Scott Cooper signs to write and direct ‘The Stand’ as Ben Affleck moves on

What matters most when it comes to finding a filmmaker to make “The Stand”?

Forget the question of whether or not we even want or need a new film version of “The Stand.” That’s one of those things where it really doesn’t matter about “want” or “need,” because it’s in motion. Money has been spent. People are working to make it happen. And if that’s the case, then the next question deals with finding the right person to tell the story.

I remember when George Romero was the guy who was attached to make this happen, and I remember how long that process took without finally yielding results. Rospo Pallenberg, the writer of “Excalibur,” was the writer on the film, and they chipped away at it for years. That’s back when Romero was still part of Laurel Entertainment, and every year they’d have their section of AFM ads where they promoted all the films they had in development, and every year, “The Stand” was part of that package.

Richard Rubenstein, the other side of the Laurel equation, was the one who eventually managed to wrestle the project onto TV, with Mick Garris taking the creative lead on that version.

Recently, directors like David Yates and Ben Affleck have been mentioned in conjunction with a new proposed film adaptation, and now that Affleck’s dance card is full for a while, it looks like Scott Cooper is now onboard as both writer and director. I’m not sure where Affleck ended up on the project. He was also supposed to be writing, but right now, he’s working on “Live By Night,” an adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel. There is no word on whether he ever turned in a page of “The Stand,” or if Cooper is starting fresh.

CBS Films is partnered on the movie with Warner, and “The Stand” is one of those Stephen King novels that is tough to adapt simply because of the sprawl of the story being told. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible… it just means someone’s going to have to make some hard choices in terms of adapting it. Roy Lee and Mosaic are also involved as producers, and I’m guessing Cooper will start work on this in earnest once he’s done promoting “Out Of The Furnace,” the film he just made with Christian Bale. Cooper’s also the director of “Crazy Heart,” the Jeff Bridges film, and he seems to be on the verge of a major commercial breakthrough. Hiring him seems to say that the most important thing to the producers is character, and that’s good. “The Stand” lives or dies based on how we react to the characters that find themselves looking for meaning and purpose during the end of the world.

I wish him well with “The Stand.” I think it’s a bitch to adapt because of more than the length. The ending of the book is pretty much what I came to expect from King after a while. I think he has one of the best voices of any writer working, and I will read anything he writes because I know there will be pleasure taken from the sheer craft of writing. He is a beast in terms of dialogue and character and painting a picture. One of his short stories gave me nightmares for something like four continuous years at one point. But when it comes to the details of the stories he tells, sometimes the stories add up to less than the storytelling, and “The Stand” is a case of an ending that really doesn’t work. It reduces the entire book to a shaggy dog preamble to a bunch of people standing around while something weird happens. If Cooper’s going to crack the material, he’s going to have to feel free to completely refigure the climax of the film.

We’ll see. In the meantime, “Out Of The Furnace” opens December 6, 2013.