Yeardley Smith remembers working with Stephen King on ‘Maximum Overdrive’

Before Yeardley Smith was known as the voice of Lisa Simpson on “The Simpsons,” she starred in the movie “Maximum Overdrive.” The 1986 film was written and directed by Stephen King. Smith tells Yahoo Entertainment that King, “Could not have been nicer and he was incredibly humble.” She does admit that he was struggling with a few challenges: an all-Italian crew, a language barrier and his own drug addiction. King has claimed that he was “coked out of my mind” during the production of “Maximum Overdrive.” “I do remember … he would just start drinking,” Smith recalls. She also remembers one particular scene where a car drives through a truck stop and she has to scream on cue. “That car came so fast,” Smith says. “That scream is so real.” Watch the video above for more with Yeardley Smith.

Video Transcript

STEVEN KING: A lot of people have directed Stephen King novels and stories. And I finally decided if you want something done right, you ought to do it yourself.

ETHAN ALTER: He's famously said that he does not remember directing "Maximum Overdrive."


ETHAN ALTER: He's been on the record saying he does not remember doing it for a variety of reasons. So I guess my question to you has to be, what do you remember about Stephen King directing "Maximum Overdrive?"

YEARDLY SMITH: So he could not have been nicer. And he was incredibly humble and was sort of the first to admit that he didn't have any idea what he was doing. He was also saddled with an all-Italian crew, meaning they literally Didn't speak English. The executive producer was Dino De Laurentiis. They were Italian, and we had a language barrier here, people.

- Curtis, I don't like this.

YEARDLY SMITH: We had a translator on set who would say to Stephen, what would you like to do? And then Stephen would say, OK, maybe I think I want to do this. And then that guy would translate to the Italian crew. And the Italian crew would discuss it, say to the translator, and the translator would-- I mean, we must have added on a week and a half just in shooting time just for translation alone. It was chaos.

And it was about 140 degrees down in Wilmington, North Carolina where the studio was. We did a lot of night shoots. And I think one of the reasons Steven says he doesn't remember is because he was at the height of his alcoholism, right, and his drug addiction, which I didn't know.

STEVEN KING: It was my first picture as a director. And you know something? I sort of enjoyed it.

YEARDLY SMITH: But I do remember that, no matter what no matter what the schedule was, if it was a night shoot, the beer would come out at 5 o'clock, and he would just start drinking. And that's like, OK. In retrospect, maybe not the best decision.

And I remember-- I have told this story a couple of times. But there's that scene where that Cadillac drives through the wall of the truck stop. And I'm standing there, and I'm like, Curtis, is that car going to, like, drive through the wall, like, the thing? By the way, were southern accent. Everyone's like, where's that girl from?

- No, you don't. They'll gang up on us and squash us.

- I can do it.

YEARDLY SMITH: So they said, OK, Yeardly, you're going to do the stunt. You're going to stand there, and you cannot move until we say go because we only have one shot at this. They had-- I think they built that truck stop. I think it was an abandoned gas station, and then they built the structure because they were going to destroy it, of course. I said, OK, you know?

I was 22, I think, at the time. And they said, and don't worry 'cause, you know, it's going to come-- it's going to look like on screen it's coming so fast, but it's going to go so slow. It's going to be so fine. I'm like, OK.

So I'm standing there. And you know, OK, roll 'em, OK, action. Then that car came so fast, so fast. And I am like, you have got to be kidding me. That scream--


YEARDLY SMITH: --is so real.


YEARDLY SMITH: I mean, it was not legal, I'm sure, at all, like, no hazard pay, no nothing. And it just was-- that's the kind of shoot it was.

STEVEN KING: I just wanted someone to do Stephen King right.

YEARDLY SMITH: That whole film is based on a 12-page short story. That just seems like a not great idea to begin with that we're going to try to stretch 12 pages into an hour and a half or more. And for me, I would say the real problem with the film is that we broke our own rules.

So the rule is that this comet passes through the atmosphere, and then all of the electronics, the mechanical things, go haywire and kill people, and you can't trust them, except for the things that we really need, right? Like, we all end up getting on this sailboat, but the sailboat has a motor because it's that big of a boat. So you're, like, what? I'm sorry, what?

So you can't do that. You just can't. And there were things I think in the truck stop, in the building itself that didn't go haywire. I mean, there are probably other problems, too, but that seemed big. That seems like a problem, like a big thing that you weren't going to get by the audience.

STEVEN KING: I'm going to scare the hell out of you.


And that's a promise.