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Stephen King

“I was about 8 miles from here when I started to write The Dark Tower” Stephen King said, wearing a cap with the city’s name emblazoned on it. “Bangor is home.” I went to Maine for the first time ever, to see sites and places that have inspired the King of suspense and the supernatural.
King grew up in a little town in southern Maine, “with more graveyards than people,” as he describes it, and no running water. He came to the University of Maine in 1966, and soon he and his wife Tabitha settled in Bangor, with its population of just over 31 000 people.
Taking a tour of the area, with the very knowledgeable and affable Stu Tinker, of SK Tours, you’ll see the influence the area has had on King’s writing – directly or indirectly. From the RM Flagg Kitchen Store on Route 2 – a road King would drive on daily to get to his job as an English teacher at a high school in the next town – to the truck stop that gave him the setting for his short story Trucks, which became Maximum Overdrive, his directorial film debut. The beauty of having Stu as your tour guide is the familiarity he has, as a life-long resident of Bangor.
Stu will tell you that King has never even set foot inside the kitchen store that gave him the name for the overarching evil presence in his books. He’ll show you the exact bench King sat on when he wrote parts of It, in the shadow of the town’s large standpipe. He’ll also let you know if he thinks King will be home as you pull up to the author’s house on West Broadway, with its gargoyle-protected gates and huge lawn.
King wasn’t home when we stopped by, late Tuesday afternoon, to take photos outside Bangor’s most famous house. It’s a stark contrast to the trailer home we’d driven past earlier in the day, where King and his wife first lived, barely able to pay the rent. To see the place where King had written – and then thrown away – the manuscript for Carrie is quite eye-opening. His wife Tabitha fishing it out of the trash is the reason the world today knows him as the master of supernatural and suspense that he is.
We meet King before the cinema screening. He walks into the room, unannounced and unassuming, takes a seat and says: “So I think the way this is supposed to go is that you’re meant to ask me a few questions and I’m meant to sign a few of these.” He takes off the sharpie lid and begins to sign copies of The Gunslinger. The film based on the 8-book-opus has travelled a rocky road to reach the big screen – taking more than a decade and several setbacks to make it. “I never really thought about it that much,” says King, when asked about it. “There were times when people would express an interest in it and then it would go away again, and then interest would come back again when Peter Jackson had success in The Lord of the Rings movie. I thought ‘well, maybe.’ But it never seemed like a movie-movie idea to me.”
King has given the film – and director Nikolaj Arcel – his thumbs up. “It was complex and long, and they’ve done a wonderful job here telling a story that’s coherent and it holds on to the elements of the novel, The Dark Tower. The purists may not like it – I can’t tell about that for sure, because it doesn’t start where the books start. But at the same, they’ll fall right into it because they’ll know exactly what’s going on.”
He believes the film is a chance to look at the novels with fresh eyes. “In the various stories the plots are fairly complex and the characters interact, and they go back and forth, and I think that the screenwriter Aviva Goldsman picked out what seemed to him to be the most accessible and most human relationship – and that’s between this old guy Roland who’s been around for a long, long time, and the kid. And they had wonderful chemistry, and it comes through.”
He’s aware that fans of The Dark Tower are very loyal to his work but that the film is geared towards appealing to others too. “Many decisions had to be made about the film,” he says. “Some of those are related to telling a story that the general public will get, not just the hardcore Dark Tower fans – the guys who show up to the fantasy conventions with Roland tattooed on their arms. Of all the books I’ve written, the fans of The Dark Tower books are the most zealous, the most fervent fans of all, but they make a small sub-group of the people who read books like The Shining or Misery. They’re an acquired taste – they are fantasy, after all!”
Fan reaction has been a constant during the development of the film. When asked about the dissatisfaction some voiced at the casting choice of Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, The Gunslinger, King says he found it problematic. “It’s weird, why shouldn’t Roland be black? Why couldn’t it be a black guy to do this?” King questions. “What I said in a tweet after all that discussion started was that I didn’t care what colour he was, as long as he could command the screen, draw fast and shoot straight. It doesn’t make any difference to me. I don’t even see people when I’m writing, because if I’m writing about a character, I’m behind their eyes. Unless they walk by a mirror or something, I don’t even see what they look like.” He went on to add: “You know what’s weirder than that…you know this show, Game of Thrones? They’re all British! I mean, Westeros is basically England and nobody ever questions that. To me, the idea that a black man would play Roland is minor compared to that.”
King does hope the next iterations of the story becomes R-rated. “I understand the rationale to make it PG13 – you want to get as many people into the tent, but I really think that’s where the movies need to go now.”
As for where he goes next, King is looking forward to touring a book he wrote with his son, Sleeping Beauties. “It’s nice to be able to write a book with your son,” he says. “He told me what to do and I did it. It’s a preview of the old age home,” he chuckles, before putting his Bangor cap back on and exiting the movie theatre.

