Dead Zone on Arte: a real medium inspired the film

Dead Zone, a film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, is broadcast on Arte. Did you know that the main character, Johnny Smith, was inspired by a real popular medium in the USA?

Dead Zone, released in March 1984 in France, is one of Stephen King’s most unknown adaptations. Yet David Cronenberg’s film turns out to be one of the best cinematic transpositions of the master of horror.

We follow the character of Johnny Smith, young teacher in a small provincial town. One evening, he is the victim of a road accident, shortly after having accompanied his fiancée, Sarah. He does not come back to him until after five years of coma. Sarah is now married. He realizes that past, present and future merge in his mind. This is how he manages to save his nurse’s child from a fire and reveals to his doctor that his mother, whom he believed died in deportation, is in fact still alive.

Published in 1979, Stephen King’s novel is a bestseller, confirming the talent of a writer who has continued to develop his success since the triumph of Carrie, published (1974). Very quickly, the idea of ​​making a film adaptation of it germinated at the studio Lorimar, which bought the rights to the book. Stanley Donen is envisaged for the realization but the company, suffering from financial difficulties, assigns the rights to Dino De Laurentiis. The latter hired Debra Hill to take care of the production of the feature film. She then called on David Cronenberg for the realization.

Bill Murray, Stephen King’s first choice to play Johnny Smith, is in strong demand for the role. Finally, De Laurentiis, in consultation with Cronenberg, will hire Christopher Walken. This character, who develops psychic gifts after a 5-year coma, is inspired by the life of a famous parapsychologist, Peter Hurkos.

The latter, born in 1911, would have started to manifest extra-sensory perceptions after a fall from a ladder in 1941. Just like Johnny Smith, whose gift of clairvoyance was caused by the trauma of his car accident, Hurkos would have felt his visions after coming out of his coma caused by his fall. Stephen King was inspired by the life and journey of this medium to build his character of Johnny Smith.

Dead zone on arte: a real medium inspired the film


Peter Hurkos

Peter Hurkos has received a lot of media coverage, impressing television audiences with his gifts as a mentalist. As much criticized as admired, the American has been the center of specials all over the world. Japan called it “The Greatest Medium in the World”. He also demonstrated his psychic powers in the famous Tonight Show by Johnny Carson.

Very popular, Hurkos has been the subject of numerous publications in prestigious magazines such as Time, Newsweek or National Enquirer. The medium has also published 3 books, Psychic, The psychic world of Peter Hurkos and Peter Hurkos: I have a lot of lives. Peter Hurkos died in Los Angeles in 1988 at the age of 77. He had however predicted his death for November 17, 1961.

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