The Dead Zone (1983) Poster



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Director David Cronenberg fired a .357 Magnum loaded with blanks just off camera to make Smith's flinches seem more involuntary; this was Christopher Walken's own idea.
Director David Cronenberg had to re-shoot the scene in which John Smith has his first premonition. It showed a little girl's room burning and a small E.T. doll could be seen on one of the shelves. The scene had to be re-shot when Universal Pictures threatened to file a lawsuit against them.
The "sweat" on Christopher Walken's face during the "burning bedroom" sequence was in fact a flame-retardant chemical that had been sprayed onto him. The resulting effect, which hadn't been anticipated, looked surprisingly dramatic on film.
This film (and Stephen King's novel) are both loosely based upon the life of famous psychic Peter Hurkos. Hurkos claimed to have acquired his alleged powers after falling off a ladder and hitting his head.
Bill Murray was Stephen King's choice for the part of Johnny.
Before the accident, Johnny instructs his class to read "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Christopher Walken would later go on to appear in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999).
The gazebo where the murder took place was built for the film, and was later donated to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, where it was filmed and is now a favourite spot for wedding photographs.
During the time Michael Kamen was composing the music for the film in London, he would play the score on the piano in his home. He received several complaints by his neighbors who asked, "Can you please stop playing that music? I can't sleep and it's giving my family nightmares."
The Dead Zone was the first of several Stephen King novels and short stories that took place in the fictional small town of Castle Rock. Others include: Cujo (1983), Stand by Me (1986), The Dark Half (1993), and Needful Things (1993).
Written in 1979, the novel by Stephen King was the first book of his to reach #1 on the bestseller list (hard cover), a milestone for King who said it was "one of my most successful ever." It was 428 pages.
David Cronenberg wanted to change the name of Christopher Walken's character: "I'd never name someone 'Johnny Smith'", he quipped, but in the end it was left as is. The book does specifically mention how it sounds like a fake name.
There are several deleted scenes that were filmed and completed but have never been seen publicly and are thought to have been discarded prior to the film's release. Among them: - A prologue showing John Smith as a boy (played by Stephen Flynn) who sustains a head injury during an ice hockey match. The scene features actor Sean Sullivan as John's father. - An alternate scene of John Smith's vision of the Camp David scene (featuring Martin Sheen) in which John himself appears in the vision as a helpless spectator. Photos of these scenes appeared in the December 1983 issue of Cinefantastique.
A stuntman was severely burned around the legs and groin when a squib went off too near him during the shooting of the WWII flashback sequence.
Hal Holbrook was Cronenberg's original choice to play Sherrif Bannerman, but Dino De Laurentiis rejected this idea as he had never heard of Holbrook at the time.
One of only three David Cronenberg films that do not have a score by his friend, composer Howard Shore. This was due to studio politics in which Paramount wanted a more familiar composer to write the music for the film. Michael Kamen, who had written the music for the film Venom (1981) for the studio, was chosen instead.
The film makes reference to 'Sleepy Hollow' which, like this film, is about a schoolteacher. In the novel, Johnny Smith compares his coma and subsequent recovery to 'Rip Van Winkle,' another short story written by Washington Irving. Christopher Walken went on to play the Horseman in the Tim Burton Adaptation.
Martin Sheen's character says he has had a vision that he will become the President of the United States. Sheen went on to play the President of the United States in the mini series Kennedy (1983) and in The West Wing (1999).
Composer Michael Kamen quotes a theme from the Jan Sibelius 2nd Symphony throughout.
In the WWII flashback scene, civilians in the burning city are speaking Polish.
Before his accident, Johnny Smith is an English teacher. Stephen King was also an English teacher before becoming a full-time writer.
The poem Johnny reads in the beginning of the film is the end of "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe.
Johnny's mother who was played by Jackie Burroughs, was actually only 4 years older than Christopher Walken.
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The second UK VHS release, after the Video Certification Bill had been introduced, removed the scissors scene when Tom Skerritt confronts his deputy Frank Dodd.
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The sailboat appears three different times on three different mantles, in Johnny's room at the clinic, at Johnny's father's house and later, at Johnny's house.
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The theatrical print used for the 1980's Australian VHS release had a damaged soundtrack and a faint "popping" noise can be heard throughout the entire release.
Three people were involved in the James Bond franchise. Anthony Zerbe (Roger Stuart) would later appear in Licence to Kill (1989), while Christopher Walken (Johnny Smith) would later appear in A View to a Kill (1985). Michael Kamen, who did the music for this film, would later do the music for Licence to Kill (1989).
Christopher Walken and Colleen Dewhurst previously appeared in Annie Hall (1977), which also featured Jeff Goldblum, who appeared in Cronenberg's next film, The Fly (1986). Brooke Adams previously appeared with Goldblum in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Greg Stillson, played by Martin Sheen (né Ramon Estevez), has damning pictures taken of him by a photographer, played by Ramon Estevez, Sheen's son.
In the final scene when Sarah is crying and hugging Johnny, we hear her stop crying for a few seconds to tell Johnny that she loves him, but since her mouth is obscured we don't actually see her say it. The original script did not have her saying this. Her voice was dubbed in later in order to have some closure for Johnny.
In the "nuclear war" scene, Greg Stillson, Martin Sheen's character, threatens to "hack off" someone's hand and put it on the scanning screen. An earlier version of the script actually had Stillson shooting the man and putting his dead hand on the screen.
One rejected ending had Johnny Smith survive being gunned down and predicting a knife attack against his girlfriend while in the hospital, then slipping back into a coma and dying.

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