|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2013)|
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (March 2013)|
Greg Stillson is a fictional character and the primary antagonist of Stephen King's 1979 novel The Dead Zone. He is portrayed by Golden Globe-winner Martin Sheen in the film adaptation and Sean Patrick Flanery in the USA Network television series. Greg Stillson is a rising politician and future U.S. President whose rise to power will eventually bring on Armageddon.
Stillson is originally from Oklahoma, the son of an abusive oil field worker. He is introduced at the beginning of the novel as a travelling Bible salesman in 1955. During a stop at a house in rural Iowa, Stillson is attacked by the absent homeowners' dog and, enraged, sprays ammonia in the animal's eyes before beating it to death. As he drives away, Stillson comes to the blind realization that he is destined for greatness. It is revealed later that Stillson held a series of odd occupations in the years following this incident, among them being a successful rainmaker.
Stillson moves to New Hampshire in 1971, where he is eventually elected mayor in a town called Ridgeway. He blackmails biker Sonny Elliman into becoming his hired thug, using Sonny's muscle to intimidate local politicians and journalists who threaten his interests. He also develops a reputation in Ridgeway for his ability to "straighten out" delinquent teenagers, utilizing a clandestine process that often involves physical and emotional torture. In 1976, Stillson campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent and gains national attention for donning a construction helmet and making bizarre campaign promises. Meanwhile, Stillson's security detail, led by Elliman and other bikers, are implicated in several beatings of rally attendees. Stillson is elected to Congress, and proves so popular during his first term that he wins his next election in a landslide.
During a rally in another New Hampshire town, Stillson shake hands with psychic Johnny Smith. The physical contact causes Smith to have a vision in which he sees Stillson as President of the United States many years into the future, and then feels a sense of complete desolation. As he eventually relates in a letter to his father, Smith believes that President Stillson will worsen an international conflict and start a full-scale nuclear war. Smith, with the terrible knowledge of Stillson's future deeds, contemplates assassinating the congressman. He eventually leaves New Hampshire and finds a public works job in Phoenix, Arizona. However, after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, Smith realizes he has precious little time to avert the future catastrophe.
Smith arrives in Jackson, New Hampshire, which is to host a town hall meeting featuring Stillson. Posing as a news photographer, Smith finds a decent sniper's nest in the town hall's second floor gallery. However, when the meeting starts, Smith misses Stillson several times when he opens fire. Stillson grabs a nearby child and uses him as a human shield. When Smith hesitates, he is shot and mortally wounded. His efforts are not in vain, however; a news photographer takes a picture of Stillson cowering behind the child and escapes from his bodyguards. Smith touches Stillson again when they meet the final time, and dies knowing that he has changed the future and that Stillson will never come to power. It is implied that Stillson's political career ends in disgrace after the damning photo of him holding the child against Smith's fire is published.
In David Cronenberg's 1983 film The Dead Zone, Stillson is played by Martin Sheen. Stillson's actions and characterizations are largely similar in the film adaptation, showing him to be a charismatic politician who harbors a near-psychotic ambition to be president. Still, several elements are changed. Stillson runs for the U.S. Senate instead of the U.S. House of Representatives, and engages in less eccentric behavior during his rallies. Smith's vision of Stillson's future is different. In the novel, Smith sees Stillson's inauguration followed by a sense of utter desolation; in the film, he sees Stillson at Camp David, forcing an Army general to help him enter the launch codes to America's nuclear arsenal.
The circumstances for Stillson's downfall are also different. During Smith's assassination attempt, the child Stillson grabs is Denny, the infant son of his love interest, Sarah Bracknell. When the mortally wounded Smith touches Stillson following the failed attempt, he has a vision of Stillson committing suicide when a photo of him holding Denny is published by Newsweek.
Role in the TV series
In the USA Network television series The Dead Zone, Stillson is played by Sean Patrick Flannery. During his childhood, he is used by his abusive father, con artist James Stillson, as a ploy and accomplice in his various petty crimes. Stillson encounters Johnny Smith when they are both nine years old; Smith has a vague vision and passes out upon meeting him. Years later, Stillson — by then the mayor of Cleaves Mills, Maine — passes Smith's car accident on his way to the office of Charlie Richardson, who he and Sonny Elliman threaten for leaking stories to the press. As Smith wakes from his coma, Stillson is sworn in as a member of the Maine House of Representatives.
When Stillson runs for Congress, he visits a disaster site to make a speech. However, the reporters abandon him when they spot Smith, who had saved hundreds of lives by foreseeing the event. When Stillson learns of Smith's investigations into his background, he tries to dissuade Smith by offering him connections after he is elected. Smith responds by helping Stillson's opponent, Harrison Fisher, best him in a debate. Smarting from the defeat, Stillson vents his hatred for Smith, whom Elliman assaults. After scandal forces Fisher from the race, Stillson asks Smith to "join forces" with him to put their combined resources behind the congressional campaign. Smith declines the offer.
Stillson falls in love with Rachel Caldwell, a student filmmaker who has been hired to make a campaign documentary. Rachel goes missing after she unwittingly walks in on a demonstration of a voting machine designed to steal votes for Stillson. Despite being questioned by both Smith and Sheriff Bannerman, Stillson devotes his campaign's resources to finding Rachel. When Rachel's body is found and Smith is arrested for her murder, Stillson gives Elliman photographs of the psychic's "armageddon board" with instructions to distribute them to the press. However, Smith is eventually exonerated, and resumes his investigation into the killing.
