The Green Mile: The Screenplay

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by Frank Darabont, Stephen King (Other), Stephen King (Introduction)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684870069
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 01/01/2000
Edition description: 1 ED
Pages: 172
Product dimensions: 7.32(w) x 9.11(h) x 0.56(d)

Introduction

Introduction: by Stephen King

Frank Darabont and I have been friends for a long time -- ever since he made a short film out of my story "The Woman in the Room." That story's in Night Shift, my first collection of short stories, and you might be able to find Frank's film on video, if you're lucky and hit the right deep-pockets video rental emporium (it's worth the hunt). My practice, when students get in touch and ask to make short films out of my stories, has usually been to grant them film rights for a dollar, as long as they promise to send me a copy of the result on videotape and not to exhibit the film for profit without my permission. The so-called dollar deal (Arthur Greene, my accountant and business manager, hates it with a vengeance) has resulted in about twenty films, ranging from the pretty bad to the fairly good. Only two have ever ranked beyond fairly good, in my estimation. One was a horrible-hilarious version of "The Sun Dog" done in Gumby-style Claymation (it's a little bit like those Celebrity Deathmatch video shorts on MTV), and the other was Frank's beautiful and moving version of "The Woman in the Room," which is about a son who kills his mother before the cancer infesting her body can eat her alive. Frank's short won an award, and he sent me a copy of the citation. Nice guy.

When he later asked if he could write a screenplay based on my novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, I told him to go right ahead, be my guest. I then promptly forgot all about it. Some time later, the script thumped down on my desk, and boy, it was a beaut. The good news? It was as moving as "The Woman in the Room." The bad? It was 'bout forty times as long. I gave Frank permission to show the script around -- he could shop it until he dropped, as far as I was concerned -- but only in my wildest dreams did I expect it would be made. It was too long, too faithful to the source story...and a little too kind. Not even in those wild dreams did I expect it would end up being the screen adaptation of my work that people say they like the best -- no mean accomplishment, considering there have been over thirty of them. Even more remarkable is the fact that The Shawshank Redemption, clunky title notwithstanding, has begun to show up near the top of many filmgoers' lists of their favorite movies of all time.

The novella wasn't typical of the rest of my work (many of the people who like the film still don't know it has anything to do with my work), and if you'd asked me, after it was done, if I would ever write another story set in prison, I would have asked if you were kidding or running a fever or what. But you never know where the road is going to take you, I guess. In the early nineties I got an idea for an old-fashioned death-row story called The Green Mile, and set to work on it after Ralph Vicinanza, my foreign rights agent, asked me if I had any interest in doing a multipart novel à la Charles Dickens. I did have an interest in trying something like that, which is how I found myself back in prison once more. I guess, like many people who leave Da Joint with good intentions only to find themselves back in stir again, you could say I fell in with bad companions. At least this time there was a creepy element of the supernatural in my story; that made me feel a little more at home.

The Green Mile was originally published in six paperback installments. Frank Darabont called me one night about six weeks before Part One was due to be published (I was at that time deep into Part Three and had only the vaguest idea where I was heading with the story). Frank's call was purely social, a "Hey, howya doin' " kind of thing. We chatted about people we knew, movies we'd seen, what he was up to, and what I was up to.

"Oh," I said, "probably getting ready to make the biggest mistake of my life, that's what I'm up to." And then I told him about my experiment in serial fiction, along with a thumbnail of what the story was about.

There was a long pause when I finished my synopsis. I was about to ask Frank if he was still there when he said in a low and thoughtful voice, "Tell you what, pal -- when you get ready to dress that one up and take him around, take him to my house first, wouldja?"

I told him he could have The Green Mile right there and then, if he was serious -- we could do a handshake deal over the phone...but was he really sure he wanted to go back to prison? Hadn't he talked about wanting to do a comedy next, something screwball? Or was that just my imagination?

"Well," he said, "you went back, didn't you?"

I agreed that I had. The cellblock wasn't my favorite environment by a longshot, but I had gone back. I had to, because I loved the story of John Coffey. And I loved the mystery of John Coffey.

