The Stephen King Classic Thriller Filmed And Canceled

By Douglas Helm | Published

apt pupil

There are tons of adaptations of Stephen King’s works out there, so it’s not surprising to hear when one slips through the cracks. However, it is a bit weird when a movie is mostly filmed, and it still doesn’t make it to the screen. Apparently, that’s what happened when Alan Bridges tried to adapt King’s Apt Pupil in the 80s.

The Story Of Apt Pupil

Apt Pupil is a King novella from the 1982 collection Different Seasons. The novella follows a teenager named Todd Bowden, who learns that a man living in his town is a Nazi war criminal named Kurt Dussander. Rather than turning Dussander in to the authorities, Todd blackmails him and tells him to give him in-depth details about the Holocaust and what he did. However, Todd’s blackmailing doesn’t go unanswered, as both parties start to bring out the worst in each other.

Apt Pupil Ran Out Of Money

apt pupil

Director Alan Bridges attempted to bring to life Apt Pupil with Ricky Schroder in the role of Todd Bowden and Nicol Williamson in the role of Kurt Dussander. Reportedly, at least 40 minutes of the movie were shot, with some reports saying that up to 75% of it had been completed. However, the finances for the film fell apart and it ended up never being finished.


Based on the story of making Bridges’ version of Apt Pupil, it would be tempting to say the film was cursed from the start. Originally, James Mason was going to play the role of Dussander, but he died before production from a heart attack. Richard Burton was also approached to play Dussander but died the same year. Then, there was apparently a chance for the film to restart production after losing the money, but Schroder had aged out of the role of Todd and the film was finally axed for good.

The King Got To See It

Stephen King

Interestingly, Stephen King saw a rough cut of Bridges’ version of Apt Pupil at some point and deemed it “very good,” which is rare praise from King when it comes to adaptations of his work. There are some rumors that there are some screening tapes of the film somewhere in the ether, but it has otherwise faded into the annals of film “what if” history. Of course, there are always new King adaptations in the Hollywood pipeline, so the novella actually did get adapted years later.

Bryan Singer Made Apt Pupil, But Maybe He Shouldn’t Have?

apt pupil

Eventually, an adaptation of Apt Pupil directed by Bryan Singer came out in 1998, with Brad Renfro playing Todd and Ian McKellen playing Dussander. Later, there were sexual misconduct allegations made against Singer on the set of the film. The civil lawsuit claimed two teenage boys were ordered to strip naked for a scene, and two other actors made allegations in additional civil suits.

These suits were settled for undisclosed sums, and Bryan Singer would later be accused of multiple other claims of sexual assault and misconduct. Singer’s version of the film was met with mixed reviews and was not a financial success. So, it seems pretty likely that Hollywood won’t be returning to the Apt Pupil adaptation well anytime soon, especially with all the other Stephen King works out there left to adapt.

Source: Lost Media Wiki