While at the 2022 Fantastic Fest last month, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with documentarian Daphné Baiwir about her newest project, King on Screen, which explores the lasting impact of Stephen King’s literary work on the world of cinema. During our discussion, Baiwir chatted about how she approached such an enormous topic, like all of the Stephen King adaptations that we’ve been enjoying for nearly 50 years now, how the project evolved based on her interviews, creating her King-centric opening and closing scenes in King on Screen, and more.
I'm somebody who absolutely loves Stephen King adaptations so this was right up my alley. I'm curious, for you, what was the impetus behind you wanting to set out to do this documentary and explore what King's works mean to the world of cinema?
Daphné Baiwir: So actually, I really wanted to make a documentary about Stephen King, but I wanted to have a different approach. I thought it was quite interesting to have all the directors’ points of view since, well, Stephen King is the most adapted author, so I thought it could be great to meet all the directors and to know a little bit about how they approached the material, how they adapted the author, and the process on how they managed it.
So when you decided to set up to do this, because there are so many adaptations, and there are so many different directors and things like that, what was that process like for you in terms of trying to track everybody down and get them to chat with you? I thought it was fun to see folks like Frank Darabont and Taylor Hackford talk about their work here because we don’t hear from them too often.
Daphné Baiwir: Yeah, that's true. I think it was something that is interesting in the documentary, and it's definitely something that I wanted to do. Plus, Frank Darabont has been my favorite director since I was a child, actually. For Taylor Hackford, I really wanted to have his point of view because he made Dolores Claiborne, which is a great Stephen King adaptation, and it has a very interesting look into female characters in Stephen King works. That's something that I really wanted to talk about. For me, Dolores Claiborne is a great movie, and Taylor Hackford is an amazing director so it's something that I really wanted to discuss in the documentary. But yeah, we were crazy lucky because we have such a great cast of directors in this,I think.
As you were going through interviews and everything, did you have to make any tough decisions about the stuff that you were going to include and the stuff that it just didn't fit for one reason or another? I'm just curious because with a Stephen King documentary, an hour and 44 works great, but it also could have been 10 hours, too.
Daphné Baiwir: Yeah, absolutely. Especially with the fact that we spent a minimum of one hour with each director, except Frank Darabont and Taylor, who we spent two and a half hours with. So we had to make choices, hard ones, in the edit room, but we really wanted to tell a story, to have something really engaging for the audience. We didn’t want to have something linear or something chronological, because it would have been more didactical then but not very human or personal. So it's a choice that we made since the beginning to have this string going through the documentary.
So sometimes there were anecdotes or even things that couldn't find their right space in the documentary, in the story that we were telling. It's something that we would love to use in a different way, maybe with some featurettes on the DVD and Blu-ray that feature exclusive anecdotes and things that we couldn't put in the documentary. When you talk about Stephen King and the fact that there are so many adaptations, you can't talk about every adaptation that has been made, otherwise if you do, like you said, it would become a documentary that's like 10 hours or something.
As you were working on this and you were collecting interviews and talking to all of these folks, did that change the journey of this documentary for you, in terms of what you set out to achieve initially with this documentary, and ultimately what you end up being able to do with the documentary itself?
Daphné Baiwir: Well, I spent a lot of time before the interviews preparing everything. I read all the interviews that each director gave in the past regarding those films, and I really wanted to be as thorough as I could be in my questions. For example, for Taylor Hackford, I knew that I wanted him to talk a little bit about the topic of female characters in Stephen King stories because Dolores Claiborne is a huge one. I had the chance to talk about this topic as well with Mike Flanagan too, because he did great work with Stephen King stories where female characters are very present. For example, Gerald's Game, it's just a woman who's tied to this bed for the entirety of the film.
So, there were some topics that were very important to me to be able to discuss in this. But yeah, there were some topics that I was sure I was going to talk about and then sometimes during the conversation, I would think, “Well, this might be an interesting question.” Like, when we talk about pop culture, for example, and his influence on pop culture because you have so many references to Stephen King everywhere. But there were things that came up during the interviews so I had to adjust the questions a little bit, but most of the work happened in the edit room, because it's at that point that you are really building the story.
Before we go, I did want to talk about your opening sequence and your ending sequence because I just thought there are so many fun Easter eggs in there for Stephen King fans. How did you approach putting those sequences together?
Daphné Baiwir: Oh, thanks. Yeah, it was a huge amount of work to do those, actually, but it was fascinating too. Before writing this fictional introduction, we reread every Stephen King book, even the things that he wrote when he was in college. I really wanted to find one reference per story. And then after that, I mixed in a lot of different references. For example, we had had to find the Mr. Mercedes car, so that was a challenge, let's put it that way, because it's an old car. And with Creepshow, for example, Greg Nicotero loaned us the Creepshow doll so you can see the actual Creepshow doll in the window of our Creepshow-themed store in the introduction. We just really wanted to have this feeling going into the Stephen King universe and we were able to bring in all these amazing actors who have appeared in Stephen King projects, and just worked a lot of great references into nearly every aspect of those scenes. It was amazing, especially on the days when the actors came in, because most of them were there at the same time. I was so lucky to be able to get all the talent that we were able to get involved with for this film.