In 1982, Steven Spielberg was so enamored by The Talisman, the fantasy horror book by Stephen King and Peter Straub, that two years before the book was published, he acquired the screen rights outright and in perpetuity.
He then spent the next 35-plus years developing it as a movie, trying in vain to find a way into the story.
Now, Talisman may finally be ready to reach screens but, as befits the times, as a series.
And, as it sometimes takes a village to raise a project, Spielberg has assembled some mighty collaborators to help him make the adaptation a reality.
The Duffer brothers, whose own Stranger Things owes more than a few debts to King’s work, will executive produce a series adapting the book, which will be produced by Netflix in association with Spielberg’s Amblin Television and Paramount Television Studios.
Curtis Gwinn, who worked as a writer-exec producer on Duffers’ Stranger Things, will act as writer and showrunner of the project, which is in development. With deals still being sewn up and in negotiations, Netflix and the production parties involved had no comment.
Talisman tells of a 12-year-old boy named Jack Sawyer who sets off on an epic road-trip quest in order to save his dying mother’s life. He is in search of the Talisman, a powerful relic that can not only heal his mother but, as he learns, save the world. Sawyer’s journey criss-crosses two realities: the America we know and its dangerous, fantasy-world twin, The Territories.
The book was an instant best-seller when it hit stores in 1984, and King and Straub reunited for a sequel in 2001. On the adaptation front, the most recent developments occurred in 2019 when Mike Barker, who directed several episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, was involved in what was then being envisioned as a feature.
For the new take on Talisman, Matt and Ross Duffer will exec produce via their Monkey Massacre Productions while Spielberg exec produces via Amblin Television along with partners Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey. King will also exec produce as will Paramount Television.
Todd Cohen will oversee day-to-day development on the project for Amblin, along with Spielberg, Frank and Falvey.
After close to 50 years, King’s work remains incredibly popular in Hollywood thanks to his deep bench of best-sellers and recent success such as the latest It adaptations. The Running Man and a Pet Sematary prequel are among his works in development. King is repped by Paradigm and Gang Tyre.
A self-described geek, Gwinn first started out in comedy before becoming a writer-producer on the fourth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead. That darker genre path led to him working with Damon Lindelof on HBO’s The Leftovers, Kurt Sutter’s gritty Medieval drama The Bastard Executioner and Netflix’s Narcos. He is repped by 3 Arts Entertainment and attorney Lev Ginsburg of Ginsburg Daniels Kallis.
The Duffers are currently readying season four of Stranger Things, which is expected to bow this year. The series remains one of Netflix’s signature and most popular shows. They are repped by CAA and attorney Alex Kohner of Morris Yorn.