With the new adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Firestarter, the filmmakers behind the adventure largely honored the source material, though one of the biggest deviations from the source material centers around the character Vicky, mother to the telekinetic Charlie. Previous versions of the story mainly featured the character through flashbacks, while this new version instead allows audiences to spend time with Vicky, played in the film by Sydney Lemmon. Not only did this allow viewers to have an entirely different connection to the character, but it also adds more emotional weight to the overall experience. Firestarter lands on Peacock and in theaters on May 13th.
The film is described, “For more than a decade, parents Andy (Zac Efron; Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile; The Greatest Showman) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon; Fear the Walking Dead, Succession) have been on the run, desperate to hide their daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong; American Horror Story: Double Feature, The Tomorrow War) from a shadowy federal agency that wants to harness her unprecedented gift for creating fire into a weapon of mass destruction. Andy has taught Charlie how to defuse her power, which is triggered by anger or pain. But as Charlie turns 11, the fire becomes harder and harder to control. After an incident reveals the family’s location, a mysterious operative (Michael Greyeyes; Wild Indian, Rutherford Falls) is deployed to hunt down the family and seize Charlie once and for all. Charlie has other plans.”
ComicBook.com caught up with Lemmon to talk about the project, alternate outcomes for the story, and how happy her father was to have her star in the picture.
(Photo: Universal Pictures)
ComicBook.com: What was your connection to Stephen King over the years before getting involved in this project?
Sydney Lemmon: I have a personal connection to Stephen King, which is that my dad is probably the greatest living fan of his, and I just grew up with my dad’s nose in the newest novel. It’s just always been the absolute truth of my family, which is that my dad’s a huge Stephen King fan. So when I got to tell my dad that I was going to be in the newest Stephen King adaptation, getting to see his face is, honestly, probably one of the proudest moments of my life. So excited.
Once you told your dad that you got this role, was he constantly checking in trying to get the scoop on things? Or was he saying, “Well, in my experience, what I think you should do with this role…”? What was his reaction?
It was tips, little ideas, thoughts on this, opinions on that, which was … It’s just extremely fun to bond on that sort of thing. And yeah, I took all of his advice.
Was there a moment where you got to turn the tables and say, “Dad, you might think you know Stephen King, but I am a Stephen King character,”?
Totally. I’m going to hold this one over his head for a long time.
With Vicky and Andy, what I like is how we get to only see brief snippets of your past and of your history, only what’s relevant to the story. So as far as preparing for the role, did you get to work with [writer] Scott [Teems] and [director] Keith [Thomas] to give your own input on what you think your character history was or did they mostly just relay that to you? Was it just an ambiguous, uncertain history because we didn’t necessarily see it?
Well, something great from the novel, the original novel, is that the history is so richly detailed in there, so coming to the movie with the wealth of that backstory was just — oh, my gosh, it just gives so much depth. You can walk on set, really feeling like you know who you are as this character. And you can really stand in those shoes and know where you come from, and that was definitely supported by conversations that I had with Keith and work I did with Zac, leading up to the days that we were doing the scenes.
This story thrills me because Vicky and Andy have, especially you see this in the novel, they’re led by love. They are these fumbling college students who rock up to this experiment to make a little bit of money and experience basically like a love-at-first-sight moment. And then through the course of what happens in this experiment, their lives are changed, and they’re bound together basically forever. So it’s fated. It’s the star-crossed lovers, ill-fated, maybe, but all that backstory was so present in my mind on the days we were filming.
What’s so interesting about your characters and that dynamic is that your fate in the movie really establishes Charlie’s trajectory and how that character, how Andy feels about how to handle things. Not to say that you are opposing one another in how you think to handle Charlie, but you definitely have different ideas. What do you think would have happened to Charlie, or to your family, if your character did not necessarily meet her demise earlier on in the movie?
Oh, I don’t think that you’re incorrect to say that Andy and Vicky have opposing views on how Charlie should be raised. I think that’s exactly what they have, and it causes a lot of strife at home, and it makes things very tense. The circumstances of all of their lives, it’s never been easy.
Even before the experiment, Vicky and Andy were troubled characters. And I think that’s why they became so inextricably bound is that they found home in one another. So when Charlie comes along and is who she is, and they both, Vicky and Andy, have completely opposing ideas of the best way forward and how to raise her, Charlie, who’s a brilliant child, internalizes all of that. I think that it pushes her to these extremes, where her power becomes stronger than her ability to contain it and it gets her into extremely hot water. It’s up to Charlie, really, to figure it out because there’s no one who really can understand. As much as Vicky and Andy try to understand, it’s something that only Charlie really knows at the end of the day, and I think that’s something that she also internalizes.
In your drawing on the history of your character and collaborating with Zac and Scott and with Keith, were you at all pitching, “You know what, we didn’t really get much time with my character, do you think maybe we could do a prequel film to explore the earlier adventures of what led her to this point?”
I was in very capable hands with Keith and with Scott. So I hadn’t thought of that one just quite yet, but now that you pitch it, I think it’s a great idea. I put my stamp of approval on that, for sure. There’s definitely a lot there. When I read the novel originally, I was so excited about Vicky’s life and the details. Stephen King gives us rich details about why she is the way she is, who she has come to be, what led her to that experiment on that day, that changed her life forever. So there’s a lot of richness there that could be good.
I think if you and me, and let’s bring your dad into the project, I think we can really get something cooking. Maybe it’ll be an unofficial prequel, but I think we can move forward on that.
I think we should move forward on that quickly.
I know that your Helstrom series didn’t move forward after Season 1, when you look back at that experience, are you hoping maybe one day Kevin Feige calls you up and maybe you bring your character back or do you feel like that was a great opportunity and things have worked out the way they should have worked out and you’ve put that character behind you?
I will always love Ana Helstrom. She is ferocity and boldness and fun. I’ll never put that behind me.
Firestarter lands in theaters and on Peacock on June 13th.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.