In the Dec. 1 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Lost fans will find a nice treat to help get through this weird winter hiatus. It's actually something that's been cooking in the EW oven since last summer, and we decided to serve it up in our special ''Inspirations'' issue, in which we asked a bevy of your favorite pop culture people to discuss their influences. If you know Lost well, then surely you know that the producers of the show are huge fans of Stephen King. And if you read the author's monthly column in EW, you know our resident It man is a huge fan is a huge fan of Lost, too. In light of this mutual admiration, we thought it was about time these guys got together and talked with us listening, of course.
Officially, their 90-minute conversation took place on Aug. 11 at Stephen King's office in Bangor, Maine. I had the privilege of hanging out with this fab foursome King, plus Lost producers JJ Abrams, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. I say ''hang out'' because even though I was technically there to moderate, no moderation was necessary. King took charge from the start, serving the role of interlocutor with ease. The producers were candid and had questions of their own.
The conversation unexpectedly stretched well beyond the initial back-and-forth in King's office. ''Unexpectedly,'' because somewhere in the chat, when the subject of movies came up, the following exchange took place:
DAMON: I heard The Descent is awesome.
STEPHEN: Oh yeah. Oh, I saw that the other day.
DAMON: Did you like it?
STEPHEN: Are you guys going to be around tonight? We ought to go see that.
DAMON: Yeah, we're around!
DAMON: I hear it's scary as all hell.
STEPHEN: It is. It's great. It's a horror movie for big people.
DAMON: Let's go.
JJ ABRAMS: Should we have dinner?
It went from there. After King brought an end to the official conversation (''I'm hungry! You got everything you needed, Doc J?"), we went to his house for a little bit and hung out in his basement library, where Damon and Carlton revealed a few secrets about the upcoming season, all of which you've now seen The Hydra Station, Sawyer figuring out the feeding mechanism in his cage, and Desmond's precognition powers.
Afterward, we went to dinner at one of King's favorite places, and the patrons greeted him with the perfect combination of warmth and respect and healthy distance. In general, I was struck by how the good people of Bangor seemed very protective of their famous neighbor. Or maybe they just like to mess with out-of-towners. Earlier in the day, when I drove Damon and Carlton from the airport to King's office, I kinda got mixed up with the directions. So we stopped and sought help from two different people with offices in the general vicinity of where we needed to be, and they obliged by giving us very specific instructions on where we should go. They told us where we could go, all right in the exact opposite direction of where we needed to be. At the time, this was very frustrating, but in retrospect, we all found this very, very cool. Good on you, people of Bangor.
And by the way, when we finally found King's office, he couldn't resist the joke waiting to be made: ''Ah, so you were... lost?'' Rimshot!
During dinner, I wrestled with a Maine lobster as King and the producers talked. I could barely follow their dishy chatter, because Messy MacLobster was giving me some serious problems. Afterward, we went to the movie. When we arrived, a backpack-wearing young man sitting outside the theater looked our way, then did a double-take. He stood and drifted toward us, as if in a trance. ''Mr. King,'' he said, ''I just wanted to say I'm a big fan...'' A sledgehammer joke was waiting to be made, but not by King, who was nothing but gracious: He shook the dude's hand and thanked him as we walked toward the entrance.
JJ paid for our admission, Damon picked up the snacks, Cartlon got to sit next to King. ''Talk about an iconic moment in one's life,'' Cuse said later. ''To be sitting there in the movie theater and discovering that he was a guy who talked back to the screen was an incredibly revelatory moment. We were watching a horror movie trailer, and somebody in that trailer said 'What am I doing here?' and King called out in his Maine accent, 'You're in a bad horror movie!' He was such a good guy.''
Afterward, we found our cars in the parking lot. We said thank you, like, a million times, and King said he had fun, wished us well, and drove off. It started to rain, big fat drops, but we didn't leave. We couldn't. ''We absolutely must process what just happened here,'' said Abrams, who had driven down for the day from his own home in Maine. ''Did that just happen?''
''It's always great when you meet your idol and he fulfills all your expectations," Cuse said. "I thought he was enormously charming and so... normal. I loved the moment when we were driving up, and you were lost driving, and I was on the phone with the assistant who said 'Stephen will come out and meet you. He's wearing a black Halloween T-shirt'' and there he was, waving us in. He was such a good guy. It was kind of mind-blowing to find out he was as big a fan of Lost as we are of his work. That was actually kind of hard to accept.''
Lindelof has similar thoughts: ''I kept waiting to see the chink in the armor. I never did. My favorite moment was this: We all had opportunity to drive with Stephen King during the day, and he drove me from dinner to the movie theater. As we were driving over there I saw down at my feet in his car a scratch off lottery ticket. I picked it up and looked at it and asked: 'Is this yours?' And he said, 'Yep.' And I said, 'You buy scratchers?' He said, 'Yep, Someone's gotta win.' I just thought it was just so awesome that Stephen King, who really has won the lottery in every way, shape, and form, is still the kind of guy who stops at the local convenience store to buy a scratcher.''
Anyway: It was a cool day, and I was lucky to be there. And if you pick up the new issue of EW, you can get a great sense of what it was like, as well as hear some provocative talk about the current state of Lost. And in the coming weeks, I'll share some stuff that I saved just for you faithful EW.com readers. Until then: Namaste!