Prophetically, when Drew Barrymore was six and a half years old before she was cast in this movie, her mother thought that Drew looked liked the girl on the source novel's paperback dust-jacket. Drew once said: My mom had seen this book at the grocery store with a picture of a little girl on it and she said 'Gee, this looks kinda like you'. She said it was OK if I bought it and so I did. When I read it, I came into the kitchen where my mom was making dinner and said 'I'm the Firestarter. I'm Charlie McGee! But she didn't know what I was talking about".
Some movie posters for the film featured a long text preamble that read: "Charlie McGee is a happy, healthy eight-year-old little girl. Normal in every way but one. She has the power to set objects afire with just one glance. It's a power she does not want. It's a power she cannot control. And, each night, Charlie prays to be just like every other child. But there are those who will do everything in their power to find her...control her or destroy her. Charlie McGee is Stephen King's FIRESTARTER. Will she have the power...to survive?".
This film was originally going to be directed by John Carpenter. According to Carpenter, Universal executives removed him from the project in the wake of the box office and critical drubbing they received for The Thing (1982). Carpenter had reportedly talked to his Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) actor, Darwin Joston about taking on the role of John Rainbird, which was ultimately played by George C. Scott.
One of two Stephen King filmed adaptations made in 1984. The other was Children of the Corn (1984). Also, Christine (1983) , which was made and released in the USA at the end of 1983, still debuted in many territories around the world in 1984.