Gregory Ammas Stillson is a fictional character and the primary antagonist in Stephen King's The Dead Zone, played by Martin Sheen in the movie version and by Sean Patrick Flanery in the USA Network original television series.
Role in the bookEdit
Greg Stillson's back story in the novel is that he was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of an emotionally abusive oilfield worker. In high school, he helps with his mother's housepainting business. Stillson's years in high school are also marked by truancy, fighting, and one act of vandalism with a cherry bomb.
In the book, Stillson is introduced as a traveling salesman for a far-right Bible-printing company. When he stops at a dooryard in rural Iowa, Stillson is attacked and bitten by a guard dog. An enraged Stillson first sprays ammonia in the animal's eyes then brutally beats the dog to death. Fearing for his job, Stillson flees the scene. As he drives away, he comes upon the realization that he is destined for greatness, and so immediately sets about building a path towards his destiny.
Stillson moves to New England, where he is hired as a salesman for the Prudential life insurance company. The company eventually moves Stillson to a regional office in the fictional New Hampshire town of Ridgeway. Soon after moving there, Ridgeway becomes Stillson's adopted hometown, and he becomes active in local politics. He blackmails Sonny Elliman, the leader of a biker gang called the Devil's Dozen, into becoming his head of security for his later political career. Stillson also does favors for the concerned parents of deliquent teenagers, straightening them up in a sound-proofed room in a grueling process of physical and emotional abuse. Stillson becomes popular in Ridgeway, and makes proposals that seem strange at first but later prove beneficial to the town.
Stillson eventually campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives. He gains national attention for his unconventional approach to woo the voters at his rallies, donning a construction helmet and making bizarre campaign promises, such as sending air pollution into outer space in plastic bags. Stillson becomes overwhelmingly popular, and his rallies are attended by many people with much fanfare. However, the campaign trail isn't always smooth for Stillson. His security detail, led by Elliman and his former bike gang partners, are implicated is several beatings of rally attendees. Stillson's campaign also gets the attention of Johnny Smith, a psychic who has used his brief "flashes" to solve a murder case in Castle Rock, Maine.
Smith attends a Stillson rally in the fictional town of Trimbull, New Hampshire. When he and the candidate shake hands, Smith receives a psychic flash unlike anything he has ever seen before, showing Greg Stillson being sworn in as President of the United States. As he relates in a letter to his father later on, Smith finds that President Stillson will worsen an international conflict originating in South Africa, starting a full-scale nuclear war. Smith estimates that up to 20 countries will use nuclear arms during the war, as well as terrorist groups. The experience of the vision not only horrifies Smith but Stillson too, and Stillson's men almost assault the psychic.
Greg Stillson is elected congressman on election night. He proves so popular during his first term that he is re-elected in a landslide. Shortly following his re-election, he creates a conservative political action committee called the America Now Party.
Johnny Smith, with the terrible knowledge of Stillson's future deeds, contemplates attacking or assassinating the congressman. Soon after saving the life of a boy he was tutoring from a deadly roadhouse fire, Smith leaves New Hampshire and finds a public works job in Phoenix, Arizona. However, after suffering from a severe seizure on the job and discovering a brain tumor, he realizes he had precious little time to deal with Stillson.
Smith arrives in Jackson, New Hampshire, the town hall of which is to host the next Stillson rally the following day. Posing as a news photographer, Smith finds a decent sniper's nest in the town hall's second floor gallery, with a clear view of the podium. The next day, Smith takes his place there in hiding as the rally began. However, when he decides to shoot the politician, he misses several times. Stillson grabs a nearby child and uses him as a human shield. Smith hesitates to shoot Stillson then and is himself subsequently shot and mortally wounded.
His efforts are not in vain, however; a news photographer Smith had met earlier took a picture of Stillson cowering behind the child, and gets away from Stillson's bodyguards. Smith touches Stillson again when they meet the final time, discovering that he has changed the future and that Stillson will never come to power. With this knowledge, Smith dies contently. 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 the film, it is shown that Stillson commits suicide in the wake of the scandal. However, this is not evident in the novel.
Role in the TV seriesEdit
Greg Stillson has so far appeared in 13 episodes of the series over the first six seasons. The series provides the character with a backstory established in a number of flashbacks, in which his con artist father molds him into a sociopath through years of abuse. He encounters Johnny Smith for the first time when they are both nine years old; Smith suffers a vague vision and passes out upon meeting him. By the time he is an adult, Stillson is willing to destroy anyone who stands in the way of the "greatness" he sees in himself.
