Adapting Stephen King’s Firestarter: Does The 1984 Drew Barrymore Movie Still Have Heat?


Considering this, it’s fitting that the process of bringing Firestarter to the big screen wasn’t precisely easy either. Originally it was supposed to be director John Carpenter who told the story of young Charlie McGee on the big screen (this being before Christine was even a book let alone a movie), but it was a project that quickly hit a brick wall. As adapted by screenwriter Bill Phillips, the film would have required Universal Pictures to pony up a $20 million budget – and while that investment was considered substantial all by itself, Carpenter was also coming off the tragic box office flop that was The Thing. Had the studio had a time machine, executives could have seen that the 1982 movie would become one of the most beloved horror titles of all time, but alas…

Enter director Mark L. Lester. The filmmaker, coming off the controversial Class of 1984, met with Universal and said that he could turn Firestarter into a movie for $10 million, and in May 1984 that vision arrived on the big screen (albeit about $5 million over budget). It’s a feature with a stellar cast, starring the likes of Drew Barrymore, George C. Scott, Martin Sheen, Freddie Jones, Art Carney, Heather Locklear, and Louise Fletcher, and it’s inarguably one of the most faithful King films that have been made – but how does it stack up both as an adaptation and a cinematic experience now that it’s nearing its 40th anniversary, especially with a remake is on the list of upcoming Stephen King movies? That’s the focus of this week’s Adapting Stephen King.



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