After refusing to speak about his motivations for writing "Misery" for two decades, Stephen King finally came out and stated that it is indeed about his battle with substance abuse. Kathy Bates' character is a representation of his dependency on drugs, and what it did to his body, making him feel alone and separated from everything, while hobbling any attempts he made at escape. In his statement, he said he did not come out with it at the time, because he was not ready, and because he was afraid it would detract from the story.
One of Stephen King's first typewriters had a malfunctioning "N" key, just like the one used by Paul in the movie.
Stephen King was quite impressed with Kathy Bates' performance in this film. So much so, that he later wrote two more roles for her. The title role in his novel, "Dolores Claiborne" was written with Bates in mind. King also wrote the script for The Stand (1994). His original novel featured a (male) character named Ray Flowers. Upon hearing that Bates wanted to be involved in the miniseries, King re-wrote the part as a woman (Rae Flowers), just so Bates could play the part.
Jack Nicholson was offered the role of Paul Sheldon, but passed because he was not sure he wanted to do another movie based on one of Stephen King's novels, after what he had experienced with Stanley Kubrick on The Shining (1980).
"Misery" was almost turned into a Broadway play, with Julia Roberts as Annie Wilkes. King vetoed the idea, because Annie is (in his words) "a brawny woman who can sling a guy around, not a pixie."
Annie Wilkes is Stephen King's favorite written character, because she was always surprising to write, with unexpected depth and sympathy.
According to Director Rob Reiner, Annie Wilkes' (Kathy Bates') killing spree is loosely based on that of Genene Jones, a nurse who is believed to have killed as many as fifty children, who were in her care over a two-year period.
When Kathy Bates picked up her Oscar and made her speech, one thing she said humourously was, "I'd like to publicly apologize to James Caan for the ankles."
Stephen King was initially reluctant to sell the film rights to "Misery", because he was skeptical that a Hollywood studio would make a movie faithful to his vision. However, King was impressed with one adaptation of his works, Stand by Me (1986), and agreed to sell "Misery" under the proviso that Rob Reiner would either produce or direct the film.
In the original idea for the novel, Annie planned to kill Paul Sheldon by feeding him to Misery the pig, and take his skin to bind the book he had written. The title would have been "The Annie Wilkes 1st Edition".
James Caan once showed up to the set hungover, and all of the scenes he shot that day were unuseable. Rob Reiner told Caan he had to do the scenes again because there was "a problem at the lab". When Caan learned it had nothing to do with labs, he offered to cover the money he lost the studio.
According to William Goldman's book "Four Screenplays", the role of Paul Sheldon was offered to Warren Beatty, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt (twice), Kevin Kline, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Denzel Washington, and Bruce Willis, all of whom declined.
Stephen King had originally planned to release the novel under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. While writing it, however, it was discovered that King was Bachman. King subsequently published the novel under his real name, and announced that Bachman had died from "cancer of the pseudonym".
Kathy Bates ended up getting upset over the violence. James Caan recalled that his co-star was crying when it came time to shoot that infamous scene. Bates also cried before shooting the fight sequence at the end.
In a recent interview with Melvyn Bragg, William Goldman revealed that few actors wanted the role of Paul Sheldon, because Annie Wilkes overshadowed him so much as a character. Warren Beatty commented before declining, that the hobbling scene made Paul Sheldon "a loser for the rest of the film". Goldman was determined to keep that scene in the film, as it was his favorite from the novel.
Rob Reiner studied Alfred Hitchcock movies to figure out how to shoot a thriller, watching every Hitchcock film. Reiner had Hitchcock on the brain so much, that James Caan overheard Reiner chastising himself one day on-set, asking himself, "Who do you think you are, Alfred Hitchcock?"
In 1991, Kathy Bates became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress in a horror or thriller for her role as Annie Wilkes. The first performer to win an Oscar for a horror film was Fredric March for his performance as the title character in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). The only other winners for acting in a horror film were Ruth Gordon for her performance as Mia Farrow's new neighbor with a hidden agenda in Rosemary's Baby (1968) (Best Actress in a Supporting Role), Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster for Best Actor and Best Actress in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and Natalie Portman for Best Actress in Black Swan (2010).
James Caan accepted the lead role after Jack Nicholson turned it down. Caan had previously turned down Nicholson's Oscar Winning role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), in which he also is the victim of a psychotic nurse, Louise Fletcher, who also won an Oscar for her role.
James Caan and Kathy Bates clashed over their acting methods. Caan believed in as little rehearsal as possible. Bates, with her theater background, was used to practicing a lot. When she commented to Rob Reiner that Caan was not attempting to relate or listen to her, Reiner told her to use that frustration toward her character.
After seeing The Shining (1980), Rob Reiner was immediately inspired to make a movie based on a Stephen King novel. He ended up directing two Stephen King adaptations, Stand By Me (1986), based on King's short story The Body, and this film, based on Stephen King's novel of the same name.
