When Frank Darabont’s feature film adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘serial thriller’ The Green Mile hit cinemas in 1999, it was a big deal. King’s six-part novel had debuted in 1996, and the excitement that had surrounded the innovative marketing of the old school Victorian-era format was still fresh in people’s memories.
It didn’t suck, either, something that people at the tail end of the millennium had come to expect from adaptations of King’s body of work. The era of seventies and eighties classics like Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone and Stand By Me was long gone, and while Misery and The Shawshank Redemption had been top shelf adaptations, the nineties had seen ten other movies based on King’s properties utterly crash and burn.
It had been Darabont who’d adapted Shawshank, so expectations were high. The Green Mile exceeded them: the script was moving and faithful to the novel; the performances were extraordinary, the actors perfectly cast; the production design and the soundtrack were evocative and meaningful.
It’s not flawless, but as a supremely faithful movie adaptation of a serialised 600 page novel it succeeds far, far more often than it fails.
So let’s see how much you know about the ins and outs of making the movie...
20. The Serialisation
At the time, original author Stephen King called The Green Mile the single most faithful adaptation of his work, which until that point hadn't always been treated with a vast amount of reverence by Hollywood.
The novel was originally published as six short books, once a month between March and August 1996. For King, the serialised format was a creative challenge - and an impish thumb to the nose of readers who insisted on skipping to the end to see what happens. His mother had been one such - he remembered being twelve and, horrified, catching her holding her place on page 50 of an Agatha Christie mystery while she flipped to the climax to find out whodunnit.
That wouldn't be possible here - in fact, King was still writing as the first volumes were published and had only the vaguest idea how it ended himself.
King made sure to make each of the six instalments a story on its own. Frank Darabont's adaptation, as a single sprawling narrative, elides the serialised format entirely. Today, it would probably have been presented to HBO as a serial, but the television landscape of today is significantly different to the television landscape of twenty years ago…