What Happened to the Dark Tower Movie?

Where is the Dark Tower Film?

Image from StephenKing.com

Anyone who has taken the time to read Stephen King’s magnum opus knows that the seven Dark Tower books contain the kind of narrative that’s easy to love and hard to forget. I finished reading the epic series of books my freshman year of college, and—my friends can attest to this—I have been rambling on about them ever since.  There’s just so much to sink your teeth into: it’s an adventure story; it’s a western; it’s high fantasy; it’s science-fiction; it’s horror—and that ending!  Man, that ending!  It stays with you.  It’s the perfect candidate for a series of movie adaptations if there ever was one, and there has been talk over the years about that very subject.  So where is it?  What happened to the Dark Tower movies?

It’s a long story, so let’s break it down in chronological order.

Speculation surrounding the elusive Dark Tower movies began in 2007 when Stephen King reportedly sold the film rights to J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindeloft for $19—which sounds like a random amount for those unfamiliar with the story, but trust me, it makes sense.  In an interview with MTV News, King proclaimed a protective nature around this particular story, and wouldn’t provide film rights to just anyone.  He felt that Abrams and Lindeloft were right for the task thanks to their work on the undoubtably King-influenced TV series Lost, and the rest, as they say is history.

Except that never happened.  J.J. Abrams went on to direct the Star Trek reboot, and was far too busy to take on any new projects (until Star Wars Episode VII came along, but whatever), and officially left the project.  Lindeloft felt too overwhelmed with the gravity of it all, and dropped out as well.  The Dark Tower films were officially put back on the shelf.

Enter Ron Howard: the acclaimed director and former Happy Days star’s film company, Imagine Entertainment, picked up the film rights to The Dark Tower in 2010, with Howard attached to direct the first film from a script by Akiva Goldsmith.  Their approach was incredibly ambitious—Howard wanted three feature films with two seasons of television in between each one—and for a while, it was all the rage in entertainment reporting.  A tentative release date for 2013 was announced, and several actors had been considered for Roland, the main character, including Viggo Mortensen, Hugh Jackman, Jon Hamm and Daniel Craig.

Howard was an interesting choice for director, and there was a fair amount of outcry from die-hard fans, but his enthusiasm for the project and all things Dark Tower related was infectious; a feature in the LA Times reported that he was absolutely obsessed with the project.  He also had King’s full blessing and unequivocal support.

Then something terrible happened: Universal, the studio behind it all at this point,  scrapped the whole ordeal, saying that it was too lofty a proposition.  After all the hullabaloo, all the interviews, and all of the casting speculation, the dream was likely dead at this point.

This was awful news for Dark Tower fans—after so much build-up, so much hope, it really seemed as if this was never going to happen.  Heartbroken and worn down, we quietly accepted the fact that our favorite story would never exist beyond print, and moved onto other things.

So where is it now?  Is the Dark Tower officially in developmental hell?  Well, not exactly. Howard simply won’t take no for an answer. In 2011, he went shopping for a different studio to take on the project, now being optioned as a televised mini-series instead.  Warner Brothers took interest, and Russell Crowe was allegedly in talks to be cast as Roland, but the studio dropped out in 2012.  Howard insisted that they were still working on it in 2013, and in January 2014, actor Aaron Paul revealed that he was being optioned to play the role of Eddie, a former heroin junkie that becomes Roland’s companion in the second book.  Anyone who has seen Breaking Bad knows that Paul can play this role with his eyes shut.

As of this writing, it’s July 2014—so where is the Dark Tower?  There hasn’t been a peep from anyone involved since that fateful day in January, so anything at this point is pure speculation, but it’s probably still going to happen.  Think about it: every time this project has been scratched, it has been announced.  Granted, there hasn’t been a studio attached for quite a while, but the creative folk involved aren’t denying a thing.  That’s a good sign.

So what about the studio?  When Warner Bros. were still in the picture, HBO was being tossed around as an option.  That’s probably not going to happen, but there are plenty of other premium channels to house The Dark Tower.  There’s always Netflix, which has pumped out some seriously awesome original productions over the past few years, and they already have a relationship with Howard thanks to the resurrection of Arrested Development.  They also aren’t strangers to the horror genre—Hemlock Grove arrived in 2013 with a second season airing on July 11, 2014.  The only issue would likely be budget, which would (and should) be a quite a bit higher than the cost of shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

Regardless of how Howard and his motley crew approach the Dark Tower, one thing is certain: it needs to be filmed.  There’s just too much good stuff here, the potential is enormous, and after all the effort, it would be a shame to see it simply fade away.

Image Source: http://stephenking.com/darktower/comic/

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