Stephen King’s The Stand is a massive novel, clocking in at over 1,100 pages in a “complete and uncut” version. It covers the nationwide story of a deadly pandemic — Captain Trips — that decimates 99 percent of the world’s population. Left behind are a handful of survivors split into two camps led by Mother Abagail (the good force) and Randall Flagg (the evil force). The novel features locations ranging from King’s home state of Maine to Sin City itself Las Vegas, Nevada.
To appropriately render the scope of The Stand as a limited series, production designer Aaron Haye inherited an enormous task, and the finished product looks as compelling and authentic as any major series airing today.
“In all told, I believe we had over 230 sets and locations for The Stand. It was a vast undertaking, and we were meant to be in what 12 to 15 states in the United State,” Haye explained. “So, those had to have distinct looks along the way. We really sort of plotted from Maine to Colorado in particular, making sure that we had a path that made sense and tried to make these towns and the environments along the way.”
As with most members of The Stand‘s creative team, Haye kept a copy of the original novel close to him at all times while working on the project. As others will testify, the novel served as a Bible, or a source from which to seek answers should questions arise. King’s original text proved the best to find intimate pieces of detail the team wanted to include in the production design.
Where’s the Lincoln Tunnel?
One of the major difference between the book and the limited series has to be the missing Lincoln Tunnel. In the book, New York residents Larry Underwood and Rita Blakemoor make an escape from the plague-devastated city through the only way out they can find: the Lincoln Tunnel. There, they counter thousands of rotting, putrid corpses and their associated smells. The event becomes so traumatic for Underwood that it haunts him throughout the rest of the book.
Even though the limited series had a substantial budget, the project did not have the time to erect a suitable reproduction of the Lincoln Tunnel. One that would not only provide room for the hundreds of cars and rotting corpses but would also allow for camera crews, actors, and others to navigate the scene comfortably while still remaining cost effective.
Yet, the limited series still needed something that would take its place and provide a similarly nightmarish experience.
Enter the sewer.
“I suggested what if we set it in a tight, claustrophobic environment where the bodies and the water and the stench and all that stuff could be more controlled,” Haye shared, “and we could have less problematic things that we couldn’t control in a real world tunnel or a or a stage build of that size.”
The resulting sewer sequence provides viewers the suitable nightmare to plague them for years to come.
What Exactly is Parasitic Architecture?
Another major location brilliantly described in the novel is the New Vegas setting of Randall Flagg’s camp of evildoers, more specifically the Inferno hotel. There, Flagg’s followers indulge in their insatiable ID. There are floors upon floors of rooms filled with people performing unspeakable acts. The exterior of the hotel itself needed to look imposing and enormous, something that would strike fear in the hearts of whoever ventured into New Vegas.
The real Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas provided the shell of the Inferno’s exterior while an abandoned hotel in British Columbia provided the close-up or lower-level interior shots. Dante certainly provided the inspiration for the look of the hotel’s interior, but what source did Haye pull from to accentuate the existing facade of the Planet Hollywood?
It’s an architectural style eerily suitable for The Stand.
“I was inspired by something called parasitic architecture, which is the idea of taking an older existing structure and then somehow injecting something new into it. It’s often seen with these sort of shards coming out of an existing building,” Haye said. “We decided to make this spire shooting through the Planet Hollywood facade. Much like Randall Flagg finds vulnerable people and inserts himself somehow into them. This vulnerable structure, this older casino, was taken over by this sort of gleaming glass structure.”
Industrial Light & Magic’s VFX teams working on The Stand helped Haye realize his design. Naturally, they could not erect a giant spire shooting out of the actual Planet Hollywood.
Because, after all, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Easter Eggs? In a Stephen King Adaptation? Surely You Jest!
Aside from creating claustrophobic environments and buildings inspired by parasitic architecture, Haye managed to find opportunities to insert small references to events within the broader Stephen King universe. The working theory of many King acolytes is that the author’s numerous novels all take place roughly within the same world.
Given that, Haye took the opportunity to include things like an origami piece of art that refers back to It or references included on beer bottle labels. Obscure call-backs populate several scenes of the series. While Haye won’t reveal all of the artifacts included within the series, he does encourage the hardcore fans to dig deeply into the series.
And his favorite?
“If you look very carefully, the typewriter that is taken from the window at the beginning was Jack Nicholson’s typewriter in The Shining. It’s the same exact model,” Haye gushed. “It’s one that not many people get, and it’s a bit obscure. So I would say that’s my favorite.”