Jonathan Demme will save JFK for film version of Stephen King’s ’11/22/63′

08.12.11 6 years ago 8 Comments

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It appears to be a big week at the Stephen King compound.

We put up the story last night about David Yates and Steve Kloves working together again on a new multi-film adaptation of “The Stand,” and now it looks like another King property has been snapped up by a very promising filmmaker.  This time, it’s an unpublished piece of work, and it’s one of the few filmmakers to ever earn the Best Picture Oscar with what can only be described as a horror film.

Promising, eh?

Jonathan Demme is set to write, direct, and produce the film adaptation of “11/22/63,” which doesn’t hit shelves until November 8 of this year.  I’m not surprised that it sold, or that it’s a boomer director who will be making the film.  At this point, I’ve accepted the fact that there is an entire generation of filmmakers who will continue to push the cultural supremacy of the ’60s on us until every last one of them has died.  And with this particular project, King basically laid out the greatest bait imaginable for that generation, a high-concept exercise in wish fulfillment that sounds like it was almost scientifically targeted to get turned into a movie.

Here’s the synopsis that was posted at Amazon for the novel:

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King”s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination-a thousand page tour de force.

Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment-a real life moment-when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students-a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning”s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake”s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane-and insanely possible-mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake”s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake”s life-a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

A tribute to a simpler era and a devastating exercise in escalating suspense, 11/22/63 is Stephen King at his epic best.

I was born in 1970, so for me, the first political memory I have of any kind was of my parents watching the Watergate scandal unfold on television, and there is little doubt that it affected the way I have trouble trusting authority.  For boomers, the death of JFK was the demarcation line, the end of innocence, and it kicked off a turbulent, violent, uncertain era for them.  The idea of being able to stop that and possibly stop the ’60s themselves… it’s irresistible, I would imagine.

No word yet on who will release the film, and it sounds like Demme won’t even get to work on it until sometime in 2012, but if he does end up making it, I’m excited to see the result.  I think Demme is a sleeping giant right now, a guy who hasn’t really been in the game for a while but who could easily knock out a few more classics.  I would hope that if he was moved to buy this material himself, it’s because he had one of those lightning-bolt moments when he read it and now he’s got a plan for exactly how to make the film work.

We’ll see.  In the meantime, the book will be in stores for the holidays.

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