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Stephen King's The Stand Release Date, Cast And Story

In 1978, Stephen King released his fourth novel, a post-apocalyptic saga documenting the fall of America under the cloud of a plague, the survivors who managed to cling to their lives, and the epic battle between good and evil that ensued in the ashes. The novel was The Stand, and in the 40-plus years since its release it has risen to become one of the most well-regarded works in the King canon, beloved as much for its sprawling scope as it is for its moments of fantasy-driven horror and its compelling cast of characters. 

In 1994, The Stand was adapted as a TV miniseries by ABC, and even though the miniseries was well-received by viewers and remains a favorite among certain King fans, it wasn't the be-all, end-all adaptation. Some fans still wanted a bigger, more violent, more epic version of The Stand to one day hit the screen. Now, after years of development, we're finally getting our wish in the form of a ten-episode miniseries from a visionary director and featuring an all-star cast — not to mention a new ending conceived by King himself. Here's everything we know about this new version of The Stand so far, from who's in it to why it took so long to get here.

What's the release date for The Stand?

The Stand will return to screens in the form of a ten-episode streaming series at CBS All Access, a move that was announced in January 2019 after years of attempts to re-adapt King's epic novel for the screen in some form. After that announcement, writer/director Josh Boone began casting his production in earnest, and cameras started rolling on The Stand on September 12, 2019. Boone announced the start of production on his official Instagram page with a short teaser video that mostly consisted of an image of the script's title page. Boone also celebrated that same day with a photo of himself from the set, sitting in a cornfield that could indicate the first day included scenes at Mother Abigail's home in Nebraska.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put a lot of uncertainty into TV production schedules everywhere, which meant the release for The Stand was in question for several months. We'd always hoped for late 2020, but it took until the summer to know for sure. At last, in August of 2020, CBS confirmed that the series would premiere on December 17, and air weekly as 2020 becomes 2021. 

The cast of The Stand

The Stand is a massive, sprawling narrative that spans more than a thousand pages in its uncut form. Its story covers the length and breadth of America, taking readers from New York City to Maine and from Nebraska to Las Vegas. In the midst of all that, King creates a massive ensemble of good people, bad people, and those who lie in between. 

The earliest casting news for the series revealed stars including James Marsden as Stu Redman, Amber Heard as Nadine Cross, Odessa Young as Fran Goldsmith, and Henry Zaga as Nick Andros, all four of them major players in the struggle that makes up the book's core. Later casting announcements throughout the fall of 2019 revealed that Nat Wolff joined the series as the villainous Lloyd Henreid, while Jovan Adepo will play rock star Larry Underwood, Brad William Henke will play Tom Cullen, and Greg Kinnear will play Glen Bateman. Two more key names, Marilyn Manson and The Flash star Ezra Miller, have also joined the series in still-mysterious roles. 

Of course, arguably the most important casting decisions in the series arrived when Boone had to select the major players on either side of King's good vs. evil struggle, the benevolent Mother Abigail and the sinister Randall Flagg. Ultimately, those roles went to the legendary Whoopi Goldberg and the always-compelling Alexander Skarsgård, respectively, setting the stage for a battle for the ages. 

A Stephen King classic: the story of The Stand

The Stand was originally published in 1978, and later expanded into an "uncut" edition that introduced several hundred pages of previously deleted material in 1990. It is one of King's most ambitious novels, both in size (the uncut edition clocks in at more than 1,100 pages) and in scope, and it all begins with the accidental release of a deadly superflu. 

The first part of the novel chronicles the spread of this plague, dubbed "Captain Trips," as it kills nearly everyone in the United States and beyond, creating a wasteland. The few remaining people who prove immune to the virus, fighting to survive after their loved ones have died horribly, feel themselves drawn to two polarized supernatural forces. One is a kindly old woman in Nebraska named Mother Abigail, and the other is a denim-clad demon in human form named Randall Flagg. 

Ultimately, all of the remaining survivors are compelled to choose a side in the coming war, as Mother Abigail's followers settle into the "Free Zone" of Boulder, Colorado, and Randall Flagg takes over the Mecca of sin that is Las Vegas. Before it's all over, the remaining representatives of humanity will have to stand together against the darkness, with the fate of the world at stake.

Stephen King has written a new ending for The Stand

Because The Stand is such a massive story following so many different characters (King himself has compared it to Lord of the Rings), it's also a book that leaves a fair number of loose ends present for the reader to contemplate. Yes, there is a major confrontation near the end of the novel, and it does resolve in a definite way, but King left plenty of doors open in the saga — if not to continue it then at least to let his readers decide certain things for themselves. Now, we're getting more of the story. 

