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Corn, rats and murder make 1922 ‘a Stephen King all star game’

Thomas Jane in 1922
Thomas Jane at his most grizzled in 1922

The fifth Stephen King adaptation since the Summer comes to Netflix Friday. Attendees at the Screamfest horror film festival in Hollywood got an early peek at 1922. Star Thomas Jane joined writer/director Zak Hilditch for a Q&A following the film.

Jane plays Wilfred James, a man confessing his crimes alone in a hotel room. Back in 1922, he conspired to murder his wife (Molly Parker) to keep her from leaving him and selling her share of the farm.

With vast cornfields (Children of the Corn), rats (Graveyard Shift) and murder (every Stephen King story), 1922 seemed like a goldmine to Hilditch.

“When I first read the novella, I just felt like it was a Stephen King all star game,” Hilditch said. “Everything I associate King with, cornfields, rats, murder, revenge, mayhem, really, really intricately drawn characters.”

Wilfred is a tough character to call a hero. He begins the movie as a murderer and only gets worse from there.

“[King] just has a knack of really getting under the skin of people who you wouldn’t necessarily ever empathize with but he finds a way to find the humanity in that,” Hilditch continued. “Taking all of those ingredients to me it was the perfect Stephen King story.”

To play Wilfred, Jane drew on the maternal side of his family from Alabama. Wilfred’s farm is in Nebraska but that was as close as Jane could get.

“Just the flavor of my granddad, like carving that apple and the way he would sit there just carving an apple, sort of chew on it,” Jane said. “I just loved watching him do stuff like that. I thought he was an interesting old man. Crazy. Crazy as a sh*thouse rat.”

Stephen King's 1922
Wilfred James gets what’s coming to him in Stephen King’s 1922

One of the many troubles Wilfred faces after his crime are a plague of rats, perhaps metaphorical or perhaps real. They were definitely real on the set, according to producer Ross M. Dinerstein.

“We had close to 200 real rats that were bred for the movie,” Dinerstein said. “They were great. We never had any problems. They showed up on time, they were respectful, they kept their political views to themselves. They were a real pleasure to work with. There was one rat who was a biter.”

Jane joked about the rats, “There’s always one. They tasted good with ketchup.”

Jane has worked with sharks so rats must be nothing to him.

“All the actors were such troopers about it,” Dinerstein continued. “I was literally hiding from the rats for five weeks. Molly and Thomas and everyone really had no problems with the rats. They were wonderful.”

1922 premieres on Netflix Friday, October 20. Screamfest continues in Hollywood, CA through Thursday, October 19.

Fred Topel has been a journalist since 1999. Over the decades he’s written for About.com, Hollywood.com, CraveOnline, Rotten Tomatoes and Slashfilm. Fred brings Monsters and... read more

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