‘Paul Sheldon used to write for a living. Now, he’s writing to stay alive’
Misery is a 1990 American psychological thriller feature film based on Stephen King’s 1987 novel of the same name and starring James Caan, Kathy Bates, Lauren Bacall, Richard Farnsworth, and Frances Sternhagen.
Directed by Rob Reiner, the film received critical acclaim for Bates’s performance as the psychopathic Annie Wilkes, and she won the 1990 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role.
Scream Factory released Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of the film on November 28, 2017. Special features:
- New interview with director Rob Reiner
- New interview with special makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero
- Audio commentary by Rob Reiner
- Audio commentary by screenwriter William Goldman
- Misery Loves Company” featurette
- Marc Shaiman’s Musical Misery Tour featurette
- Diagnosing Annie Wilkes featurette
- Advice for the Stalked featurette
- Profile of a Stalker featurette
- Celebrity Stalkers featurette
- Anti-Stalking Laws featurette
Sick of his 19th Century romantic heroine, Misery Chastain, novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) kills her off and writes a more personal, modern novel.
When his car crashes in remote mountains Paul is saved by ‘number one fan’ Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who adores Misery and has even named her pig after her. As she nurses him back to health at her remote dwelling, he realises she is not just going to let him go…
The part of Paul Sheldon was originally offered to William Hurt (twice), then Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman and Robert Redford, but they all turned it down. Warren Beatty was interested in the role, wanting to turn him into a less passive character, but eventually had to drop out as post-production of Dick Tracy extended.
Eventually, someone suggested James Caan, who agreed to play the part. Caan commented that he was attracted by how Sheldon was a role unlike any other of his, and that “being a totally reactionary character is really much tougher.”
In the original novel, Annie Wilkes lops off one of Paul Sheldon’s feet with an axe. Goldman loved the scene and argued for it to be included, but Reiner insisted that it be changed to that she only breaks his ankles. Goldman subsequently agreed this was the correct decision as amputation would have been too severe.
‘The terror in the film is very slow-burning, starting as something only mildly disturbing and carefully building towards full-blown horror. We’re given plenty of time to get to know the characters rather intimately, making the climactic confrontational scenes all the more effective [….] In Misery, the set-up is strong and the payoff is worth it.’ DVD Verdict
‘Yes, the book was richer, but for what it was Misery the film captured its black humour and its essential worries about who exploits whom in the entertainment world in an economical setting, and still made the audience wince where it counted.’ The Spinning Image
‘Many competent directors could have done what Reiner does here, and perhaps many other actors could have done what Caan does, although the Kathy Bates performance is trickier and more special. The result is good craftsmanship, and a movie that works. It does not illuminate, challenge or inspire, but it works.’ Roger Ebert.com
“William Goldman’s script is airtight. The best scares are intense and shocking. Some of King’s ideas about the relationship between popular artist and fan are lost in transition to the screen. Bates’ Oscar-winning performance is unforgettable and overshadows Caan’s more controlled work.” Mike Mayo, The Horror Show Guide
Cast and characters:
- James Caan as Paul Sheldon
- Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes
- Richard Farnsworth as Buster
- Frances Sternhagen as Virginia
- Lauren Bacall as Marcia Sindell
- Graham Jarvis as Libby
- Jerry Potter as Pete
- Tom Brunelle as Anchorman
- June Christopher as Anchorwoman
- Julie Payne as Reporter #1
- Archie Hahn III as Reporter #2
- Gregory Snegoff as Reporter #3
- Rob Reiner as Helicopter Pilot [uncredited]
- J.T. Walsh as State Trooper Sherman Douglas [uncredited]