If you are in the business of making horror movies, and you get the seal of approval from the prolific Stephen King to adapt one of his novels for cinema, you know you are doing something right. The author is legendary for being very specific about which filmmakers get their hands on the rights to his books, and rightly so – his body of work is, quite simply, the gold standard. It comes as no surprise then, that when the award-winning creative team behind Oculus – writer-director Mike Flanagan, his co-writer Jeff Howard and their regular producer Trevor Macy – got the nod from King for Gerald’s Game, they shuffled their slate to make that their very next project.
First published in 1992, Gerald’s Game is an as-yet unadapted entry in the King canon, but is well-overdue a translation to the big screen. The incredibly dark and harrowing tale begins with a young married couple – Jessie and Gerald Burlingame – who head to a secluded cabin in Maine for a romantic break. Gerald is a successful but aggressive lawyer, while Jessie essentially fills the role of ‘trophy wife’. Taking the opportunity to rekindle their passion, the couple plan to engage in a seemingly light-hearted game of consensual bondage – however, when Jessie suddenly balks and her husband ignores her, the whole thing goes terribly, terribly wrong.
What makes this such an exciting prospect, is the fact that it is not only an incredible female role, but one that requires an actress to hold the screen – entirely alone – for a large part of the film (not unlike John Cusack did in 1408), as Jessie remains handcuffed to the bed in the aftermath of the ‘game’, with no hope of rescue, exploring the deeply repressed contents of her own head. To Hollywood’s shame, such a film would not have been possible ten years ago – or even five years ago. But with films such as Gravity having recently blazed a trail, we are beginning to see a welcome and necessary change in the type of female roles on offer.
For their part, Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard and Trevor Macy – who had previously lined up Diver as their next project – are keen to get started on Gerald’s Game without delay. As the project was packaged for sale at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, director Mike Flanagan stated:
“In the tradition of Misery and Dolores Claiborne, Gerald’s Game is one of the most intense and compelling novels I’ve ever read, and this has been a dream project for many years. Trevor and I are very excited to help translate that experience for an audience.”
Gerald’s Game appears to be heading for a late 2014 production start date, which means casting will be happening imminently. Just who Flanagan will cast as Jessie is currently anyone’s guess, but it will be very exciting to find out. Stephen King writes great leading women. Flanagan and Jeff Howard are pretty good at that too, and as seen in Oculus, they hire really interesting actresses to play those characters. If handled in just the right way, this could be one of the most highly anticipated films of 2015. We just need a little patience to let these guys work their magic.