Stephen King’s “11/22/63” is easily one of the thickest paperbacks on the market. The prolific King weaved an engaging tale of love, time travel and hard moral choices. Recently, Hulu released an eight-episode adaptation of the novel, with James Franco playing Jake Epping, a high school teacher attempting to change the course of history.
In a story that jumps between the past and the present, there are definite challenges in creating the soundtrack.
“It is such a big story. It’s a big book: there are a lot of characters and they are all intertwined. There’s a lot to draw together and make sense of,” composer Alex Heffes explained when reached by phone for an interview. “One of the things I love about ‘11/22/63’ is you’re not quite sure what you’re watching because it sort of morphs from one thing to another. There are all these great side stories where he goes and tries to stop the murder of Harry as a little boy.”
Jake goes through a rift in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This requires setting up a new life 50 years in the past. Along the way, he falls in love with Sadie (Sarah Gadon), a young woman who becomes intertwined in his mission to save Kennedy.
“I love that it’s sort of got this rhapsodic element to it. I think it’s a real strength, just being able to indulge in some of those diversions and then bring it back to the core thing,” Heffes added. “When you get to the end, I think all of those side stories make great sense. It all comes together in one amazing whole.”
King’s novel explores the concept of “trespassing” in the past as time pushes back on interlopers. As Heffes points out, with some characters, it’s hard to know if they are motivated by that pushback or even if they are real characters.
“And I like that. It’s ambiguity; it’s not spelled out,” he said. “The show’s sort of very literary; you can tell it’s from a book in that sense. There are grand things that come back and are expounded by different characters in different ways. That’s something we tried to do in the music in an esoteric way because the music doesn’t speak words. We’ve tried to weave those ideas in the music so it all comes together in one sort of narrative.”
The composer also found some soft tracks to create the mood of the time: “I guess the score’s job is to bridge the past, the present and the future. I don’t want to give spoilers away, but there may be a point where the future may come in, and the music has a change there; it has a different palette. That’s one of things we looked at, what should the palette be when Jake is in the 1960’s?”
All eight episodes of “11/22/63” are now available on Hulu, and the composer thinks this offers an opportunity to viewers.
“I think if anyone could actually binge watch it, if they could sit through all 8 hours, it would probably be an amazing experience to watch it all come together at the end. Hopefully that is the experience,” he said.