Stephen King has great love for ‘Lisey’s Story’

Rick's Reviews

Julianne Moore (left) and Clive Owen star in the Apple TV+ limited series “Lisey’s Story.” (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

(KGET) — Stephen King has spent his literary career scaring the living daylights out of people. He’s been so good and prolific in the horror genre it would be logical to think that past works such as “The Shining” or “Carrie” would be the writer’s favorite.

None of his tales of the macabre tops the list of King’s most loved work. It seems behind the creative soul that enjoys teasing people with things that go bump in the night beats the heart of a romantic.

“‘Lisey’s Story’ means a lot to me because it’s the one that I love best,” King says. “It’s a story about love and marriage and the creative impulse.  And it’s also got a kick-ass villain in it, which I liked a lot.

“So my idea is be all the way in as much as possible, or be all the way out.  And there’ve been a lot of projects and my idea is, go ahead, step back, and write books and maybe something will come along that I really love, a passion project, and this was that.  This was a passion project.”

“Lisey’s Story,” written by King in 2006, has been adapted into an eight-episode series for the streaming service of Apple TV+. The first two episodes will be available starting June 4 with a new episode to be released each following Friday.

The book and limited series is a deeply personal thriller that follows Lisey Landon (Julianne Moore) two years after the death of her husband, novelist Scott Landon (Clive Owen). A series of unsettling events forces Lisey to face memories of her marriage to Scott that she has blocked out of her mind.

One reason King has such a fondness for “Lisey’s Story” is that it was inspired by events in his own life. When King came home from the hospital in 1999 after being hit by a van, he discovered his wife had redesigned his studio. It was a glimpse into what life would look like after his death.

“I had double pneumonia and I came very close to stepping out.  When I came back home Tabby said to me, ‘Don’t go in your office, you won’t like it.’  And that’s because it wasn’t done yet,” King says. “And I said, ‘Well, okay, I’m not going to go in my office.’  And then the first thing I did was to go into my office.

“It was totally empty.  And I was still feeling very rocky and I was on a lot of different medications, and I thought, this is what this room would look like after I die.  And ‘Lisey’s Story’ came from that.”

Numerous King books have been adapted for television and feature films. Some adaptations have been easy while others took more work. Getting the story from book form to the screen fell to director Pablo Larraín but he had some very competent help as every episode of the series was written by King.

It wasn’t until Larraín met with King that he was able to get a complete understanding of how to take the story from page to screen. He needed to step into the shoes of a man the director considers to be one of the most famous writers in history. Once he understood the way King dives into a world of fantasy where things are unnatural, the director was able to take on the task.

The challenge with “Lisey’s Story” was how to deal with the numerous levels of remembrance that unfold in the story. Larraín’s approach was to show how Lisey had to rebuild herself through recovered memories after the death of her husband.

“At the same time, being able to be together in this sort of combination of sensibilities coming from Stephen’s world, which is like a romantic, suspense thriller and of course, a fantasy element, it was very beautiful,” Larraín says. “I think in the process we found the why, which is to understand that every relationship, every couple has a very particular world and we wanted to portray that.”

Then it came down to the actors – particularly Moore and Owen – to bring the characters to life.

Moore’s approach was to look at the relationships in the story. She knew that was an element that would be relatable to every member of the audience.

Owen based his performance on how personal this story was to King.

“Obviously, I could see it was deeply personal and it was sort of drawn from himself and his relationship, but I think the thing that I was kind of blown away by, the whole thing was really just the amount of levels that the piece works on,” Owen says. “There’s this incredibly intimate relationship.  It’s very, very personal, that’s sort of a complete love story.  There’s this really scary thriller element.

“So, really, it’s just that sort of juggling of all those layers.  It’s something very, very intimate and something really epic at the same time.”

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