A big studio offered Frank Darabont 30 million to adapt Stephen King’s story The Mist, IF he would change the ending – He refused to do it their way and made it for half the money instead

“The human race is fundamentally insane. If you put two of us into a room together we’re soon gonna start figuring out good reasons to kill one another.”

That’s a quote by one of the characters in director Frank Darabont’s latest film, The Mist. I have to declare an interest here: I love the original story by Stephen King – and I distrust movie adaptations from stories, so I’m not sure I will even see the movie when it does come to a theatre near me.

I might though. Firstly, Darabont also made the Shawshank Remdemption and The Green Mile, both of which I really liked but maybe even more importantly, he already convinced me of his good intentions for this movie.

The ending of ‘The Mist’ is bleak, to put it mildly and the film script reflects this. So, when Darabont got a great offer from one of the big companies: $30 million dollars to play with if only he would change the ending, he refused and went with a company that offered half the money but left the story alone. First blood for Darabont, so to speak.

Anyway, I got all this info from a Guardian article, which you can find here. You should read it: it’s an excellent piece. The article also briefly discusses the political undertones that went with those old fifties B-movies, like The Thing (both the 51 and the 82 versions.) How all the radioactive monsters and the alien invasions were conscious or unconscious metaphors for the madness that was the Cold War.

The argument in the article being that each political period comes with its own metaphors – which you can easily spot when you look at remakes of old movies. So, the fifties version of The Thing has that Cold War sub-theme, while the remake is informed by the political climate of that later time.

I would certainly not disagree with that – nor with the article’s observation that King’s story and any subsequent true adaptation have that fifties’ B-movie feel, including a very rich soil, from which these metaphors can spring. It’s a great story (I think) partly because it doesn’t waste much time trying to explain stuff. There’s people trapped inside a supermarket; there’s a strange mist outside, in which monsters hide. That’s it, basically and then the author (and hopefully, the director as well) just lets those people get on with dealing with this situation.

When handled well, this sparcity of (background and back story) detail works admirably well. The best stories are those where we can – and must – fill in some of those blanks ourselves. Obviously, the details we then bring to these stories come from our personal ‘back stories’, the private ones and the communal/societal ones. Which, of course, also explains why those monster/alien stories worked so well as metaphors for the Cold War. The viewers lived that Cold War and they used that to fill in some of those blanks in the movies. Again, sometimes the director made these spaces consciously – sometimes it was a much more subliminal process. The effect was the same, of course.

Obviously, one should be careful not to overanalyse these things. One of the most discussed movies of that Cold War era is, of course, ‘The invasion of the body snatchers.’ I’m now definitely talking of the 1956, Don Siegel version and not the bloodless (and clueless) 1993 remake. For most movie commentators this one is the ultimate Cold War B-movie/metaphor – with some seeing the very scary and evil pod people as a metaphor for communist infiltrators, while others say they stand for the Joe McCarthy crowd and their witch hunts. Something for everybody, in other words.

However, when, much later, people asked Don Siegel to explain himself, he just shrugged and said, somewhat irritated, that it simply had been this very cool story about an alien invasion that he had taken a shine too. Of course, one could say that on a subconscious level he did want to make a political statement as well. That might be true: the beauty of such arguments is that there is no way in Hell that you can either prove or disprove it – but still, as even Freud once admitted, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

As for the movie version of The Mist: Well, I think I will give it a shot after all. As I said, it’s a great story and Darabont has already proven that he can work with Stephen King’s writings. Both the Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile started as Stephen King stories, of course.

In truth, I won’t care too deeply whether the monsters in this post 9/11 movie will turn out to be metaphors for the War on Terror: either as shades of Bin Laden or the Bush White House gang. Both would be possible, of course, but me, I just want an honest to God, Hell-raising story, with people who react like real people and monsters that are real monsters – but then, I’m easy. I’m a sucker for anyone who, like old Ishmael, says to me, “I’ve got a tale to tell – and you bloody well bloody listen!”

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16 Responses to “A big studio offered Frank Darabont 30 million to adapt Stephen King’s story The Mist, IF he would change the ending – He refused to do it their way and made it for half the money instead”

  1. Jude Says:

    Watch it… trew to the original.
    Even had the acid web spiders…

    Slight addition to the ending… made it even better…

  2. Jantar Says:

    Thanks for the comment – and your verdict on the movie,

  3. Jerke Wadde Says:

    Darabont should have taken the money.

    In my opinion, The Mist possibly has the worst ending of any movie I’ve ever seen. What makes it all the worse is that up until the very last 5 minutes of the movie, it makes for an very good adaptation of a very excellent novella. Then Darabont flushing the entire thing down the toilet for a bleak “uncompromising” finish that really makes no sense. Take this to heart: “uncompromising” doesn’t always mean “correct”. The ending veers wildly from King’s story. Instead of an ominous, bleak ending infused with hope, we get a Shamalanian twist that negates the entire rest of the film, a la the opening five minutes of Alien3.

    I was really grooving on Darabont’s take on one of my favourite King stories, until he decided to crap all over it with his uncompromisingly idiotic ending.

  4. Jantar Says:

    Thanks for the comment: so far it’s one up vote and one down vote.

    Of course, when Darabont refused the big studio’s idea of a happy ending, that didn’t mean that he would copy King’s ending of the story.

    Me, I loved the novella, so I might also disapprove of any ending that does not do it justice (in my eyes, that is.)

    (But since I’m the one who would buy the ticket, it’s only my eyes that count anyway, of course.)

