Stephen King has been having one hell of a time in Hollywood of late. Josh Boone is moving full-steam ahead on an ambitious adaptation of King’s The Stand, Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) will direct a two-part adaptation of his horror classic IT, King’s zombie story Cell arrives on the big screen later this year, CBS just renewed Under the Dome for a third season, and adaptations of Gerald’s Game and Lisey’s Story, among others, are in the works. Now, exciting news has arrived with regard to Hulu’s take on King’s JFK assassination thriller 11/22/63, with word that James Franco has signed on for the lead role.
The Oscar nominee will play a high school English teacher named Jake Epping, who travels back in time to prevent the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. While in the past, Epping’s mission is threatened by a variety of obstacles, including Lee Harvey Oswald, his own falling in love and the past he has entered into, which does not want to be changed.
Franco will also produce the nine-hour miniseries, which boasts a script from Bridget Carpenter (Friday Night Lights, The Red Road). Carpenter is also exec-producing with King and Bad Robot’s Bryan Burk. Abrams’ Bad Robot is under a deal at Warner Bros. Television, which will distribute internationally. Bad Robot’s Kathy Lingg co-exec produces while Athena Wickham will produce.
The actor’s recruitment makes him just the latest A-lister to fall under television’s hypnotic spell, with other recent examples including Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (True Detective), Halle Berry (Extant), Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo), Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn (the second season of True Detective), Kevin Bacon (The Following), Timothy Dalton (Penny Dreadful) and Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder). Actors have cited television’s expanded format and greater riskiness with narrative storytelling as reasons why it is sometimes preferable to starring in movies.
11/22/63 is certainly a good fit for the miniseries format. King’s book was a veritable tome, weighing in at 880 pages, and trying to compress all that into a feature film would have surely ended in disaster. A premiere date has not been set, but we’ll keep you posted as more on this promising series comes to light.