In 1987, Stephen King’s “Misery” hit shelves. The book, which follows author Paul Sheldon and his relationship with psychotic fan Annie Wilkes, was a global phenomenon. It was adapted into a film three years later, and to this day, has one of the most talented casts and crews ever assembled.
As legend has it, producer Andrew Scheinman read “Misery” on an airplane and recommended it to his director partner at Castle Rock Entertainment, Rob Reiner. Reiner, who had previously directed classics like “This Is Spinal Tap” and “The Princess Bride,” agreed with Scheinman. Acclaimed screenwriter William Goldman was the next team member, and he along with King would pen the script for “Misery.” Now, they just needed to find their Paul and Annie.
Paul Sheldon was, and still is, a daunting role. The complexity of a writer’s intellect combined with copious torture sequences can’t be too appealing for most actors. As a result, the part was turned down by names like Robert de Niro, Kevin Kline, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, William Hurt, and Robert Redford. Eventually someone suggested James Caan, who agreed to play the tormented Sheldon. Caan said he was attracted to the role because it was unlike anything he had ever done and “being a totally reactionary character is really much tougher.”
The search for Annie Wilkes was much easier. William Goldman, apparently, was the one who suggested the then unknown Kathy Bates. It turned out to be the right call and Bates, as we all know, is now one of the most respected actresses of her generation. With the cast and crew assembled, “Misery” began production and was eventually released on November 30, 1990.
“Misery” was an instant success. It grossed 10 million dollars on opening weekend, only second behind “Home Alone.” Kathy Bates was celebrated for her performance and would later go on to win Best Actress at the 1991 Academy Awards. The film is considered one of the better Stephen King adaptations and King himself cites “Misery” as one of his favorite stories to appear on screen.
“Misery” is currently streaming on HBO Max and Hulu.