Warner Bros. Buys Stephen King Book Billy Summers

The next Stephen King adaptation is facing a rocky road to the big screen. (At least, I think it’s the next one; his work has been mined more than California during the Gold Rush.) Deadline exclusively reports that Warner Bros. has acquired the rights to one of King’s newer novels, Billy Summers, which is being produced by Bad Robot and Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way. The adaptation was originally going to be a miniseries for a streaming or cable network but was reworked into a movie a year ago. Now, here’s why I said it’s having a tough time, aside from the format switch: the miniseries version was written by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, with Zwick set to direct at least most of the episodes. Now, while Zwick and Herskovitz are still writing, there’s speculation that JJ Abrams will direct and Leonardo DiCaprio will star.

I haven’t read Billy Summers – apparently, it’s a crime thriller about a hitman sent to assassinate another hitman – but whatever way you slice it, going from Ed Zwick to JJ Abrams is a downgrade. Zwick has made movies like Glory, The Siege, The Last Samurai, and Blood Diamond. (To be fair, he also made Jack Reacher: Never Go Back; nobody’s perfect.) Abrams, on the other hand, has stumbled from film to film and handed-off TV show to handed-off TV show, and will no doubt turn this into a mystery that will never be solved. He’s also not a very good visual director; the action scenes in his two Star Trek movies and Mission: Impossible III look awful. He’s gotten better since then, but he’s no Ed Zwick. But Bad Robot is in the Stephen King business, having produced Lisey’s Story (which I haven’t seen; I’d rather read the book first), 11/22/63 (which I also haven’t seen, but the book was fantastic), and Castle Rock (which I gave up on after half a season because it’s boring and I have no idea what it’s supposed to be in relation to Stephen King’s work – nor, I suspect, does Bad Robot). I’m sure DiCaprio will be good because he always is, but Abrams in the director’s chair is deflating.

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