Oscar winner Julianne Moore headlines a brooding new Stephen King mystery on Apple TV+
Years ago, when Stephen King was hit with a bout of double pneumonia, it landed him in hospital and nearly took his life. When he returned home, he found that his wife Tabitha had taken it upon herself to redesign his office, placing all of his belongings in boxes. Walking into the empty room, King envisioned what the studio would look like after his death, leading the prolific author to wonder, what kind of effect would the loss of an acclaimed novelist have on his wife and family?
Apple TV+King’s own family, thankfully, haven’t had to find out what life after Stephen King looks like yet, but one hopes their experience won’t be akin to that of Lisey Landon (played by Academy Award-winner Julianne Moore) who two years after the death of her husband Scott (Clive Owen) begins to face dark, repressed memories of their outwardly happy marriage, while also contending with a deranged stalker (Dane DeHaan).
The miniseries, dealing with the darkness that lurks under a relationship’s surface, is written entirely by King, the first time in his career that the master of horror has adapted his own material solo for a TV series. “Lisey’s Story means a lot to me because it’s the one that I love best,” says King. “My idea is, be all the way in as much as possible or be all the way out. [With other] projects, my idea is step back and write books and maybe something will come along that I really love—a passion project—and this was that.”
Apple TV+His love for the story did not make this novel any easier to bring to screen. Taking place in several timelines and occasionally a world outside the natural one, it took a skilled director to juggle all the puzzle pieces. Initially, the author did not understand what director Pablo Larraín (Jackie) was doing, in his effort to make the narrative for Lisey’s Story logical for television viewers. “I think almost anything is filmable, the question is why would you film that? What is the core of the motivation?” says Larraín. “Someone that has to rebuild herself after the loss, through her own memory, and at the same time, this combination of sensibilities coming from Stephen’s world—which is a romantic, suspense thriller and of course, a fantasy element—was very beautiful. In the process, we found the ‘why,’ which is to understand that every relationship and every couple has a very particular world. We wanted to portray that.”
Although motivated by a frightening and deeply personal event experienced by King himself, Owen never looked at his character as a version of the real-life author. “Obviously, I could see it was drawn from himself and his relationship, but the thing that I was blown away by was just the amount of levels that the piece works on,” says the British actor. “There’s this incredibly intimate relationship. It’s a complete love story. There’s this really scary thriller element. And then there’s this complete other world, which—although is a surreal place out there—almost felt like it was an explosion of inner worlds, in a way. It was about feelings and emotions and exploding into this incredible other place. It’s something very, very intimate and something really epic at the same time.”
Apple TV+Regarding her husband’s depiction of a relationship between an author and his wife, King’s real-life wife Tabitha had just one request when her husband decided to explore the fraught dynamics of a couple not entirely dissimilar to them. “She kind of says, ‘OK, I understand what you’re doing here, and I know that you have to follow your creative muse, but fictionalize these people as much as you can and let’s step back from anything that’s too personal.’ So I try to do that,” says King. “I try to satisfy the reality side and the fictional side, and it worked out pretty well. Certainly, Julianne and Clive are not Steve and Tabby.”
Lisey and Scott may not be the Kings, but when Moore takes on a new project, she does look for a relatable entry point to the story. “One of the great things about what we do is that we’re always trying to communicate the universality of human experience,” she says. “Whenever you’re working on something that’s about relationships, as this one is—not just romantic relationships, but partnerships and family relationships—that’s exactly what you’re doing. And that gives everybody a way in, everybody in the world.”
Lisey’s Story debuts Friday, June 4th on Apple TV+