By the time the series begins, Stillson has been elected Mayor of Cleaves Mills. He passes Smith's accident on his way to the office of Charlie Richardson, where he and his right-hand-man Sonny Elliman threaten to throw Richardson out of a fifth story window if he doesn't stop leaking stories of Stillson's sordid dealings to the press. The day that Smith wakes from his coma, Stillson is sworn in as a member of the Maine House of Representatives.
Stillson does not appear until the end of the first season, though he is mentioned as an up-and-coming politician as early as the pilot episode. Stillson first appears in a 2002 television interview in "Destiny", explaining his campaign platform of strong morality as he runs for Maine's 2nd congressional district.
In the privacy of his campaign trailer after the interview, however, Stillson shows his true colors by manipulating a 20-year-old campaign volunteer into having sex with him. His father chastises him, and also rebukes Sonny Elliman for not keeping him in check. Soon after, Stillson visits a disaster site to make a speech. The cabal of reporters abandons the speech, however, when they spot Johnny Smith, who had saved hundreds lives by foreseeing the disaster. The two encounter each other again soon after.
After watching a television documentary about Smith in "Valley of the Shadow", Stillson delivers an impassioned speech at Cleaves Mills High School, where Smith and his high school sweetheart, Sarah Bracknell, are in attendance. Following the speech, he asks Sarah's opinion on his platform and receives a scathing review; Stillson instructs Elliman to find out more about her. Finally, on his way out, he meets Smith again and shakes his hand.
In "Scars", Stillson recruits Sarah onto his campaign team, partially to learn why Smith is so interested in him, and partially to fuel his quest to unseat incumbent Congressman Harrison Fisher. He also meets with Smith in a diner, offering to get the psychic connected after he wins office, and warning Smith to stop investigating his past. Smith retaliates by helping Stillson's rival best him in a debate.
That night, Stillson discusses the political fallout of the debate with Elliman, venting his growing hatred for the "goddamn crippled freak" Smith. At a reception for the Daughters of the American Revolution at the Governor's Mansion, Stillson has sex with a girl in the handicapped stall of the bathroom before Elliman notifies him that Smith is in attendance. Elliman runs across Smith on his way out of the Governor's Mansion and told him to steer clear of Stillson. He punches Smith after Smith pushes him, giving Smith a vision of their conversation with Harper.
A few days later, Stillson faces Fisher in the final night of the campaign debate, and Fisher confronts Stillson on his campaign contribution cap. Fisher brings up the possibility of a $6 million contribution, and Stillson declares that he would never accept more than $2,500; Fisher vows to hold Stillson to his word before withdrawing from the race because of the atrocity that occurred in Vietnam. After winning the debate by default, Stillson meets with Smith in a diner again to thank him for exposing Fisher's past. He also learns how Fisher found out about the Harper Lumber offer, and makes Smith an offer of his own: to "join forces" and put their combined resources behind Stillson's political career. Smith summarily declines the offer.
In "Dead Men Tell Tales", Stillson and Elliman attend a party hosted by mobster Cathan Donnegal and discuss business possibilities following the adoption of Proposition 151; Donnegal also "loans" his girlfriend, Nina, to Stillson for the evening. Publicly, Stillson called for the defeat of Prop. 151, "the Indian casino initiative", claiming that bringing gambling into Maine will invite "crime and moral decay." He later walks in on Sarah and Smith discussing the option of Sarah quitting Stillson's campaign, and declares that he'd be lost without her. Stillson then moves into a private office with Smith and Elliman and confesses to his quiet promotion of the casino initiative, which he thought "would be an economic boon" to the region. Smith explains that Donnegal believes someone sent an assassin to kill him, and he thinks that someone might be Stillson; Elliman threatens Smith to "be careful what [he] tell[s] Donnegal."
In "Finding Rachel (Part 1)", Stillson hires Faith Heritage graduate student and filmmaker Rachel Caldwell as his Director of Media Relations to produce a documentary following his congressional campaign, and the two eventually form a romantic relationship. Later, his assistant, Jake Truax, demonstrates a new digital voting machine for Stillson and his father that would fudge votes in Stillson's direction in the upcoming Congressional election. Rachel walks in as the demonstration is wrapping up, and while she doesn't see anything incriminating, Stillson's father grows suspicious of her involvement with his son.