"Yeah, that's it," Frank said when I expressed some of this. "Anyway, it sounds like a hell of a good story. Send me the first installment when you can."

So I did. And, as with Shawshank, I thought nothing would come of it until something did. What came of it this time was a sprawling and emotionally generous film that most admirers of The Shawshank Redemption will likely welcome with open arms. What amazes me isn't how good it is -- Frank is, above all, a wonderful and painstaking filmmaker -- but how easily and clearly he saw that it could be good. I also admire his courage in going back to the same sort of environment -- prison -- and creating a kind of fraternal twin to his previous picture. I have heard Frank tell the press, "I have the world's smallest specialty -- I only make Stephen King prison movies set in the thirties and forties."

Yes...and no.

What Frank has actually done is to film two stories I felt with especial keenness, stories which examine (or try to) what happens to the human spirit when the body is imprisoned...and perhaps ultimately put to death. Both are grim tales filled with violence, but also filled (I hope) with something better: call it faith and belief. They are stories of goodness in a gray and often hideous world. Frank has caught the goodness as clearly as he has the violence. For that I love and respect him. He's a decent man and a prodigiously talented movie guy.

In a decade where too many movies are cold and glossy and have all the emotional gradient of a customized muscle-car, Frank makes openhearted audience-pleasers that beg us to go with the belly laughs and turn on the old waterworks...to respond, in other words. He was aided in this by Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in his last film; with The Green Mile he has put together an even stronger cast, led by Tom Hanks. The result is the sort of film they supposedly don't make anymore, and some of the magic is in the script which follows.

I don't know how Frank feels about it, but as for myself...man, I'm delighted to be a repeat offender.

August 28, 1999
Bangor, Maine


Introduction: by Frank Darabont

I got sent back to prison, and it's Stephen King's fault. There I was, making an innocent phone call just to see how he was doing, and five minutes into the conversation he hit me with the premise of a story he was noodling around with called The Green Mile. It really didn't amount to much more than a sketchy description -- something about a death-row guard during the Depression and a huge, retarded black inmate condemned to death for killing two little white girls, but who turns out to have magical (even Christlike) healing powers.

Compelling? You could say that. Before we hung up, I asked him to give me first crack at the screen rights if and when he ever finished it. This he promised to do.

Mind you, I never intended to go back to prison. Many well-meaning people even advised against it, certain that I would forever pigeonhole myself as a director. These were not unfounded concerns, to be sure. But the truth is, in the five years following Shawshank, I'd been offered a lot of directing opportunities that did nothing to motivate my lazy ass back into the director's chair. I find the gig too hard to do it lightly, or just for the dough. Me, I've got to fall in love, and I mean head over heels, to want to direct a movie.

The saga of Paul Edgecombe and John Coffey proved to be love at first sight. Steve's publisher sent me volume one, The Two Dead Girls, about a week before it hit the stores. I read it and decided right then and there I had to make the movie -- without, I might add, the benefit of reading the remaining five volumes or really knowing how the story would turn out beyond the brief phone description Steve had given me a few months before. What I did know was that I was in the hands of a master storyteller, that I was spellbound, that this was King firing on all pistons. In other words, I decided to proceed purely on a leap of faith, convinced Steve would not let me down.

I didn't even bother calling him, that's how excited I was after reading that first volume. Instead, I booked a flight to Colorado, where I knew he was executive producing the miniseries version of The Shining, directed by my pal Mick Garris. I wasn't about to let The Green Mile slip through my fingers. I was going to find Steve, remind him of his promise to grant me the screen rights, and -- if necessary -- shake him by the lapels until he hollered uncle.

I flew to Colorado, rented a car, and drove up a mountain. A big mountain. During the drive, I had the surreal experience of reliving Jack Torrance's trek up to the Overlook Hotel, a trip perfectly climaxed by my first glimpse of the real-life Stanley Hotel. For those who may not know, the Stanley inspired Steve to cook up the fictional events of The Shining during a stay there with his family many years ago. By the time I came up the mountain, the Stanley was repaying its karmic debt to Steve full circle by serving as the filming location for the miniseries. And quite a location it was -- gothic and lovely and huge, right out of the pages of his novel.

