At first you might be thinking I’m joking about an Apt Pupil movie from 1987. In this case though I certainly am not. While there was of course the 1998 feature film by Bryan Singer. Starring the late Brad Renfro as well as Sir Ian McKellen. The fact of the matter is we came very close to a 1987 adaptation of Stephen King’s Apt Pupil.
Apt Pupil was a 1982 novella by King. Published in Different Seasons. The story concerns a young man named Todd Bowden, who has realized the terrible secret of Arthur Denker. This secret turns out to be that Arthur is in fact a Nazi war criminal known as Kurt Dussander. Soon Kurt and Todd’s friendship results in murder.
Both unknown to the other are stalking the homeless community in an attempt to rid themselves of nightmares. Things spiral out of control for both Todd and Kurt, thanks to not just the homicide but the web of lies and distrust the two spin.
Bryan Singer’s film in my opinion does a remarkable job of capturing the feel of the novella. The darkness of Kurt’s past of course as well as Todd’s acceptance and desire to feel the same. Some critics even made note that Singer’s adaptation managed to make King’s story even more darker by changing the ending. Having said that, I am in the camp that feels the ending doesn’t live up to the source material.
I was working at the Razorback Theatre back when Apt Pupil was released. I can tell you that it played to mostly empty auditoriums. It seems to have been mirrored in it’s theatrical run elsewhere as well. Regardless, as I’ve already mentioned in spite of the ending, I do like the film.
So imagine to my great surprise yesterday when I learned that there was a 1987 film adaptation. As much as I wish I could point you to a finished product at the present time there is none. Bear in mind, Apt Pupil wasn’t scuttled in the pre-production phase. Quite the contrary, as Director Alan Bridges had already been filming for ten weeks. I have read that nearly 40 minutes of footage had been shot.
So I’m guessing at this point you must be wondering why the film was never finished. It turns out the production company ran out of finances. And when after a year had passed Apt Pupil was ready to resume production, the actor who was chosen as Todd had aged too much to match the previous footage. Now who might you ask was the young man who becomes seduced by Kurt’s evil? Would you believe me if I told you it was Ricky Schroder from Silver Spoons?
I tell you it’s all true, friends. Now what about the role of Kurt Dussander? Before production began Apt Pupil had an embarrassment of riches in regards to the actors approached to the play the part. Salem’s Lot James Mason was asked to play the role but passed away from a heart attack before filming. Then you had the likes of Richard Burton, who I believe would have been amazing, but he died from a cerebral hemorrhage before signing on.
The actor who in fact played the role of the escaped Nazi war criminal was Nicol Williamson. Who I bet you film fans know best from his role as Merlin in 1981’s Excalibur!
So I will leave you with this. That 40 minutes of footage is of course not readily available. Although it has been said that Stephen King once saw the footage and thought highly of it. Perhaps in the future we shall be lucky enough to see what was filmed for 1987’s Apt Pupil?
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