At the Bangor Civic Center, Rachel shoots footage of Stillson's rally speech, which is attended by Sarah, Purdy, and Smith. The next day, Stillson is interviewed by Sheriff Bannerman and learns that Rachel had gone missing the previous night. Stillson lies to the sheriff about the nature of his relationship with Rachel, claiming that it was "strictly professional", and promises the resources of his office in the search. He also receives a visit from Rachel's sister Rebecca, then discusses the need to contain Smith's investigations with his father and Elliman. He instructs Elliman to dig into Faith Heritage and find something they could use to persuade Purdy to help put Smith off.
Soon after, Stillson and Elliman meet surreptitiously with Faith Heritage chief financial officer Mike Kennedy, blackmailing the lawyer with photographs of Kennedy's outlandish sexual activities. Stillman and Elliman later shake down Purdy for the finances remaining in Smith's trust fund to finance a last-ditch campaign push. The next day, Stillson holds a press conference to ask for the public's help in finding Rachel Caldwell, and Rebecca presents a statement as well describing her sister.
Campaigning on the street, Stillson runs across Smith, who is not subtle in his implication that Stillson was involved in Rachel's disappearance. Stillson threatens to go after Smith if he learns that anything happened to Rachel. Later, he discusses the progress of the search with his father and Elliman, and the elder Stillson chastises him for hiring Rachel in the first place. Finally, Stillson watches Smith's arrest on television while getting a massage from his assistant, Linda.
Several days later, in "Finding Rachel (Part 2)", Stillson, his father, Elliman, and Linda watch a news broadcast outlining the congressional race, with Stillson at 28 percent, Republican candidate Melissa Klock at 31 percent, and Democratic candidate Steven Hansz at 32 percent. They then see an update on Smith's arrest as the psychic continues to be questioned by the Cleaves Mills police; Stillson gives Elliman a stack of photographs of Smith's "Armageddon Board" with instructions to distribute them anonymously to the press in order to expedite Smith's public demise.
The next day, Stillson supervises the production and distribution of thousands of missing-posters for Rachel, before advising Sarah to steer clear of Smith during the investigation for the sake of her husband's public image. Later, Stillson meets with his father, Truax, and Elliman to discuss the shifting poll numbers, and they determine to "borrow a trick from [their] friends in Florida" by discounting voters with a name even remotely similar to any convicted felon. Elliman gets a call from Mike Kennedy and arranges a meeting with him, shooting Kennedy in his car and staging the scene to look like a suicide on the Faith Heritage campus.
Stillson attends the election polls with his cadre and puts in a vote for himself, playing dumb with the new digital equipment. Later that night, after the polls close, Stillson is announced the winner; as the victory party rages, Stillson walks in on Sarah searching his office and attempts to seduce her, with the promise of political power by his side. His sexual advances are cut off when Bruce bursts into the office, giving Sarah an opportunity to escape.
At the victory party, Stillson delivers an impassioned speech and learns from Truax that he won the election by one percent of the vote. Later, after Smith has been exonerated by a suicide note forged by Purdy under Kennedy's name that claimed responsibility for Rachel Caldwell's murder, Stillson meets with Purdy to pick up Kennedy's remaining funds.
Stillson later meets with Purdy after Kennedy's body is exhumed in "Tipping Point (Part 1)," prompted by one of Smith's visions; Stillson warns Purdy that any investigation into Kennedy's death would only hurt Faith Heritage. Stillson discusses the "Justice For All" bill with his father — a piece of legislation being renamed "Rachel's Law" — when Truax warns him that Bannerman and Smith are reinvestigating Rachel's murder. That night, Stillson watches a news broadcast in which Purdy admits that he fabricated Kennedy's suicide note in order to secure Smith's release.
The next day, Stillson is visited by Rebecca Caldwell and Smith, and discusses "Rachel's Law" with her, requesting that she attend the bill-signing ceremony in Washington D.C. Rebecca declines the offer, but Smith holds out a hand for Stillson, and who takes it; Smith collapses from the resulting vision, and Stillson phones for paramedics.
