TNT sponsors King’s ‘Nightmares’

Disparate movies come together in experiment

As happens often in horror stories, TNT’s “Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King” began with an experiment.

“We wanted to see if we could do eight completely separate movies,” explains executive producer Bill Haber, “not connected at all except the title and coming from Stephen King stories, each with different creative people.”

Challenge one was to pick the King stories to adapt, most of them from the short-story collection of the same title. Ten scripts were commissioned, with an eye on covering as many genres as possible.

A couple were dropped along the way and another, “Autopsy Room Four,” was added at the last minute to average out the cost and challenges of making the miniseries’ most ambitious piece, “Battleground.”

“Battleground” stars William Hurt as a hit man whose lavish apartment came under siege from an army of toy soldiers come to life.

Though the piece lacked a single line of dialogue, it had so many effects shots that Brian Henson’s team needed eight months of post-production to complete them all.

“Autopsy Room,” on the other hand, featured Richard Thomas lying motionless on a table in a hospital room for the entire hour. “It’s what we used to call a bottle show,” Haber says.

“Nightmares” attracted an impressive cast: Hurt and Thomas, William H. Macy, Tom Berenger, Jeremy Sisto, Kim Delaney and Steven Weber.

“Lisa Freiberger cast it, and she did a fantastic job,” says Haber. “On most of them we got turned down once or twice, but we didn’t have a normal situation where we had dozens of people passing.”

Most of the installments took six weeks to shoot, including 10 days of filming in Australia, versatile enough to stand in for everything from Crouch End, London (albeit with some lighting challenges) to Rock and Roll Heaven, Ore.

The only unexpected wrinkle Haber can recall from production was that his flight to Melbourne had to turn around midway due to equipment problems, turning a 15-hour flight into 27.

“It was kind of painless. We didn’t go bankrupt and nobody hated each other.”

So, in Haber’s mind, did the experiment succeed?

“I’m trying to do a movie right now with Warner Bros., based on another one of Stephen’s short stories, and I told them I can do the movie for $10 million based on my experience with this.”

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