— – –
In your film ‘A Good Marriage’, Darcy discovers her husband is a serial killer. There’s a deepening level of emotion that not many of us can relate to. But I feel a lot of people can’t explain what their gut would make them do in such a situation…
Allen: Yes, I think Darcy has been quite sheltered. She’s been in a very comfortable life, and she has this business; she was probably on the PTA. She was very involved when her kids were in school, and this is so out of her league. It’s like, how do I even begin to deal with it? So she has a tremendous amount of internalizing to do, and she has to make a huge decision that takes a lot of the blush off of the innocence of life. She has to grow up and be exposed to something she would have never been exposed to.
King: Darcy’s had a sweet ride. She’s married to a good guy. He’s got a job and she’s also got a job in the house. She runs his coin business and the two things together make a nice life. So she’s untested in a real way. And when this thing happens, when she discovers what her husband is doing, at first she’s paralyzed by the enormity of it, and then little by little, we see her come to grips.
One of the things that interested me is to see what happens to people when they are under pressure. That’s what this movie is really about. Joan carried it, and, to be fair, Anthony LaPaglia’s a great Bob. There’s something going with his portrayal of Bob. You say to yourself, “This is probably what a serial killer is really like.” He’s sort of this ordinary guy with this monster inside.
Joan, this your first time in the world of Stephen King. How was your experience dealing with this character who’s battling doubt, denial, and a range of emotion?
Allen: I had a fantastic time, because of the intimacy of the story and the way it was a small team of people working on it. I had never really worked on anything that I had to play for suspense, and it also kind of has a dark irony to it. It felt more Hitchcock-ian in a lot of ways. I thought a lot about Hitchcock when I was creeping down the stairs to see if Bob was there. It felt like I was in a classic kind of suspense story, and I really enjoyed that.
King: It’s got a lot of twinkles of that Hitchcockian humor, too. One of my favorite lines is when she’s in the garage and he leaves these notes everywhere and one of the notes says, “You can park this if you really try,” and she says, “He goes but he never really leaves.”
Stephen, you’re a big fan of rock ’n roll. It’s been a big part of your work and your life. Is the process of adapting your own short story sort of like the jam version of your novella or is it the stripped-down acoustic version?
King: Stripped-down acoustic version, in this case. It’s not always stripped-down—sometimes it’s electrified. But what I wanted to do to this was give this a real home feel, and I wanted it to be claustrophobic, to actually bring it into their house. I was happy just to be in the house. It was Peter Askin who said, “This is a little bit too claustrophobic for me. Could you please write a scene where Darcy is outside with friends?” So we did that, and there’s a scene where Bob is repairing his car, which is outside, but a lot of it is interiors and that claustrophobic feel. So, yeah, stripped down acoustic.
Marriages have been the center of a lot of my favorite work of yours. Whether it’s Pet Sematary or Lisey’s Story, why do you think marriages, good or bad, can conjure so much horror in all of our hearts and minds?
King: Marriage is referred to in the bible as “mystical union,” and it really is in the sense that two people who don’t know each other get together. I’m always interested in how much you find out about the other person and how much you don’t find out. In the case of Lisey’s Story, that marriage is the basis of strength and love and loyalty and the ability to go on. In “A Good Marriage,” it’s the case of a woman finding out that her husband is not who she thought, which is horrible. They say write about what you know, and I’ve been married for about 43 years, so marriage is one of these things that I know—but I still wouldn’t say that I entirely know my wife.
She’s held you down all these years…
King: She keeps me centered. She also has her secrets, and one of them is in “A Good Marriage.” One night, she was in the bed, and as I came in the room her feet started to move frantically under the coverlet, and I’m like, “Honey, what are you doing?” She says, “Nothing.” So I picked up the coverlet and there were all these little Snickers wrappers there down at the bottom. She’d been sitting there and snacking away at Snickers. But I never left a note that said, “What’s in the fridge today goes out in the bucket tomorrow.”
Personally, what do you both think it takes to make a good marriage?
Allen: I think being compassionate, and really listening. It’s important to really listen to the other person and have them feel like they’re heard, to make sure the relationship feels equal.
King: Trust, a sense of humor, and don’t let the sun go down on an argument without trying to make it up. That’s all I know. I’ve been married a long time—it seems to be working.