In "Broken Circle (Part 2)", Truax persuades Stillson to take on Malcolm Janus as a new senior consultant. He also informs Stillson that Smith is due to undergo brain surgery that may destroy his psychic ability, thus eliminating him as a threat to the continuing Stillson campaign. Later, Stillson is visited by Rebecca Caldwell, who has reconsidered his offer and decided to publicly endorse "Rachel's Law" by attending the bill signing. After sending Rebecca to a secretary to arrange the details, Stillson's father warns him not to "make the same mistake [he] made with her sister", the implication being that keeping Rebecca so close will keep Rachel's murder in the news, which could sink the campaign. Stillson asserts that he was not involved in the death. His father then orders Elliman to place wiretaps in Rebecca's apartment to keep watch on her.
Stillson receivs a visit from Federal Marshal Pendragon, who warns the congressman that Smith has escaped the hospital where he was due to undergo brain surgery, and is likely headed to the Capitol. After Smith discovers the wiretaps in Rebecca's apartment, Elliman makes quick work of clearing out the equipment, but is caught by Bannerman and winds up in an altercation with the sheriff.
On the morning of the bill signing, Stillson greets Rebecca as she arrives at the courthouse, and the two are quickly hustled inside when federal agents spot Smith near the periphery of the scene. Stillson skirts the press and steers Rebecca to his campaign suite upstairs; Stillson attempts to seduce Rebecca, but she slips into the bathroom. She emerges a moment later with her purse in hand, seconds before Smith bursts into the suite and took it, claiming that Stillson did not kill Rachel: his father did.
Stillson is shocked by the revelation, but later learns from his father that Smith was telling the truth; he admitted to killing Rachel "to protect" his son, as well as speaking ill of his late wife, Greg's mother. In a fit of rage, Stillson strangles his father. He is then approached for the first time by Janus, who coaches the distraught congressman through the tremulous first days after his father's death. Janus quickly becomes Stillson's primary advisor, replacing Truax.
In "Vanguard", Stillson authorizes House Appropriations subsidies to fund the biomedical Portland Chemical firm in Maine, whose research would in turn provide soft money for Stillson's continuing campaign; Stillson meets with representative Judith Peck to discuss their mutually beneficial agendas. Stillson later meets with Purdy during a Congressional recess to press him for more funding from the Faith Heritage Alliance. When Purdy refuses, Janus cuts off Faith Heritage's satellite feeds until Purdy complies.
Stillson and Janus also discuss the work of Portland Chemical engineer Dr. Alex Connors, and Stillson informs his advisor that Connors was a student of Johnny Smith's. Stillson later visits with Connors at his Portland Chemical lab and learns that Connors and Smith are "finished" following a falling-out over Connors' current work. After meeting with Connors, Stillson tells Janus that Smith must be kept out of Connors' work to keep the funds flowing.
Later, Janus arranges a meeting between Stillson and Maine Senator Harlan Ellis, and by proxy, his daughter Miranda. Leaving the Ellis estate, Stillson runs into Smith, who offers to steer clear of Stillson if he lets go of Connors and his work. Stillson agrees, but goes against the deal the moment that Smith is out of the car, ordering Connors kidnapped.
Over the next several months, Stillson and Miranda become romantically involved; when Stillson learns that Miranda's father did not allow her to attend her senior prom, he swears to "never deny [her] happiness." At some point, Stillson confesses that he killed his father to Miranda in a drunken outburst, telling her that now they are "in this together."
In "Saved", the couple takes the Ellis' private yacht, the Seamore 9, into the Atlantic off the coast of Maine. After Stillson goes below deck for Dramamine for his seasickness, he emerges to find Miranda missing. Desperate, he turns to Johnny Smith for help. The psychic reluctantly agrees to help, swearing that if the investigation shows that Stillson was involved in Miranda's disappearance, he would bring the congressman down.
Stillson and Smith visit the Seamor 9, and Smith learns that Stillson is afraid of the water, and that the congressman had an argument with Miranda. Stillson and Smith then visit Miranda's apartment, where Stillson lets slip that his father was "a Bible-thumping dead-beat"; Smith claims that he can't force his visions when he's tired, and insists that they start again the next day. Stillson and Smith meet with Harlan Ellis at his estate, but Smith once again claims he's not picking up any visions; as they leave, however, Smith tells Stillson that Miranda is dead.
Later, Stillson is visited by Janus, who informs the congressman that Miranda Ellis is alive, and at the Hotel Gerard in Washington D.C. with Smith; Stillson admits to telling Miranda the truth about his father's death. Stillson holds a press conference to announce Miranda's safe return, and publicly proposes to her; she accepts. Smith also attends, and Stillson makes a point of thanking him in front of the cameras for his integral role in Miranda's rescue.