James Caan had to stay in bed for fifteen weeks of shooting. Caan said he thought that Rob Reiner was playing a "sadistic" joke on him, knowing the actor would not enjoy not moving around for so long. Caan was not used to playing a reactionary character, and found it much tougher to play.
Annie was always intended in the novel to be an amalgam of Stephen King's scariest fans.
Paul Sheldon's (James Caan's) novels are published by Viking, the same publishing company that published Stephen King's books at that time.
Anjelica Huston was offered the role of Annie Wilkes, and was interested, but was unable to accept it, due to her commitment to The Grifters (1990).
In the movie, Annie forces Paul to burn his manuscript which is "untitled" (as seen in the close-up). In the novel, Paul titles it "Fast Cars", and is a story reminiscent of 1950s detective dramas, and one hundred eighty degrees away from the Victorian Era set "Misery" novels that made him famous.
When Paul's car is found, he is assumed to be dead, in a subplot original to the film. Coincidentally, on June 19, 1999, author Stephen King was hit by a car with some initial reports saying he had died. King eventually incorporated the accident into his book "The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower," which also briefly mentioned Annie Wilkes.
At one screening, Stephen King was enjoying himself so much that he yelled, "Watch out. She's got a gun!" during the film's climax.
William Goldman adapted his script for the stage for a limited run on Broadway during the 2015-2016 season. The play starred Bruce Willis as Paul Sheldon and Laurie Metcalf as Annie Wilkes. It marked as Willis' debut on Broadway. Sixteen years before, in 1999, Ramón Langa, famous for being the official dubber of Willis in Spain, starred on a theater adaptation alongside Beatriz Carvajal.
The character played by Frances Sternhagen was created entirely for the film, and was not in the novel.
After Rob Reiner's work on Stand by Me (1986), Stephen King would only agree to let Reiner's production company, Castle Rock, get involved with the film, if Reiner either produced or directed it.
Frances Sternhagen, who played the Sheriff's wife, was the voice talent for Dolores Claiborne on the audio book, which later starred Kathy Bates in the title role.
The film cast includes one Oscar winner, Kathy Bates; and four Oscar nominees, James Caan, Richard Farnsworth, Lauren Bacall, and Rob Reiner. Bates won Best Actress for her now iconic role in the film.
James Caan said after being in this movie, he has heard maybe one hundred thousand times, "How are your legs, Jimmy?"
A dress worn by Kathy Bates in her role as Annie Wilkes is on display at Planet Hollywood in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Used to giving her characters rich backgrounds to help her find her voice, Kathy Bates and Rob Reiner agreed that Annie was molested by her father as a child. It helped explain for Bates why Annie had a history, as explained in the book and in the movie, of killing infants and old people in her nursing care.
A video of When Harry Met Sally... (1989) (also directed by Rob Reiner) is visible in the general store.
James Caan claimed in an interview on the DVD that he did not read the book in preparation for filming.
The day after Kathy Bates won the Oscar for her role in Misery (1990), she filmed a scene with Alec Baldwin where fans asked for their autographs. Kathy Bates later walked her dog and forgot to bring a clean-up bag and wound up using a fan's discarded autograph she found on the ground instead.
Bette Midler turned down the role of Annie Wilkes, because she thought it was too violent. She later called herself "stupid" for her decision.
Rob Reiner picked up on Kathy Bates getting more and more isolated as the shooting progressed, and told Bates to leave Annie Wilkes behind when the work day was done.
At one point, Carol Burnett was considered for the role of the agent, and Vicki Lawrence was considered for the role of Annie Wilkes.
Jeff Daniels, Ed Harris, John Heard, Robert Klein, and Ed O'Neill were considered for the role of Paul Sheldon.
Annie Wilkes was ranked the seventeenth most iconic villain in the American Film Institutes list of "100 Heroes and Villains".
For the scene where James Caan had to crawl out of bed, Director of Photography Barry Sonnenfeld spit on the hardwood floor to indicate to where Caan should crawl. Caan claimed to Rob Reiner and Sonnenfeld that it was the only movie, on my which he ever worked, where someone was hocking his marks.
Dustin Hoffman turned down the role of Paul Sheldon, due to his dislike of violent films.
It was William Goldman who picked the then-unknown Kathy Bates for Annie Wilkes. She would go on the win the Academy Award for Best Actress for the film.
Blizzards are in "Misery", "Dreamcatcher", and "The Shining", all Stephen King novels.
The title of Paul's next novel is "The Higher Education of J. Philip Stone," a possible reference to actor Philip Stone, who appeared in The Shining.
The theme music in one of the trailers for this film is a actually piece of James Horner's score from Aliens (1986) which has been used in several trailers for other films like Dark Universe (1993).
According to writer William Goldman, Richard Dreyfuss almost accepted the Paul Sheldon part because he regretted turning down the lead role in When Harry Met Sally... (1989) and he wouldn't like to disappoint the director Rob Reiner again - they previously collaborated in another Stephen King's adaptation in Stand by Me (1986). Reiner asked Dreyfuss to read the script but he didn't like it.