When a filmmaker really clicks with Stephen King’s material, it’s not terribly uncommon for them to go back to that well a second or even a third time. Lewis Teague made both Cujo and Cat’s Eye; George A. Romero teamed up with the author on Creepshow and The Dark Half; and most recently Mike Flanagan double-dipped with Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand that though writer/producer Benjamin Cavell only just recently went through the experience of bringing The Stand into live-action, he has already put thought into another adaptation that he would love to make. Unfortunately, there’s a pretty big snag involved.
With all nine episodes of The Stand now streaming on Paramount+, I had the pleasure of doing a deep dive into the miniseries with Cavell earlier this month (stay tuned for more on that front), and at the very end of our conversation the subject turned to the future. We discussed not only the possibility of seeing more Alexander Skarsgard’s Randall Flagg in other projects, but also his long held dream of making a new version of the 1982 novel The Running Man (which Stephen King published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman). The problem? He’s not the only one who has had that thought. Said the filmmaker,
My sort of fantasy had been to do an adaptation of The Running Man just because I love the Schwarzenegger movie, but to me that's so kind of removed, it's another thing from that [Richard] Bachman book. They're now doing it, or at least supposedly doing it, as a feature that Edgar Wright is directing, which I'm sure, you know.
The project to which Benjamin Cavell is referring was announced back in mid-February. It was revealed that Baby Driver writer/director Edgar Wright is now attached to make a new feature film adaptation of The Running Man that will hone much closer to the original source material than the 1987 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (which took a whole lot of liberties with the book). It’s still in early stages, but even still the project’s active development is a roadblock that would prevent Cavell from getting to make his own take.
In the Stephen King novel, Ben Richards is a protagonist in a dystopian future who has been driven to desperation after losing his job – needing money so that he can buy medicine for his sick and dying child. With no other option, he makes the decision to volunteer for the Games Network: an arm of the government that creates and airs propaganda-filled reality competitions. The most popular show is The Running Man, which sees a contestant sent out into the world and essentially hunted for sport, with the idea being that the longer the person can survive, the more money they can win. Richards becomes the latest contender on the program, but while evading capture and death uncovers secrets about the workings of society that he aims to expose.
For what it’s worth, Benjamin Cavell’s version of The Running Man would be very different than Edgar Wright’s, and it starts with one word: medium. While Wright is working on a feature film adaptation, Cavell comes from the world of television (his past credits including Justified and Homeland), and his vision for the material is on the small screen – which certainly is fitting when you consider the subject matter. He continued,
I had this fantasy of doing it as a limited series or even an ongoing series. I just thought that would be such a way to take advantage of what's so special about that book. And speaking of prescient, I mean, the ways in which that book sort of anticipated all these things about reality TV culture. And not just that, but also the kind of the weird sort of 'Christians thrown to lions' version of how the fans of that show are in the book.
Edgar Wright’s version of The Running Man clearly has a head start/the advantage at this point in time, but one must never forget that Hollywood is a land of ever-changing tides. There are countless Stephen King adaptations that have gone into development only to go absolutely nowhere, and while that’s most definitely not the future that I’m hoping to see for Wright’s project (I’m hoping for the exact opposite), one never really knows how things may work out.
For now, Edgar Wright’s version is moving forward (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’s Michael Bacall is co-writing the script), and we can all enjoy Benjamin Cavell’s The Stand miniseries streaming on Paramount+. To learn about all of the other Stephen King adaptations that are currently in the works – including the imminent Lisey’s Story on Apple TV+ and Chapelwaite on Epix – be sure to check out our Upcoming Stephen King Movies And TV guide.