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Stephen King: 'Lisey's Story is a true passion project for me'

Stephen King write Lisey's Story
Stephen King wrote all eight episodes of Lisey's Story. (Image credit: Alamy)

Stephen King has always maintained that Lisey's Story is the most treasured of all the bestselling novels he's written in his illustrious career. 

Now the iconic author has adapted the bestseller (opens in new tab), which was inspired by a near-death experience he had in 1999, into a spine-tingling eight-part series, which will get its global premiere on Apple TV+ on Friday 4 June, 2021.

Oscar-winning actor Julianne Moore plays widowed Lisey, who's still mourning the death of her novelist husband Scott Landon (Clive Owen) two years earlier. As she clears out his office, Lisey is approached by one of his former colleagues, Professor Dashmiel (Ron Cephas Jones), who arrives at her home asking for Scott’s valuable unpublished manuscripts. 

It’s a request that opens the door to her past and Lisey is forced to remember aspects of her marriage she’d deliberately blocked out of her mind, in a tale that blends horror, romance and elements of the supernatural. Stephen King, speaking at a press event, shares more details about this most personal of projects... 

Stephen King on his inspiration for Lisey's Story

The iconic horror author was seriously injured when he was hit by a van while walking near his home in New England, and as he recovered in hospital, his wife Tabitha decided to redesign his writing studio. When King returned home to see his things packed up in boxes, he had a vision of life after his own death...

"Lisey’s Story is a different thing for me. It’s very close to my heart. Maybe it’s because I wrote it after coming so close to dying, but it’s also because the character spoke to me. It’s about the idea of the writer and where ideas come from because when writers make things up and when it’s going really well, they go to a different world.

"When I got home from hospital, my study was totally empty, all the books were gone, the magazines were gone, the mementos, the plaques, the photographs on the wall, the pictures, everything was gone. It was totally empty. I was still pretty sick and really only halfway in my right mind from a fever, and I thought to myself, 'I've died. I'm a ghost'. 

"For a minute, I thought that I was haunting my old study, and this is what it looks like. The idea for Lisey's Story came from that and from wondering how my wife would act without me. I'm not Scott Landon and my wife is not Lisey Landon, but at the same time you have a foundation to build on, and then you build your own fiction on that real base."

Lisey's Story...Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore plays widow of successful writer, Scott Landon. (Image credit: AppleTV+)

Stephen on making Lisey's Story into a TV series

“I love the long form that streaming allows. It is a chance to recreate a novel with all its textures and nuances. There's more freedom to do stuff now and when you do a movie from a book, there's this thing that I call the sitting on a suitcase syndrome. That is where you try to pack in all the clothes at once and the suitcase won't close. So it's tough to take a book that is fully textured, and do it in two hours and 10 minutes. But as a TV show you have 10 hours.

“I could also streamline the book and take out the things that, years later, didn’t seem to work so well. Writers almost never have a chance to revise after a book is published. This was a true passion project for me.” 

Stephen on working with Julianne Moore on Lisey's Story

“Julianne Moore is an amazingly talented actress so when she expressed enthusiasm for the story and the script, I was overjoyed. I felt the same way about Clive Owen, who plays Scott Landon, and because he's worked with Julianne before, they clicked and have great magnetism."

Lisey's Story... Julianne Moore and Clive Owen as Lisey and Scott.

Julianne Moore as Lisey Landon, stars opposite Clive Owen. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

“I tried to capture some of the sibling rivalry dynamic. I think it’s funny and touching that the way we are as children with our brothers and sisters lasts into adulthood. Siblings have a tendency to continue to squabble, even as they're grown-ups, and I wanted to get as much of that into the story as I could. There are a lot of scenes between Julianne, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Joan Allen, where they catch that feeling of real sisterhood.”

Stephen on Lisey's Story's fantasy world of Boo'ya Moon

In the series, Scott Landon escapes from the world to a dream-like space called Boo'ya Moon...

“I thought it said something I really wanted to say about how a long term marriage creates its own Boo'ya Moon. People outside that marriage don't see into it. It's a secret place, and Boo'ya Moon is a secret place."

He also marvelled at how the show's production team set about creating the fantasy world from his award-winning novel....

“It was exactly how I saw it in my imagination and more. Wandering that enormous set was a huge thrill!” 

First Look image from 'Lisey's Story'.

Scott Landon travelled to Boo'ya Moon to escape the real world. (Image credit: Apple TV+)

Stephen on Jim Dooley on Lisey's Story

King says he was thinking a lot about Mark Chapman, who shot John Lennon, when he wrote the character of Lisey's stalker, Jim Dooley, who's played by Dane DeHaan.

“There are such people out there and I’ve met a few. You just hope they don’t have a gun, or they’re not Dooley. Dane DeHaan is great as Dooley, and I think people are going to be properly terrified.” 

Stephen on Lisey's Story director Pablo Larraín... 

“Pablo has made this story so much better with his eye and his suggestions. I wanted to tell the story that was in the book, but I wanted to make it better. The most important thing I changed was that in the book there are five sisters, and in the series, there are only three sisters. 

"That in itself gave me the chance to compress the story. Then when Pablo came along, he also let his imaginative child come out. If people love Lisey’s Story, they're going to love it because Pablo just directed the hell out of it.” 

Sean Marland
Sean Marland

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.