Magazine article Corrections Forum

The Making of the Green Mile

Magazine article Corrections Forum

The Making of the Green Mile

Article excerpt

Stephen King. Frank Darabont.

Anyone who works in prisons should know these names, because they collaborated on what is probably the finest prison-based movie ever made-"The Shawshank Redemption" (King wrote the story, Darabont wrote the screenplay). Now, they have gotten together again on the current hit movie,

The Green Mile.

"The Shawshank Redemption" was based on a short story by King, while The Green Mile was published first in serial novel

form. In looking back on the novel's success (all six installments of The Green Mde appeared simultaneously on the Publisher's Weekly national bestseller list), King admits that the story "was very difficult for me to write." Two years before he actually began composing the novel in 1995, he had outlined a story involving the electric chair and a black inmate named Luke Coffey, a magician whose secret powers could possibly be used to make himself disappear before walking the Mile. King changed his conception of the magician character and his "idea for a story became The Green Mile. I just hoped I wouldn't run out of inspiration before it was done. In a lot of ways, dealing with John Coffey was a difficult thing to do. Here is a man on Death Row who may be innocent, who is able to help some of his fellow captives. That was the basic idea of the story." Once King began to write, he chose to release his new novel in serial form. Inspired by literary giant Charles Dickens, who published many of his works in this manner, King relates, "I always loved stories told in episodes. It is a format I first encountered in the Saturday Evening Post.

"When The Green Mile was published, nobody had attempted a serial novel in the U.S. since the '20s," King continues. "When the first episode, The Two Dead Girls,' was to go on sale, I thought to myself, 'I've made the biggest mistake of my life.' Nobody had any idea that it would succeed to the level it did, least of all me."

But, in composing his work in such a format, King also confesses the advantage he enjoyed over his audience by publishing The Green Mile in episodic form. "In a story which is published in installments... simply put, you cannot flip ahead and see how matters turn out. That is an appeal that I suspect only the writer of suspense tales and spooky stories can fully appreciate."

Prior to the publication of the books in 1996, Darabont knew that King had embarked on this new assignment. The pair "chatted on the phone, and (Stephen) mentioned he had this idea for a new story, and gave me a 30-second description of it," the filmmaker remembers. "It sounded so fantastic to me. I told him to write it and give me first crack at it, which he did. So I heard the genesis of this from him before he actually sat down to write it. But I had to wait and read all six books on a monthly basis, just like everyone else."

"I read the first installment, jumped on a plane and flew to Colorado where King was doing the miniseries The Shining,"' Darabont recalls. "I drove up a mountain just like Jack Torrance in The Shining to try and find Stephen and say Yes, I really want to do this.'

"I'm a big fan of all his stuff," Darabont declares. "I have been since I read The Shining in high school. Since then, I've read everything that he's done. Stephen has a certain way he tells a story that really speaks to me on some deeper level. Like 'Shawshank,' this is more earthbound, a little less in the realm of the fantastic and a little more in the realm of the human heart."

Five years after the triumphant feature-film debut of The Shawshank Redemption, Darabont chose as his next bigscreen project another King tale set behind bars.

"The fact that this is another Stephen King prison film was the luck of the draw," Darabont contends. 'This just happened to be the one thing I found that I loved. Yes, it's another Stephen King prison movie, the most obscure niche in motion picture history." Adds fUng, "Frank jokes and says that he has the world's smallest specialty - he makes only Stephen King prison movies set in the past. …

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