Why Stephen King Hasn't Directed Another Movie Since Maximum Overdrive

Stephen King is best known for his work as a horror author, but he has also branched out to other media in different roles, but he has only directed one movie: Maximum Overdrive, but why hasn’t he directed another movie? Thanks to his novels and short stories from the horror genre, Stephen King has earned the title of King of Horror, and given the popularity of his works, many of these have been adapted to TV and film, sometimes more than once.

Stephen King rose to fame after the publishing of Carrie in 1974, which became a best-seller after Brian de Palma’s movie adaptation two years later, and its success opened many doors for King as an author. Since then, readers have explored a variety of fears and settings, and met different characters and monsters in King’s stories, and many of them have expanded beyond the pages. Novels like Carrie, The Shining, IT, and Misery have been successfully adapted to TV and film, but not all of King’s stories have been well received in these formats, as happened with the 1986 movie Maximum Overdrive.


Related: Why The First Cut Of Maximum Overdrive Nearly Made George Romero Sick

Based on the short story “Trucks”, first published in 1973 in Cavalier magazine and later in the 1978 collection Night Shift, Maximum Overdrive was not just another adaptation of a story by Stephen King, but it was also his directorial debut, and so far, it remains as his only work as a film director.

Why Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive Flopped

Maximum Overdrive poster cropped

Maximum Overdrive is set in a time when machines – from cars and trucks to arcades and vending machines – go sentient after Earth crosses the tail of a comet. The machines begin to attack humans all over the world, and survivors team up to keep themselves safe from a mass of homicidal trucks. Leading the group of survivors is diner cook Bill Robinson (Emilio Estevez), who eventually figures out what has turned the machines into homicidal objects looking to enslave humans. Maximum Overdrive was a critical and commercial failure, so much so that it was nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Director. Critics mostly pointed out King’s direction, Estevez’s performance, and the movie’s campiness as its biggest weaknesses, with many simply calling Maximum Overdrive “a mess”.

Production of Maximum Overdrive reportedly didn’t go as smoothly as the crew surely would have wanted, with King admitting that he was too high during production and “really didn’t know what he was doing”, with crew members recalling King spent all day drinking. King originally wanted Bruce Springsteen to play Bill Robinson, and was reportedly disillusioned with the production when Estevez was cast instead. Still, King did his best to create a positive environment for the crew, but that didn’t really help his skills as a film director. Since then, King hasn’t directed any other movie, but he has served as producer, consultant, writer, and actor in many others, and he has even disowned Maximum Overdrive, calling it a “moron movie”. King considered Maximum Overdrive a learning experience, and he didn’t intend to direct again after it. While he has surely learned more since Maximum Overdrive happened, Stephen King has been firm in his intention of not directing another movie again but continues working as a producer and more in different projects.