Director André Øvredal Discusses Upcoming Film Adaptation of Stephen King’s The Long Walk
The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark director looks ahead to his next film.
By Chris Morse
As you may have heard, André Øvredal will soon be taking on a feature film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Long Walk, which was published in 1979 under one of the author’s pseudonyms, Richard Bachman. Horror fans will next see the director’s work in the upcoming Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie, which hits theaters later this summer, but he recently caught up with Rue Morgue to discuss this next project in the meantime.
The filmmaker started off by offering a detailed look at the original story, the themes, and how they relate to his profession. Read his comprehensive thoughts below.
In a way, the book is about the long walk of life. You watch your family and friends die around you as you go through life, and there’s a human connection there to the horror these kids are experiencing that goes way beyond the smaller story going on right in front of you. As a director, it’s extremely inspiring to be able to tell a story that is so human and so gruesome at the same time. It’s like man vs. the machine in a way, and about the innocence of these boys and how they don’t really grasp what they’ve gotten themselves into until it’s way too late. I’m in awe of Stephen King for having understood so much about humanity at the age of 18 or 19 when he wrote this. It’s an adult story, but written with a young person’s perspective, probably of the Vietnam War; it’s kind of an allegory, I’m guessing, for his fears of being sent to Vietnam at the time.
Therefore, it also reads as a story about people you get to know in extreme circumstances. I can compare it to filmmaking as well; it’s a similar situation where you get thrown in with people you don’t really know, but you have some of the most extreme moments of your life with these people, and then suddenly they’re gone and you move on to the next movie, and you rarely have the same crew. You shoot one movie in Toronto and the next in Europe. So there are a lot of things in The Long Walk to connect with emotionally. I did a short film called The Tunnel that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival three years ago, and it’s a very similar story. When I read the script, which is so close to the book—it really honors what King wrote in a beautiful way—I felt like I had told the story, but in a different way, which connected to the idea of being on a journey you cannot stop. It’s an unstoppable journey, and the only way out is death, really.
Regarding the impact King has had on his career, Øvredal says it has been substantial, with the author influencing the way he sees horror and storytelling in general.
I haven’t been able to keep up with his latest works, since I’ve been too busy on my own projects, but I read all of his early books. They influenced the way I see horror and the way I see storytelling. I read them at a time when I was also watching the Amblin movies and other films that inspired me as a filmmaker, and it all kind of blends together into one world, because they do oftentimes play in that same space.
With respect to the overall atmosphere of the film, the director says it will feel very claustrophobic because the entire story centers on that road. “I think the studio and producers really liked my work on The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and compared it to this, because it’s very intimate,” he commented. “You’re walking right there with these kids; the fact that it has an expansive nature around it, as opposed to just walls, is a variation, but it’s going to be an extremely claustrophobic movie.”
Øvredal capped the discussion off with some additional thoughts on the history of the project and the ideal places to film it once production begins, but you can check those out in the full interview, since those comments were mostly speculative in nature.
The Long Walk takes place in a dystopian future where one-hundred teenage boys embark on an annual walking competition known as “The Long Walk,” or simply “The Walk.” Each contestant must maintain a walking speed of at least four miles per hour and if they can’t keep up the pace, they’re allowed only three warnings within an hour before they’re shot dead by soldiers riding alongside them. Contestants can clear their violation only after completing an additional hour for each warning they received. Whoever is the last to remain standing at the end of the game is granted whatever they wish for their rest of their lives.
The film will be directed by André Øvredal based on a screenplay from James Vanderbilt. We do not yet have any casting or release details at this time, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted with all the latest news and updates right here on Dead Entertainment.