Stillson discounts voters' names that are even remotely similar to convicted felons, resulting in his "election." During the victory party, Stillson walks in on Sarah searching his office. He attempts to seduce her, but his advances are cut off when an aide bursts into the office, giving her an opportunity to escape. Later, Stillson throws his support behind a crime bill named after Rachel. Stillson is visited by Rebecca and Smith, and asks that Rebecca attend the bill-signing ceremony in Washington. Rebecca declines the offer. Smith shakes hands with Stillson, but one again collapses from the resulting vision of the nuclear apocalypse. Stillson phones for paramedics.
Later, Rebecca changes her mind and decides to attend the signing ceremony. James, however, becomes leery of what looks like a relationship between Stillson and Rebecca, and orders Elliman to place wiretaps in her apartment. Smith finds the wiretaps while Elliman is captured by Bannerman. On the morning of the signing, Stillson and Rebecca are hustled to his suite when Smith is spotted nearby. Rebecca, under the impression that Stillson murdered Rachel, tries to kill him out of revenge. However, Smith bursts in and reveals that James killed Rachel. When James confesses, his son strangles him in a fit of rage.
Stillson authorizes Congress to give federal subsidies to fund a biomedical firm, whose research would provide soft money for his re-election campaign. Stillson and his newly hired advisor, Malcolm Janus, discuss the work of Alex Connors, an employee at the biomedical firm who is a former student of Smith's. Stillson visits Connors, learning that he and Smith had a falling-out over his current work. Stillson tells Janus that Smith must be kept out of Connors' research in order to secure the firm's funds. Stillson later runs into Smith, who offers to avoid Stillson if he distances himself from Connors. Stillson seems to agree, but orders Connors kidnapped.
Over the next several months, Stillson becomes romantically involved with Miranda Ellis, the daughter of Maine senator Harlan Ellis. However, an inebriated Stillson confesses to Miranda about murdering James. Not long after, she goes missing. Stillson and Smith reluctantly partner up to search for her, but turn up no leads. Later, Janus tells Stillson that Miranda is alive and gives him her whereabouts; Stillson admits to telling Miranda the truth about James' death. Stillson holds a press conference to announce Miranda's safe return and publicly propose to her.
As Stillson goes over wedding details with Miranda and Harlan, he learns that one of his rivals in Congress, Patrick Kelley, has been invited to the ceremony. He also learns that Miranda has been seeing a doctor for a heart condition. Stillson meets with Kelley to discuss an intelligence leak to a newspaper, as Kelley is the committee chairman for Homeland Security. Stillson tries to threaten Kelley with the leak, but is rebuffed. Later, Janus shows him photographs of Miranda at Smith's residence. Enraged, Stillson orders Janus to "handle the situation." At the wedding, Kelly is harangued by reporters over the intelligence leak. However, as Stillson waits at the altar, Miranda collapses and dies.
During a congressional recess, Smith confronts Stillson over the deaths of James and Miranda. Later, he is instructed by Janus to join Vice President Eric Danbury on a hunting expedition. During the trip, Stillson witnesses Danbury's assassination. He returns fire in the direction of the assassin, and is publicly credited with taking down the triggerman. He is appointed vice president upon Danbury's death. However, when the Rev. Eugene Purdy tries to withdraw his support for Stillson, a struggle with Janus results in Janus' accidental death as well as a fire that kills Sheriff Bannerman. When Stillson and Smith shake hands at Bannerman's wake, Smith does not have an apocalyptic vision.
In the final episode of the series, "Denouement", Smith learns that Stillson in fact has taken the Janus' place in the Corporation for a Better American Society, and has orchestrated nearly everything that has been going on. While still charming Sarah and J.J., Stillson asks them to move with him to Washington. When Sarah refuses, Stillson becomes violent and knocks J.J. to the floor of her house. Upon hitting his head, both J.J., as well as Johnny at another location, have a vision of the nuclear apocalypse again. Sarah angrily tells Stillson to leave, and he dejectedly returns to Washington. However, J.J. keeps his vision to himself.
Other Stephen King works
The robot Nigel the Butler mentions Stillson and his campaign motto in The Dark Tower.
- Episode 1x13 -- Destiny
- Episode 2x01 -- Valley of the Shadow
- Episode 2x06 -- Scars
- Episode 2x10 -- Dead Men Tell Tales
- Episode 3x01 -- Finding Rachel, Part 1
- Episode 3x02 -- Finding Rachel, Part 2
- Episode 3x12 -- Tipping Point, Part 1
- Episode 4x01 -- Broken Circle, Part 2
- Episode 4x08 -- Vanguard
- Episode 4x11 -- Saved
- Episode 5x01 -- Forbidden Fruit
- Episode 5x08 -- Vortex
- Episode 5x11 -- the Hunting Party
- Episode 6x01 -- Heritage
- Episode 6x03 -- Re-Entry
- Episode 6x10 -- Drift
- Episode 6x11 -- Exile
- Episode 6x13 -- Denouement