Stephen King wrote his first short story at seven, and was first published (in a comic fanzine) at 18. After attending the University of Maine, he worked as a sportswriter for his local newspaper and labored away for a while in an industrial laundry. He was teaching high school English at Maine's Hampden Academy when his first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974. Over the next decade he blossomed into the most popular writer in America, as well as one of the most prolific; in addition to the books published under his own name, he also wrote five pseudonymously as Richard Bachman (one of these, The Running Man, was filmed in 1989, with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead). No mere hack or dilettante, as has sometimes been alleged, King puts his whole heart and soul in every chiller he writes: His criteria is that if it can scare him, it will scare everyone else. Beginning with 1976's Carrie, virtually all of King's novels have been adapted to the screen -- but only a third or so of the filmizations have been truly worth the effort. For every above-average effort like The Shining (1980), The Dead Zone (1983), and Misery (1990), there has been a failure like Pet Cemetery (1989) and Needful Things (1993). While he claims to have adopted a "take the money and run" philosophy concerning most of his filmed novels, King has, in fact, taken a more active part in movies than most of his contemporaries. He often plays small roles in the films based on his works, and in 1986 he made his directorial bow with Maximum Overdrive. He also directed the first five episodes of the 1991 TV series Stephen King's The Golden Years, and essayed a small role as a bus driver. His other TV contributions have included the miniseries It! (1990), Sometimes They Come Back (1991), The Tommyknockers (1993), The Stand (1994), and The Langoliers (1995). In 1997, King oversaw a television miniseries remake of The Shining to insure that it would be closer to his original vision than the 1980 Kubrick film. Not entirely confined to hair-raisers, Stephen King has also turned out "straight" tales like The Body and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, both of which have been filmed as, respectively, Stand by Me (1986) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994). In the years that followed The Shawshank Redemption drew a massive cult following on home video and DVD, and became on of King's most celebrated celluliod adaptations. Of course this would eventually lead to many more film adaptations of King's more dramatic works, and with such efforts as Dolores Caliborne, The Green Mile and Hearts in Atlantis, King adaptations began to take on an air of sophistication (a great irony considering the author himself has deemed his writings to the literary equivilant of a Big Mac and fries) that attracted the likes of such respected dramatic actors as Tom Hanks and Anthony Hopkins. Of course endless sequels to such earlier adaptations as Sometimes They Come Back and Children of the Corn continued to flood the straight-to-video and lend some air of truth to his statements regarding his work, and it seemed that every few years a miniseries based on one of King's novels was almost mandatory. If a belated 1999 sequel to Brian De Palma's 1976 film adaptation of Carrie seemed little more than an attempt to cash in on the current trend towards post-Scream teen horror, a made-for-television remake of the original in 2002 was simply unnecessary. In 2002 The Dead Zone was adapted into a well-recieved television series, and though such feature efforts as 2003's ambitious but laughably flawed Dreamcather proved that filmmakers were willing to take risks with some of the King's more unconventional stories. After adapting Lars Von Trier's acclaimed Danish television chiller The Kingdom into Kingdom Hospital in 2004, fans could look forward to yet another made-for-television adaptation of Salem's Lot and the David Koepp directed Johnny Depp vehicle Secret Window later that same year. Of course as always the line forming to adapt King novels to screen could last be seen winding around the block, and screen versions of Riding the Bullet, The Talisman, Bag of Bones and Desperation wer all in the making as of early 2004.
On a personal note, King suffered massive injuries when struck by a minivan while walking outside in June of 1999, a mere month after announcing that he would likely go blind as a result of being stricken with Macular Degeneration. Though King would eventually recover from the injuries he sustained in the minivan incident, there was little doctors could do to halt the devastating effects of his incurable eye condition and an announcement that he would cease writing in 2002 proved a sad blow to legions of loyal fans. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi