Stephen Chbosky latest work pays homage to Stephen King


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Stephen Chbosky is going back in time, again.

His classic young adult novel, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," was the story of friends growing up in Pittsburgh's South Hills suburbs in the 1990s. Mr. Chbosky later adapted his novel for the critically acclaimed film, which he also directed.

"Perks" made a number of 2012 critics' top 10 lists, including Time magazine and Entertainment Weekly.

Now he's at work on his latest book, and in doing so, the Upper St. Clair native jumps back a couple of decades.

"It has very similar themes and emotions as 'Perks,' but it's done almost as a vintage novel from Stephen King in the 1970s," he said, hinting that the book might have a touch of the otherworldly.

So, it sounds as though it's "somewhere in between" Mr. King's novella "The Body" -- made into the lovely coming-of-age adventure film "Stand By Me" -- and the darker King novels of the era, such as "The Shining" and "Carrie."

"That doesn't even begin to describe it ... but again, Stephen King is my favorite writer and storyteller of all time, and this is my tribute to him."

Like "Perks," the unnamed novel is again set in Western Pennsylvania. This also is familiar territory for Mr. King, whose 1982 film adaptation of "Creepshow" brought him to town. Since then, he has used the Pittsburgh area as a backdrop numerous times, including in his novels "Christine" and "From a Buick 8" and various short stories.

In a six-degrees aside, Mr. King's "The Dark Half" was adapted to the big screen by "Creepshow" director George Romero, and much of it was shot in the Pittsburgh area.

Doing the Time Warp is no problem for Mr. Chbosky. He's such a fan of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," he included a night at Dormont's Hollywood Theater in the "Perks" book and movie.

In it, actors Ezra Miller, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman are part of a group that "shadow casts" as "Rocky Horror" plays out on screen.

"The Hollywood Theater in Dormont is where I saw 'Rocky' for the first time," said Mr. Chbosky, who is on the theater's board of advisers.

So it's little surprise that Mr. Chbosky has joined a fundraising campaign to help the Hollywood purchase a digital projector. Because of a rights issue, theaters can no longer show "Rocky" on a regular basis unless it's in a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) or old-fashion film print format.

Just finding a print to rent takes long-range planning: "A couple of months ago I threw a Hail Mary to Fox Studios [to secure a print] and chose a day in July," said Chad Hunter, Hollywood executive director. An event is planned for July 27.

"I've gone as far as to say, 'Hey, if there are limited prints, how much does it cost to strike one?' " Mr. Chbosky said.

But trying to get that done and negotiate the rights, he added, "It's very tricky. It's become like a trip to the DMV."

Mr. Hunter became the theater director last September. One of the first things he did was try to get "Perks" a booking there. But since it was a first-run film, cost and availability were prohibitive.

Instead, he discovered Mr. Chbosky was going to be in Toronto to promote "Perks" and invited him to swing by for a "Rocky Horror" showing.

"He came, and he was extremely gracious," Mr. Hunter said. "He jumped up [on stage] and participated a little, too."

"Afterward, he spoke to every single person who wanted to speak with him, signed things ... It was a great night."

Thanks to donations, events and fundraisers on crowd-funding site www.indiegogo.com and the Pittsburgh Day of Giving, the Hollywood is approaching the halfway mark toward the cost of the $75,000 projector.

"It means so much to me," Mr. Chbosky said. "It's become, like, a mission."

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Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG. First Published May 12, 2013 4:00 AM


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