Annie Wilkes – the unstable antagonist of Misery – remains one of Stephen King’s most haunting characters. That Wilkes is not supernatural, not paranormal, and not anything special, is what makes her so terrifying. She’s just a normal person – obsessive, sociopathic, even psychopathic – but still, a normal person that could so easily exist in any of our lives. Wilkes is what makes Misery such an endearing story. However, director Rob Reiner has recently revealed that his critically-acclaimed adaption staring Katy Bates almost never came to fruition.
In a commentary track on a recent Blu-ray re-release of the 1990 hit, Reiner explains how he had to work hard to convince King to approve the venture. “It [Misery] was a personal book… He didn’t want to option it to anybody unless he felt it was in good hands,” claims Reiner. What won the author over, Reiner insists, was his handling of the 1986 coming-of-age classic Stand By Me:
“He loved Stand By Me – and he had told me it was the best adaptation of anything that he had ever written – he said, ‘I’ll give it to you guys if Rob will either produce or direct it.’ So, he felt comfortable that I would do it.”
That King had such reservations should not come as a massive shock; we must recall that at the time, he had on numerous occasions publicly slated Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining. Like Misery, this story had been written at a difficult time in King’s life and he felt that Kubrick’s endeavour did not do his story justice.
Wilkes’s character is said to be a personification of King’s cocaine addiction. King has gone on record to state that “Annie was my drug problem, and she was my number-one fan. God, she never wanted to leave.” It is understandable then that he resisted green lighting Misery for the big screen. Let’s just be grateful that he did; Katy Bates’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Wilkes remains one of the most disturbing in cinematic history.