As Americans head to the polls for their mid-term elections, enjoy these pics of musicians with politicians

* Let’s talk robots and gangsters, shall we? Hugh Jackman posted a picture of the Chappie poster on his Instagram (he truly is one of my favourites to follow on there), complete with those blocks we used to play with as kids. Today we can expect a trailer for the hush-hush film from District 9‘s Neill Blomkamp, starring Jackman, Dev Patel, Die Antwoord and

* Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of Godzilla‘s debut. The film opened in 1954 on November 3rd, with the beast made from bamboo, cloth, paper and wire – not a visual effect in sight! In a look back at the making of the movie all those years ago in WSJ, Eizo Kaimai talks about creating the model for the Japanese “gorilla whale” for Toho Studios’ film. The reboot released this year made $525 million, and we know there have been many versions and spinoffs, so what an incredible legacy to have been a part of creating.

* Darren Aronofsky has been made the head of the Berlin Film Festival’s jury. It’ll be the 65th anniversary of the fest, next year in Feb, and I still have never been to Germany’s top film fest. The rest of the jury members who’ll be joining the Black Swan director have yet to be announced, but Wim Wenders will be getting an honorary Golden Bear, so we know that much. Certainly other big announcements will be made in the run-up to the fest’s milestone year – as good a reason as any to go this time!

* Stephen King‘s new novel, Revival, comes out next week. NPR broadcast a part of an interview Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross did with him last year, when Joyland was coming out, and it’s fascinating to hear him talk about what frightened him as a child and what frightens him now. His take on religion and God and the supernatural, plus a little tidbit about how The Shining was almost set somewhere else entirely add to the treasures of this great chat.

* Beyonce has announced she’s releasing an old album with two new songs, which has made many people happy. But if you’re looking for new music, how about the latest single from The Hunger Games Mockingjay soundtrack by Scotland’s wonderful Chvrches or Wu Tang’s Ruckus in B Minor from their forthcoming album A Better Tomorrow?

pearl jam

* After a full-throttle first single, Pearl Jam finally release a second single from the band’s forthcoming Lightning Bolt album. In contrast, Sirens is a bittersweet love-song that we’ll happily take.

* The newest version of Grand Theft Auto has smashed records, bringing in $800 million in the first 24 hours of its release. As for the game itself, it’s being called  ‘the most immersive spectacle in interactive entertainment.’

* With London all wrapped up, eyes now turn to Milan Fashion Week and the show-stoppers expected to be unveiled there. Gucci and DSquared2 opened the Spring 2014 collections there.

* Stephen King is preparing to release The Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep, this coming Tuesday, saying, in an interview with USA Today, that the book picks up 3 years after his gripping novel left off.

* Closing arguments in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial will be heard on Monday, signalling an almost-end in sight for the drawn-out case.

[Pic: PearlJam.com]


* Dave Matthews Band scored its sixth #1 debut on the Billboard Top 200 chart, with Away From the World.

* In case you missed it, a new trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been released.

* The actress in the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims is suing the producers of the film and YouTube.

* Stephen King’s sequel to The ShiningDoctor Sleep – is set to release on Monday.

*Green Day are streaming their new album – part one of three – before the official release next week on their Facebook page. Go now!