'The Stand' producers reveal the reasons behind that major change to Stephen King's novel
Heather Graham and Jovan Adepo in the second episode of The Stand. (Photo: Robert Falconer / CBS / CBS Interactive)
Two episodes on The Stand, and it's clear that the creators of the CBS All Access series of events based on Stephen King's post-apocalyptic virus thriller aren't afraid to put their own stamp on the beloved source material. The series premiere, which debuted on the streaming service on December 17th, changed the chronology of the book in particular and brought one of the supporting characters - Harold Lauder (Owen Teague) - into a central role.
The second hour, "Pocket Savior", which has just been released, has made an even more significant new version and radically changed one of the most famous sequences from King's book. In the novel, musician Larry Underwood and his temporary lover Rita Blakemoore escape a plague-ridden Manhattan on a terrible one-way street through the Lincoln Tunnel, scrambling over abandoned cars and bodies bloated by Captain Trips. On screen, however, Larry (Jovan Adepo) decides to flee New York through the sewers and then over the George Washington Bridge to avoid the kind of carnage his fellow bookmate experienced.
It's a change that will likely make King fans scratch their heads, as the Lincoln Tunnel scene is among the top five scariest scenes he wrote during his long career as America's most popular boogeyman. Not only that, it has hit big screen before: Mick Garris' 1994 ABC adaptation of The Stand found creative ways to keep the Lincoln Tunnel sequence intact.
"In the book, that scene takes place in pitch dark," Garris told Yahoo Entertainment last year. “My challenge was, 'How can I record this and convey darkness while the audience can still see it?'” He met that challenge by using car lights to temporarily illuminate the interior of the Pittsburgh Tunnel in Pittsburgh - the one for the Lincoln stood tunnel - along with annoying camera angles and special lenses. "We took a much more cinematic approach and did a lot of wide angles, wide angle lenses and other things that weren't the norm for network television."
Jovan Adepo and Heather Graham in the CBS All Access series The Stand. (Photo: CBS / CBS Interactive)
Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment, Benjamin Cavell and Taylor Elmore - two of the executive producers of the 2020 version of The Stand - confirm that the Lincoln Tunnel remained Larry's exit strategy in early versions of their adaptation. During the development process, the logistics of executing this sequence, as King wrote it, proved too daunting. More importantly, the creative team made a decision about the overall tone of the show that required the Lincoln Tunnel to be closed as an escape route. “We really wanted to tell this story well,” explains Cavell. "The challenge we set ourselves was to stay true to the soul of this iconic book but anchor it in a 2020 reality and let people make logical, character-based decisions."
With this in mind, the writers decided that sending Larry and Rita (Heather Graham) into a dark, corpse-filled tunnel was the opposite of a logical decision. "Just put yourself in a chaotic New York, where it is difficult to get out of the city and the paths are blocked - why in God's name would you go into the Lincoln Tunnel to get out!" Says Cavell with a laugh. "There are bridges outside of New York: don't go into the dark knowing there are no lights!"
At the same time, they wanted to keep King's imagination of an underground journey out of a post-apocalyptic hell landscape, which made the city's sewer system the only logical backup option. (At least logical for Larry: After a close encounter with some noisy sewer rats, Rita decides to drive streets to the George Washington Bridge.) “That was the solution we found to correspond to the solid reality of the story we were me tried to say but didn't stray from the book so much that you didn't know what we were adjusting, ”notes Cavell.
Adepo's Larry Underwood prepares to escape New York via the sewer system in the second episode of The Stand. (Photo: Robert Falconer / CBS / CBS Interactive, Inc.)
Elmore also points out that some of the narrative beats from the original Lincoln Tunnel scene find their way into Larry's experience in the sewers. In both versions, at a crucial point in the journey, he loses his main light source - a bic lighter in the book and an iPhone in the show - and also faces the horror of his intense isolation. These submerged rats make further fear as well as a hallucinatory moment in which Larry sees his mother's corpse floating past him and a rat climbs out of its open mouth. "I think it's a really cool sequence," says Elmore. "There are a lot of things that happen in the sewer that happened in the Lincoln Tunnel, and the story stays the same. The literal mechanism of how they leave town has changed."
For his part, Adepo describes the channel sequence as "very difficult" to film, but is thrilled with how it came together. "It was a three or four day sequence," he recalls. “The water was warm, but just moving around and trying to act underwater [was hard]. The rats were great: fantastic performers, very professional. But to put them to the test after they've built up all their energy ... "The actor also finds the scene scary enough to stave off any fan reaction to the loss of the Lincoln Tunnel. “The essence still holds - the tension, fear, and confusion Larry goes through just trying to navigate New York. Ultimately, the fans will appreciate that. "
Executive producers also believe that any fan outrage over the loss of the Lincoln Tunnel scene will be mitigated when they see how the channel sequence embodies what sets this version of The Stand apart from King's book. (It's worth noting that the author himself isn't averse to changes: he and his son Owen King wrote a top-secret new ending for the series.) “We know exactly what this book means to people - it means to us an enormous amount, ”says Cavell. "The changes we've made are certainly not being made recklessly ... we really thought about it. Whenever we deviated, we didn't make it easy."
The booth is currently streamed on CBS All Access.
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