Looks like two Hollywood heavyweights are going to be facing off in the big screen adaptation of one of Stephen King’s most famous and referenced stories, The Dark Tower, Entertainment Weekly reports.
The author has confirmed that both Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are involved with the film adaptation, slated to begin production in South Africa within seven weeks. Elba will star as the gunslinger, Roland, while McConaughey will appear as his mystical foe known as the Man in Black. The movie will be directed and co-written by Nikolaj Arcel (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, A Royal Affair) and is backed by Sony Pictures, who plans to release it in theaters on Jan. 13, 2017.
News of an official start on production has been a long time coming for many King fans considering how long and how many attempts have been made to get the epic, sprawling story off the page.
Due to the grand scope of King’s book series, it was a difficult task to conceive. In 2010, however, director Ron Howard made an attempt to bring the story to life through a multi-platform production that would combine three films and a prequel TV series, with Javier Bardem as his lead. Akiva Goldsman, who adapted the Oscar-winning screenplay for A Beautiful Mind, began writing the scripts, but Universal Pictures’ cold feet and money got in the way, according to King.
The chairman of Sony’s motion picture studio, Tom Rothman, was responsible for breathing new life into the highly anticipated project. It comes as no surprise that a major studio would be interested in a story like this considering its built-in following and film’s growing dependence on franchise storytelling—as television becomes more and more of a middle ground for narratives too expensive to be indies and too low in fiscal return for major studios.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about working on latest adaption of his work, King said that he was both “delighted” and “a little bit surprised” by the news.
“The thing is, it’s been a long trip from the books to the film,” King said. “When you think about it, I started these stories as a senior in college, sitting in a little sh-tty cabin beside the river in Maine, and finally this thing is actually in pre-production now.”
According to King, the movie will begin just as his book does, using the very first line. He acknowledged that he believed it should begin that way, stating “I’ve been pretty insistent about that.”
”[The movie] starts in media res, in the middle of the story instead of at the beginning, which may upset some of the fans a little bit, but they’ll get behind it, because it is the story,” King said.
It has also been confirmed that the first film, which has no present plans to stretch beyond a single feature, will not be adapting the plot of The Gunslinger, the first book in the series published back in 1982. Instead, director Nikolaj Arcel teased that “A lot of it takes place in our day, in the modern world,” but wouldn’t confirm which books the movie would be pulling content from.
Despite some fans potential dismay, there may be a good reason for saving the story’s early chunks. Because of the evolving relationship between big and small screen media, King says that executing Howard’s plan may be possible now more than ever.
“They’re still holding on to this idea that they can do a TV series, and they’ve got it pegged for that,” King said.
For those unfamiliar with the books, The Dark Tower is an adventure of the dark fantasy variety. The story follows Roland Deschain, a “frontiersman knight” who uses a pair of revolvers to right the course in the fallen land of Mid-World. Where we find him is on a quest to save that crumbling world of his, which can only be achieved through reaching a tower that stands at the nexus point of both time and space.
In order to carry out his journey and save his realm, Roland gets some help from a few misfits, including a junkie named Eddie, a young boy named Jake and Susannah, an amputee. As a Ka-tet, or a group connected through destiny, these four must follow the path of one of the six invisible beams that keep Roland’s world from falling apart, and also happens to lead to the very tower he needs.
Roland and his crew’s journey is further complicated by “the man in black,” a devil who mostly goes by Walter Padick or Walter O’dim. The ageless sorcerer is also on a journey to reach the tower and rule of its many kingdoms.
The story lives in an intricate and engrossing universe, something that clearly played a part in Arcel’s attraction to the project.
“What Stephen King does best is mixing the everyday, or what you might call the mundane, with the fantastical,” Arcel said. “In my view, [The Dark Tower] novels are a mix between sci-fi and fantasy and modern times. That exact mix is so Stephen King.”
Arcel will co-write the project along with Anders Thomas Jensen, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner. Goldman, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Erica Huggins will produce, while Pinkner will serve an executive producer.
As for the other characters, Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road) is in talks to star as Tirana, but no other casting announcements have been made yet.