The Stephen King Novel Never Adapted To The Screen Is A Twisted Take On A Disney Classic

By Brian Myers | Published


 I cannot recall a Disney scene that ever brought me to tears before the opening moments of Up revealed that Ellie had passed away. As much of a tearjerker as it was to watch, the Pixar film had several elements embedded in it that reminded me of an often-overlooked Stephen King novel, Roadwork. Published in 1981, the book was published under King’s first pseudonym, Richard Bachman, and serves as one of the acclaimed author’s first major deviations from the supernatural.


Stephen King begins Roadwork with a journalist interviewing Barton George Dawes, a local citizen upset about the city’s plans to extend a highway through his neighborhood. If the project is completed, it would mean that both the laundry that employs him and the home he’s lived in for years would be demolished.

Dark Reflection Of Up

When Carl, the character in Up, is faced with the reality that the home he shared with his wife of more than 50 years is facing demolition, he, like Stephen King’s Barton in Roadwork, experiences rage about the construction project. But both characters’ rage is rooted deeply in the sorrow of having lost a loved one, their respective houses representing countless memories.

Family Torn Apart

Barton is revealed to be grieving the loss of his son Charlie, who died from brain cancer several years before the novel begins. The way Stephen King can elicit sympathy for Roadwork‘s main character is different from the devices that Disney used for Carl in Up, but the thought of either character’s plight is enough to ruin my day.

The Stephen King novel takes a much darker turn than the Disney film. Roadwork sees Barton separate from his wife. She is angry at him for refusing the city’s offers and failing to find them a new place to live.

Fighting City Hall

Stephen King takes Barton on a journey that has him attempt to solicit help from an organized crime member for revenge on the local government. Barton constructs a series of Molotov cocktails and attempts to destroy the construction equipment near his home, but he only does minor damage. But Roadwork isn’t over for Barton yet.

After he is blackmailed into accepting the city’s eminent domain settlement offer, Barton schemes to draw wide attention to what he perceives to be great injustices that he must suffer at the hands of the government. The novel takes a few twists and turns before Stephen King’s Roadwork ends in a style worthy of the author.

Echoes Of Falling Down

I find it strange that there has never been a film adaptation of this Stephen King entry, especially given the number of his other novels and short stories that got the nod, some of which were quite disappointing. As some elements of horror are difficult to translate to the screen, I think Roadwork would survive the script-to-screen transfer magnificently. A wonderful combination of 1993’s Falling Down with the real-life Marvin Heemeyer and Killdozer, a proper film could capture the essence of a broken man’s sorrow that he replaces with rage as he further alienates himself from reality.

Another King Project Finally Seeing Release, So There’s Hope Yet

It was announced in 2019 that the Stephen King novel was going to be developed into a feature film. Five years later, fans like me are still feeling like we’ve been left in limbo as Roadwork seems to be stalled. Thankfully, King fans will be treated (FINALLY) with the release of the Salem’s Lot reboot later in 2024.