  5. misterswarvey Says:

    While I love almost everything that Daramont has done with SK’s material, you cannot praise him for not changing the ending of The Mist. That is something he very specially DID do and has done before.
    In the text versions of both Shawshank and The Mist, the ends are left ambiguous. For Shawshank, the question left at the end was a hopeful one. Red didn’t know if he would make it to Zihuatenejo or if he would ever see Andy again, but he HOPED that he would. Readers were forced to hope with him.
    In the movie, there is no hope, because the question is answered. Test audiences hated not knowing what happened so he added the sappy scene of them hugging on the frigging beach. He made 99% of one of the best movies ever.
    At the end of The Mist (text), it seems very much as though the protagonists are going into a much worse situation than the one they just left. It certainly does not look good for them when a behemoth the size of a city block walks over their car without even glancing down, as though they were beneath its notice. Nope. Didn’t look good at all.
    But, what happened next in the story? Oh yeah. NOTHING.
    That was how the story ended!!
    We weren’t given information about what happened next. They might have survived, they might have not. You had to hope.
    There was:
    No continued driving.
    No running out of gas deep inside mist that goes on for ever.
    No David murdering the people close to him INCLUDING HIS OWN SON seconds before the ARMY showed up to scare the monsters away!
    Daramont did not change the ending to this story, HE RAPED IT.

  6. Andrew Says:

    I don’t get this article. The Mist already came and went. And although about 98% is very very good, THEY DID CHANGE THE END and it’s so appallingly bad that it ruins the rest of the entire film.

  7. Jantar Says:

    Thanks both. Again, it’s not that Daramont didn’t have his own ideas but that he refused to go with the easy Hollywood choice of ending – which is the happy ending.

    To be honest, I was more interested in the parts of the article that dealt with the comparison between (the metaphors in) The Thing and The Mist – and, as I added, in the Body Snatchers movie. Most of my column dealt with that rather than the ending of the movie – but since I haven’t seen the movie yet, I could hardly write about that anyway,

  8. misterswarvey Says:

    I enjoyed and had no issue with the rest of your article, but you did use a rather large headline that called out the issue everyone is talking about. Hard to not respond to that headline.

  9. Adam Pieniazek Says:

    The movie was surprisingly good, the trailers made me skip it when it first came out but when I saw Frank directed it I gave it a shot and was glad I did.

  10. Jantar Says:

    Thanks both – and misterswarvey, you’re right. I’m still not very good with titles; which is somewhat pathetic, after a year of blogging. I always first write the columns and then try to think of something that it a) at least somewhat relevant and b) not too bloody boring. In this case I failed on both accounts.

    The title doesn’t make it clear enough that the director did his own thing while refusing to do the Hollywood thing, while not mentioning the whole metaphor matter. (I tried to do a title with the metaphor part of the column but that looked even worse…)

    Anyway, glad you enjoyed the column, even with that stupid title,

  11. cait Says:

    Maybe you’re talking about another remake of the Mist, but the version I saw did NOT have the same ending as the awesomest story ever … I was really disappointed with the end; it screwed with King’s enviable ability to leave an opened ended question to the reader’s imagination.

    And that’s a scary thing.

  12. jojo Says:

    I generally have been hugely dissapointed with SK adapted filmwork. There is something about his writing style that doesn’t transpose well to the screen.
    However, I had not read The Mist prior to viewing the movie. I have to say I was absolutely stunned by the ending. It was the most powerful and tragic ending I have seen in a movie in a long time. I think it works better than an open ended conclusion (which I typically like, but leaves half the audience saying “whaaaaa. is that it?”).

    Here is why I think it works. Following the passing of the massive creature and running out of gas… the group runs out of hope. And this is when David makes his mistake. Had they fought on (for whatever tragic end it could have been), they would have been saved. Much the same way that hope drives the father in The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

  13. bob-e Says:

    even a different ending couldn’t have saved that movie.

  14. Mack Says:

    The previews for The Mist got me excited that a really excellent King story would be faithfully translated to the screen. And then I read a spoiler of the ending. It is a twist for the sake of having a twist ending and a rather clumsy one at that. It is the of twist ending that Serling was doing in Twilight Zone episodes. If fact, as I was reading the spoiler, the moment I read that David shot everyone in the car I knew that the military would show up and the crises would be over. Bleh!

  15. Michael K. Says:

    The author of this article is incorrect: The adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist which he refers to does in fact differ greatly from the original story in it’s ending which is quite unlike Mr. King’s far more enjoyable ending. I am surprised that the author of this article apparently did not bother to actually watch The Mist and/or read the original story, and I hope that in the future he will keep in mind that he is, via his laziness, misinforming those of his readers unfamiliar with Mr. King’s work.

  16. Jantar Says:

    Thanks for the comments – even to the last commentator, I suppose, though if HE would have bothered to read more than the headline he would have noticed that the ‘author’ clearly states that he has (not yet) seen the movie and that the column is not a movie review at all.

    I admit the title could have been clearer about the fact that though the director didn’t take the studio’s money and happy ending option, this does not mean he didn’t have his own vision for the movie.

    Still, I’m getting a little bit tired of ‘readers’ who think they need to react to stuff without even bothering to read the text,

    P.S.: Come to think of it, I repaired the title on the blog to make it clear that the director of the movie merely didn’t go with the Hollywood ending – and the last comment came way after I did that. So, the commentator didn’t even bother to read the title above the actual blog (let alone the article itself.) God knows why I bother to try and keep polite, at times.

    P.P.S. The discussion about the title and the different endings of the movie is now most definitely closed, by the way.

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