Following the news that Zac Efron had been cast in Blumhouse Films’ new adaptation of the 1980 Stephen King novel Firestarter, we had a chance to speak with Blumhouse president Jason Blum about what to expect from the latest addition to the King cinematic canon.
“It’s a relatively faithful version of the book,” says Blum, who is doing press this week for the upcoming Welcome to the Blumhouse series of genre movies. “We’re going to shoot it next year. I’ve got several things going with Stephen King, and he’s the ultimate icon to those of us like you and people who love this genre. Obviously this is a classic, so it’s slightly daunting, but we did well by people with Halloween so hopefully we won’t disappoint it with our new Firestarter.”
Blum wouldn’t divulge who Efron is playing in Firestarter, but it’s likely that he’s taking the role of Andy McGee, the father of the eight-year-old girl who gives the book its title. In the novel, an experimental drug given to Andy and his future wife Vicky in college leaves them both with psychic abilities. But it also gives their daughter Charlene (Charlie) the power to start fires with her mind — a potential weapon coveted by The Shop, the shadowy government agency behind the original experiment.
While Blum says his company’s take on the story will be “relatively faithful,” it’s worth noting that the first film version of the tale, released in 1984, was perhaps the most faithful adaptation of a King book at that time. What hurt that version of Firestarter — which was panned by critics and King himself — was the pedestrian direction of Mark L. Lester (John Carpenter was slated to direct at one point) and some uninspired casting choices.
Coming off the success of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, a young Drew Barrymore was a natural to play Charlie, but she lacked the experience to pull off such an important role. David Keith as Andy, along with Martin Sheen as the head of the agency and Art Carney as an innocent bystander who gets involved with the McGees, were okay if not particularly exciting.
But the biggest blunder of the movie was hiring George C. Scott to play Rainbird, the Native American assassin hired by the Shop to capture Charlie and kill her parents. The legendary Scott was no one’s idea of a Native American, and the character’s spiritual obsession with death in the book turns into something even more creepy in the movie as Rainbird goes undercover to gain Charlie’s confidence and strikes up an extremely age-inappropriate friendship with the little girl.
Efron, who has shown considerable acting chops in movies like Neighbors, The Disaster Artist and with his turn as serial killer Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, is a good choice to play Andy. Hopefully the 33-year-old actor will be joined by other suitable options in the critical roles of Charlie and Rainbird.
Keith Thomas (The Vigil) is slated to direct Firestarter from a script by Scott Teems, and as Blum noted above, it’s set to begin shooting next year. In the meantime, we’re also quite tantalized by Blum’s reference to having “several things” going with King…the pairing of the master of horror with the dominant company in the horror movie space seems long overdue.