The long-gestating big screen version of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ is nothing if not ambitious. The original novel is a beast, a 1,200 page post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy epic that spans the entire country and features a cast of dozens of important characters. It’s one of the best and densest genre novels ever written, so perhaps a four-film adaptation with a cast of movie stars is the best and only way to go. Anyway, director Josh Boone‘s not-so-private goal of casting the film entirely with big, recognizable names has already achieved phase one: he’s nabbed Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey.

McConaughey’s name was being thrown around a few months ago as the leading contender for the films’ protagonist, Texas everyman Stu Redman, who finds himself helping lead a group of survivors after a plague wipes out most of humanity. However, a report from The Guardian claims that McConaughey has actually taken a far different role in the film, that of the villainous Randall Flagg, the literally Satanic leader of a rival group with far more nefarious intentions than survival.

We can’t say for certain what Boone will ultimately do with ‘The Stand,’ but this is one helluva start. McConaughey could have played an “average joe turned hero” in his sleep, but the character of Flagg is far more in line with his sensibilities. Known by many names (including The Dark Man and The Walkin’ Dude), Flagg is a charismatic, demonic entity who hides behind his causal denim attire and a big ‘ol smile. This isn’t just a Stephen King villain, but the Stephen King villain. Since his debut in ‘The Stand’ in 1978, King has written him into various other novels, making him the Big Bad of the entire Stephen King Universe. King spent much of the second half of his career tying all of his novels together into one unified, chaotic world (built around ‘The Dark Tower,’ but that’s another story) and he put Flagg at the center of it all.

In other words, this isn’t just a bad guy. He’s a Big Deal.

McConaughey has proven himself to be one of the most adventurous actors working in mainstream cinema today and his willingness to get dark and weird makes him the ideal choice for Flagg. McConaughey has played a lot of charming southerners and he’s played his fair share of creepy, violent weirdos, but this is the rare chance to combine his two wheelhouses into one performance. Honestly, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in this role.

Of course, taking this part will require McConaughey to commit to four films, which will presumably be shot at once, ‘Lord of the Rings’-style. In fact, ‘The Stand’ is the first Hollywood adaptation since Tolkien that has demanded this kind of treatment. It‘s too big, too unwieldy and just too damn epic to be treated like just another movie. The fact that Warner Bros. is willing to go all in on what’s essentially going to be the most expensive horror film ever made brightens our spirits. It’s about time this genre escaped the low budget ghetto that it’s been trapped in for the past few decades.

We don’t know what other actors are in talks for the film (Christian Bale’s name has come up in previous rumors), but if Boone has his way, expect a bunch of your favorite actors to pop up in contention. With McConaughey apparently on board, the sky is the limit.

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