AFI Movie Club: MISERY – American Film Institute
Misery Film Still - Kathy Bates


AFI Movie Club: MISERY

The character of Annie Wilkes in MISERY – chillingly portrayed by Kathy Bates in her Academy Award®-winning performance – is recognized by AFI as one of the great villains in cinematic history.

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MISERY – Reelgood

Watch Rosalind Chao announce MISERY:

Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

DID YOU KNOW? Stephen King based the novel “Misery” partly on an encounter with the infamous Mark David Chapman, who, before murdering John Lennon of The Beatles, introduced himself to King as his “number one fan” and asked him to sign an autograph with a special pen.

DID YOU KNOW? After previous film adaptations of his work had proven disappointing, author Stephen King initially refused to sell the rights to “Misery,” which he considered a highly personal novel. The author changed his mind, however, when director Rob Reiner expressed interest, as Reiner had previously directed STAND BY ME – King’s favorite adaptation of his own work to that time.

DID YOU KNOW? According to screenwriter William Goldman, he wrote the part of Annie Wilkes with Kathy Bates in mind – even though she was, at the time, a stage actress relatively unknown to broader mainstream audiences. Bette Midler was first offered the role of Annie Wilkes, but turned it down. Bates went on to win the Academy Award® for Best Actress for her portrayal of Wilkes.

DID YOU KNOW? According to director Rob Reiner, Warren Beatty was interested in the script and introduced some ideas about the character of Paul Sheldon, making him far less passive in the story. Due to conflict with the DICK TRACY post-production schedule, Beatty had to turn the part down. A number of other actors – including Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford and William Hurt – were offered the role before James Caan joined the production.

DID YOU KNOW? In the original MISERY script and novel, the character of Annie Wilkes does not break Paul Sheldon’s ankles but instead amputates one of his feet and cauterizes the wound with a blowtorch.

DID YOU KNOW? According to screenwriter William Goldman, Academy Award® winner George Roy Hill had originally agreed to direct MISERY, but dropped out when Goldman refused to remove the amputation scene. Instead of looking for another director, producer Rob Reiner took on the role himself. On a final pass through the script, Reiner changed the amputation to the infamous sledgehammer moment seen in the film. Goldman said he was upset about the change at the time, but later conceded that he was wrong.

DID YOU KNOW? Genoa, Nevada, stood in for Silver Creek, Colorado, in the film. The crew added four fully functioning buildings on Genoa’s main boulevard – including a café, radiator shop, sheriff’s station and a general store.

DID YOU KNOW? James Caan had to stay in bed for 15 weeks of the MISERY shoot. Caan said he wondered if it was some sadistic joke on director Rob Reiner’s part.

DID YOU KNOW? MISERY was adapted by screenwriter William Goldman into a play that opened on Broadway in 2015. The play starred Bruce Willis as writer Paul Sheldon and Laurie Metcalf as Annie Wilkes. Metcalf was nominated for a Tony Award® for her portrayal of Wilkes.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-Have crazed fans like Annie Wilkes gotten better or worse in the social media age? How has social media affected fandom, in general?

-Why does Paul only have one copy of his manuscript? What other traditions does Paul have when he finishes a book? Would his traditions be as plausible given today’s various advances in technology?

-Do you think Annie only saved Paul from the wreck because of his celebrity? What might Annie have done if the accident victim had been a stranger?

-Why does Paul Sheldon want to kill off his main character of Misery in his book series? How does Annie react to the idea of Misery dying in the series?

-What did Paul find out about Annie from her scrapbook?

-What is your favorite movie that was adapted from a Stephen King story?

-How would you rate MISERY?

In this exclusive clip from the AFI Archive, Kathy Bates talks about working on MISERY:

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