It is a widely accepted fact that some of Stephen King’s best work is his stories about people living their lives, and coming of age against the tapestry of American history. Sure, he’s written some iconic, terrifying stuff that has led to some incredible adaptations (It, Misery, The Shining, Carrie) – but it is his less scary stuff (Stand By Me, Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) that has perhaps had the most dramatic impact. This is surely the category that writer-director Johannes Roberts is aiming for with the upcoming film project Hearts In Atlantis.
The movie will be based upon the second part of the 1999 Stephen King collection of the same name, which comprises five sections – two novellas and three short stories. Together, the tales chronicle a passage of time that encompasses the Vietnam War, and feature a number of characters that recur throughout the collection. The first and last of the stories – Low Men In Yellow Coats and Heavenly Shades Of Night Are Falling – were loosely adapted for film in 2001 by writer William Goldman and director Scott Hicks. That film (also called Hearts In Atlantis) starred Anthony Hopkins and Anton Yelchin in the lead roles, with Mika Boorem as the character of Carol Gerber. It is Carol that recurs in the second part of the collection, Hearts In Atlantis.
Set in 1966, the story introduces freshman Peter Riley, who is studying at the University of Maine. He and his friends become addicted to the card game Hearts, to the extent that their studies begin to suffer. This puts their student draft deferments in jeopardy. Peter meets Carol but, though they fall in love, she intends to leave school and continue her activism. Peter and his friends then struggle to save themselves as the war rages on.
Stephen King has reportedly given his seal of approval to the adaptation, which has been co-written by director Johannes Roberts and his regular collaborator, Ernest Riera (The Other Side Of The Door, 47 Meters Down). In announcing the project to the press, Roberts explained his personal connection to the source material.
“As a teenager, discovering Stephen King’s books and their cinematic counterparts was what led me to want to become a filmmaker. The story Hearts In Atlantis is my favourite piece of King’s writing. Turning this story into a movie has been a lifelong dream.”
Producer James Harris expressed his excitement at bringing Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera together with Stephen King’s story.
“We are delighted to be able to tackle material that is reminiscent of classic Stephen King adaptations like The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me. This is a wonderful story and Johannes and Ernest have again proved what fantastic writers they are with a wonderful adaptation of King’s source material. We are excited to start casting for the film, and working towards production in 2017.”
Casting will indeed be the greatest challenge for Hearts In Atlantis. As we have seen with previous adaptations of those Stephen King stories that centre on a tight-knit group of young friends, the chemistry between the group is vital to correctly delivering the themes of the piece. We’ll be watching closely for those future announcements.