David Cronenberg has directed many great films. Known more for his “body horror” flicks like Videodrome, The Brood, Scanners, his take on The Fly, and this year’s Crimes of the Future, he’s made a number of them that have nothing to do with the subgenre. One of my favorites of his extensive filmography is his adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, The Dead Zone. So, I was quite excited to get my hands on a draft of the script we have in our upcoming Entertainment auction on August 21.
Just thumbing through a few pages, it’s apparent this is a much different version than the one released in theaters in 1983. Dated February 17, 1981, it starts with a young Johnny Smith who has something special about him while he plays hockey with his friends. Then it flashes forward to Smith, now a college professor who’s dating one of his students – Sarah Bracknell – in private. After a date, Smith gets in a motorcycle accident that leaves him in a coma. Already, there are some major differences made. And the ending is . . . way different than the “No Future for Stillson” ending. The Castle Rock Killer makes it to the end, attempting to murder a pregnant Sarah, but he is thwarted by the cane than once belonged to Johnny.
Alternate versions of films fascinate me. A brilliant film could outshine a terrible script. A terrible movie can have a brilliant script. For this version of The Dead Zone, it’s credited to Jeffrey Boam, who received the credit for the finished film. I have yet to see Stephen King’s draft (which, according to Cronenberg, was the worst adaptation), but I would love to see it someday.
The finished film is brilliant, especially thanks to Christopher Walken’s subtle performance as Johnny. On paper, the novel and movie sound extremely depressing, but the actual execution shows a very nuanced and grounded take on the fragility of life. But Cronenberg, coming off of Videodrome and about to do The Fly with Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, was really hitting his stride during this time.
This script, along with a plethora of rare music memorabilia and entertainment items, comes up to the auction block on August 21.
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