Thank you for signing up to CinemaBlend. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.