In August of 2019 CBS All Access revealed, and King confirmed, that the final episode of the new miniseries will be a new "coda" to the original novel that will explore more of what happened to the major characters after the titular "stand" that made up the novel's climax. While we still don't know exactly what this coda will consist of — and it will likely be kept under wraps until it airs — Stephen King confirms he's had some version of this new ending in his head for three decades, and he's looking forward to finally showing it to the world.

Who's behind the camera for The Stand?

After years in development, The Stand was finally announced as a ten-part miniseries on the CBS All Access streaming platform in January of 2019, and entered production in September of 2019. The series is masterminded by Josh Boone, best known for films like The Fault in Our Stars and the still-unreleased, seemingly cursed New Mutants. Boone, a lifelong King fan who read the author's work in spite of his strict parents, will direct the series, which he also co-wrote with Ben Cavell. King himself has endorsed this adaptation, and personally scripted the final episode as a new ending for the overall saga. King's son, novelist Owen King, will also serve as a producer on the series.

"I'm excited and so very pleased that The Stand is going to have a new life on this exciting new platform," King said. "The people involved are men and women who know exactly what they're doing; the scripts are dynamite. The result bids to be something memorable and thrilling. I believe it will take viewers away to a world they hope will never happen."

The trailers for The Stand

In August of 2020, after months of waiting and a few teaser photos, the first footage from The Stand finally arrived in the form of a 30-second teaser trailer. The teaser didn't dig into the plot or storytelling style, but did offer glimpses of various key players in the story — including Stu, Fran, Mother Abigail, Glen, Larry, and others — while ending with a creepy tease of the arrival of Randall Flagg. 

In October of 2020 CBS All Access released its first full-length trailer for the series, and we got a much better idea of the approach the story is taking. While the series will no doubt dig into the struggles of the "Captain Trips" pandemic as it ravages America, the trailer itself is much more interested in drawing the lines of battle between Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg, and it's especially interested in setting up the key players in the Boulder Free Zone. We get to see their little Colorado society, led by people like Stu, taking shape in the aftermath of a fallen world, as Mother Abigail brings people together. But of course, temptation is ever-present, and Flagg's presence is peppered throughout the footage as he tempts both good and evil characters to his side with visions in the desert. The struggle between the two sides is clear, as is the series' sweeping visual style that includes everything from hallucinatory dreamscapes to ruined cities. 

The '90s version of The Stand

Work on some form of adaptation for The Stand dates back to the late 1970s, shortly after the novel was published. In the documentary Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow, writer/director George A. Romero recalled that, after he and King began discussing working together on a project for the first time, they grew very interested in adapting The Stand as a motion picture. Instead, the pair of horror masters turned their attention to the more achievable Creepshow anthology film, and The Stand's journey to the big screen was never fully realized as the project ultimately lapsed into development hell. 

In 1994, more than 15 years after it was published, The Stand finally made it to the screen as a massive, six-hour miniseries on ABC. King adapted the miniseries from his novel, with director Mick Garris at the helm. King and Garris had already worked together on Sleepwalkers, and would again on Riding the Bullet and the miniseries versions of The Shining and Bag of Bones. The miniseries also sported a massive, star-studded cast that included Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Miguel Ferrer, Jamey Sheridan, Ruby Dee, Laura San Giacomo, and many more. The Stand was a ratings smash for ABC, earning viewers in 19 million homes on each night of its broadcast, and ultimately won two Primetime Emmy Awards.

The Stand's long road back to the screen

For years, The Stand miniseries stood as the sole adaptation of King's novel, with no major reported movements on the idea of turning the book into a film. That changed in 2011, when Warner Bros. began working on a new big-screen adaptation, and drafted Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows director David Yates to helm it. Yates ultimately left the project, but other directors kept approaching it, including the likes of Ben Affleck and Scott Cooper, who both ultimately dropped out. 

Then, in 2014, Josh Boone signed on for a new film adaptation of the series, and concerns quickly grew over how exactly to adapt King's novel into one feature film. From there, the adaptation process evolved. The idea of more than one film emerged, as did the notion of doing an eight-hour miniseries followed by a theatrically released film. In 2016, Warner Bros.' option on the film expired, and the project returned to CBS Films, where talk of a miniseries adaptation resumed. Finally, in January of 2019, we arrived at where we are now, with a new streaming miniseries from CBS All Access.