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Who Was Stephen King's Inspiration for His 'Under the Dome' Villain?

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Dean Norris as James "Big Jim" Rennie in "Under the Dome."

If the villain of "Under the Dome," which premiered to an audience of 13.14 million viewers making it the most-watched summer drama on any network since 1992, seems familiar, it's because he's based on former Vice President Dick Cheney.

When Stephen King wrote his novel, which has been adapted into a CBS series, he was inspired by the politics of the 21st century's first decade. The liberal writer wanted "Under the Dome" to be a critique of President George W. Bush's administration.

The story is set in a small town called Chester Mills which is inexplicably cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible dome. The trapped residents struggle with food shortages, communication problems, and political squabbling. A shady, self-serving used car salesman, Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris of "Breaking Bad"), becomes the de facto leader.

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When the dome appears, Big Jim immediately uses the chaotic aftermath to his advantage.

"He slowly starts to realize how he can take the reins and what that power can give him," Norris told USA Today. "This is the chance for him to be the boss. And everybody else who can have a power check on him is outside the dome."

Norris revealed, "Stephen King whispered in my ear, 'You're Dick Cheney. That's who you are.'"

Yep, Big Jim is Cheney in King's view.

"I enjoyed taking the Bush-Cheney dynamic and shrinking it to the small-town level," King told the New York Times Book Review. "The last administration interested me because of the aura of fundamentalist religion that surrounded it and the rather amazing incompetency of those top two guys. I thought there was something blackly humorous in it."

Missed the premiere? Catch up with this recap:

"Under the Dome" airs Mondays at 10 PM on CBS.

 

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