In "Forbidden Fruit", after the leak of a "list of U.S. locations most vulnerable to a terrorist attack" to the Boston Telegraph Stillson gives an interview in which he stresses the need to refocus attention in respect to global terrorism, and calls for the individual responsible for the leak to face federal treason charges. He also mentions that he is leaving the wedding plans up to Miranda; Stillson later visits Miranda and her father to go over wedding details, and learns that Harlan invited Congressman Patrick Kelley, Stillson's senior counterpart. He also learns that Miranda regularly sees a doctor, Knox, for a heart condition left over from a childhood bout with rheumatic fever.
Stillson visits with Kelly and his chief of staff, Michael Scannell, to discuss the Telegraph leak, as Kelly is also committee chairman for Homeland Security. Stillson offers Kelley a deal: stop blocking Stillson's legislation, or face the full brunt of the leak scandal. Kelly tells Stillson "to go straight to Hell." Stillson then meets with Janus and demands that his advisor "get that old man out of the way"; Janus assures Stillson that "it's already in the works."
The night before the wedding, Stillson visits Miranda, who puts off his sexual advances, claiming that it would be bad luck. She also takes him to task for his infidelity, but he insists that he is trying to put his scarred past behind him in order to make a new life with her. The next morning, Stillson is visited by Janus, who shows the congressman photographs of Miranda at Smith's house. Enraged, Stillson instructs Janus to "handle the situation", leaving the method up to his advisor.
Two hours before the wedding, Stillson visits Miranda, telling her that he loves her. As the guests arrive, Congressman Kelly is accosted by reporters who have just learned from a press conference by Telegraph journalist Jeremy Tomlin that Scannell was the source of the Homeland leak. As Stillson waits at the altar, however, Miranda's maid-of-honor breaks the news that Miranda has stopped breathing. As paramedics load the unconscious bride into an ambulance, Stillson fights past Smith to join her, and stays with her as she dies. In the next two days, Stillson and Ellis have Miranda cremated and spread her ashes on the ocean.
Following a federal raid on the compound of a religious cult called The Seekers that results in the death of Nathan "Cyrus" Carter in "Vortex", Stillson leads a congressional investigation panel to ascertain how the incursion unfolded. He interviews Smith, Bannerman, Major Ray Seybold, Penobscot County Deputy Roscoe, Bruce Lewis, and Lucy Caron. During a recess, Stillson encounters Smith, who takes the congressman to task for the deaths of James Stillson and Miranda Ellis, and baits him by saying that he is now just Janus' pawn. After the investigation, Stillson announces that the Seeker's Compound raid demonstrates a failure on the part of the government for not opening pathways of communication with the cult.
In "the Hunting Party," Stillson meets with Janus and his cabal and receives instructions to join Vice-President Eric Danbury on a hunting expedition. Stillson then replaces Senator Jennings on the trip to Briar Hill in Maine with Danbury, and witnesses Kendra Crowe cutting down a Secret Service agent and the Vice-President with one bullet before taking a bullet to his own left shoulder. He returns fire in the direction of the assassin, and is credited with taking down the triggerman, Marshall Frost.
In "Heritage," Stillson, recently promoted to Vice President of the United States in the wake of Danbury's death, returns to Cleaves Mills to attend the Faith Heritage Winterfest. There he is met by Janus, who insistes that Stillson stay focused on politics, and is given an amended speech on global warming by his advisor to be delivered via Faith Heritage satellite.
Stillson later meets with Purdy in his campaign bus to finalize his speech, but learns that Purdy has decided to give the speech instead. Stillson tries to convince Purdy otherwise, but Purdy expresses "serious concerns about the people behind" Stillson's career. Stillson also visits the Winterfest game, run by Sarah Bannerman, and wins a panda bear, promising to take J.J. for a flight on Air Force Two — or Air Force One, should he win the Presidency.
A few days later, Stillson attends the wake of Penobscot County Sheriff Walter T. Bannerman, along with Sarah and J.J. Bannerman, Bruce Lewis, Johnny Smith, and Reverend Purdy. Greg laments the loss of Sheriff Bannerman, but agrees with Johnny that "certainly no one's going to miss Malcolm Janus". When Johnny shakes hands with Stillson on this occasion, he receives a vision of the future again, but this time without armageddon.
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