The Jack Torrance pilgrimage I was undertaking was a full-circle journey for me as well. It was reading The Shining in high school that started me on my love of all things King, that set me on the path that eventually led to Shawshank and The Green Mile.

I went inside and found the place crawling with ghosts assembling for a New Year's Eve celebration circa the 1940s, a dazzling array of pomaded fellas and bejeweled dames dressed to the nines in period attire. I was delighted to find among them some good friends who'd shown up from L.A. for the occasion, writers Dave Schow and Christa Faust (Christa's a babe in those period getups, especially since she insists the lingerie be accurate as well). Venturing farther, I entered the ballroom and discovered the man himself, Steve King, lustily conducting a ghostly big band orchestra of jazz-era musicians performing a rip-roaring swing tune. He was dressed in a blinding white tux and having the time of his life, waving his baton and shaking his heinie like Cab Calloway. Mick Garris was directing Steve in the scene and having the time of his life as well, judging from the smile on his face.

In between takes, Steve saw me, blinked, and came over to ask what I was doing there. I grabbed him by the lapels, ready to start shaking, and said, "I've come for The Green Mile."

Steve shrugged and replied, "Oh, okay, sure. Hey, you wanna be an extra in this scene?"

And thus were the movie rights to The Green Mile acquired. All I had to do was shave my beard off, put on a period tux, and join Dave and Christa as one of Mick's army of undead party revelers. Later on, I also got to help the effects guys pump puslike goo through plastic tubes concealed in the back of Stephen King's head, which caused a big section of his face to fall splat! to the floor in a big, wet, slimy chunk.

Sometimes life just doesn't get any better.

Cut to the present. As I write this, my film of Steve's remarkable story is finally completed and ready to be screened tomorrow night for the very first time before a test audience. I didn't know how much trouble he was getting me into that day he first told me on the phone about this weird little death-row tale he was tinkering with -- that I'd wind up going back to prison and spending two years at hard labor before all was said and done. All I knew then was that it sounded like a helluva yarn. I'm glad to say looking back on it now that I was right.

So that's how it happened, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Big Steve, Patron Saint of Filmmakers, came galloping to my rescue with a great story tucked under his arm. For me, a director experiencing a self-imposed career lull, The Green Mile came along like a beautiful woman after a long romantic drought. So what if she bore the blemish of being another prison movie prominently on her face? I fell in love, I tell you, blemish and all. Is a man supposed to ignore true love over a minor imperfection? Don't be silly.

For this blessing, among many others, I owe Stephen King a great debt of thanks. The impact he's had on my life -- with his work, generosity, and friendship -- can truly never be measured. And I know I speak for all of us, friends and fans alike, when I say how grateful I am to the universe, sheer dumb luck, or whatever higher power may be responsible that he escaped alive (and fundamentally undamaged) from his recent roadside accident. It would have been way, way too soon to lose him.

Finally, Steve, on a personal note. Recidivism is an ugly thing. Now that we've earned our parole again, what say we stay out of the slam next time...

...unless of course you have, like, a really cool World War II POW story in you? The Shining meets The Great Escape, something like that?

We'll talk.

August 30, 1999
Los Angeles

Copyright © 1999 by Stephen King

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Green Mile 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was the best I ever read and the best tape. I couldn't put the book down. I'v worn my tape out. I RECOMMEND that you wach and read THE GREEN MILE=:)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, although dull at times (not to mention confusing) is the best Stephen King book I've found so far. I give it 4 stars because it was one of those books that 'really makes you think'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is so interesting and so beautiful. I wasn't bored once throughout the entire three hour long film. I reccomend the movie or the book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The movie was great,so why shouldn't the screenplay be too? It features photos from the film also,even of percy! Buy this,it's unusually good! I'd recommend it to anyone who liked the movie or the novel.Plus,Ive got good taste in books so you should buy what I say..hehe.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think the book was good, and movie was very well done. I recomend both of the book and movie.