Before The Stand was adapted into a miniseries by Mick Garris and Stephen King, the father of the modern zombie, George A. Romero, was set to direct the feature – here’s why that changed. While the King family and Romero had worked together for decades, there are several collaborations that have gone unmade for numerous reasons. The Stand could’ve been their greatest work together, but other projects took precedence, which led to the shelving of this major adaptation.
Shortly after Romero’s vampire tale, Martin, premiered, he met with King, who was still an up-and-coming author with approximately four full-length novels in circulation at the time. He became one of the most noteworthy horror creators when Carrie released in 1974, which was adapted by Brian De Palma in 1976 under the same name. When the two met, they quickly hit it off. Their friendship led to the creation of some of the most iconic horror movies to date, some of which include Knightriders, Creepshow, and The Dark Half. Romero and King intended on collaborating on some of the author’s novels for movie adaptations. Most notably, Romero was attached to direct Pet Sematary and Salem’s Lot. His attachment to The Stand commonly falls under the radar, but it was actually the first novel he proposed adapting with King as its screenwriter.
On paper, The Stand is the perfect Romero-King collaboration. Given the fact that Romero was a virtuoso of the zombie apocalypse and threats of viral infections, Romero’s take on King’s apocalyptic horror story could have been sensational to say the least, but several obstacles got in the way. The project was shelved mostly due to their other projects, Romero leaving Laurel Entertainment, and their desire to gain an R-rating.
Laurel Entertainment was one of the production companies behind 1994’s The Stand, which premiered on ABC over the course of a four-episode arc. When King and Romero were collaborating on the project, their script began to exceed two-hundred pages with the primary goal to achieve an R-rating. It included far more gore than was present in the miniseries, with numerous disturbing scenes of what Captain Trips can do to a person. In the midst of working on The Stand, Romero and King were working on Creepshow, which took precedence over the adaptation. While he still had every intention on adapting it, the director left Laurel Entertainment, which caused him to lose the opportunity to be the first person to adapt The Stand.
Shortly after he left the production company, Richard P. Rubenstein – who co-founded it with Romero – made a deal with ABC to adapt King’s novel into a miniseries. While they used the original script, Romero was not part of it. Instead, they opted for Mick Garris to direct. As production began, King altered the screenplay to make it more suitable for the network. Even with this drawback, he was able to lengthen the script to include more elements of his original novel.
The 1994 The Stand miniseries is now regarded as one of the best Stephen King adaptations. Romero’s darker image of the story that was crafted alongside one of horror’s greatest novelists remains a bit of a mystery. As of this writing, their script is relatively difficult to locate for public viewing. There are several King-Romero collaborations that could’ve been, but The Stand remains one of the most disappointing.