After spending years in development hell as a multi-part, multi-format adaptation, Stephen King’s epic fantasy The Dark Tower finally made it to the screen in 2017, although the resulting movie wasn’t quite what many were hoping for – including, it seems, producer Ron Howard.
Howard and fellow producers Avika Goldsman and Brian Grazer first picked up the rights in 2010 with intentions to adapt the books as trilogy of films and two companion TV series. However, they failed to entice a studio with these ambitious plans, eventually settling on a single $66 million-budgeted movie from director Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair), which – perhaps understandably – failed to do justice to the source material.
“I think it should’ve been horror,” said Howard. “I think that it landed in a place – both in our minds and the studio’s – that it could be PG-13 and sort of a boy’s adventure… I really think we made a mistake not – I mean I’m not sure we could’ve made this movie, but I think if we could’ve made a darker, more hard-boiled look and make it The Gunslinger’s character study more than Jake. I think in retrospect that would’ve been more exciting. We always felt like we were kind of holding back something, and I think at the end of the day it was that.”
“The other thing might’ve been to just straight-on tackle it as television first,” Howard continued. “Disappointing because I poured a lot of myself into it, and sometimes this happens on these projects where everybody’s best intentions – you’re all pulling in a direction, and then you sort of say, ‘Was that the right direction?’ And I wouldn’t say it was all compromise. I do think it was just a sense of maybe too much listening to what you think that the marketplace is calling for instead of the essence of what Stephen King was giving us.”
The Dark Tower fans will be hoping that Media Rights Capital has more success at the second time of asking, with Amazon having picked up the rights to a TV adaptation, which will be a complete reboot and so far features a cast that includes Sam Strike (Nightflyers) as the Gunlinger, Jasper Paakkonen (BlacKkKlansman) as the Man in Black and Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones) in an as-yet-unrevealed role.
The Dark Tower was directed by Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) and featured a cast that included Idris Elba (Luther) as Roland Deschain, Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar) as the Man in Black, Tom Taylor (Doctor Foster) as Jake Chambers, Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road) as Tirana, Fran Kranz (The Cabin in the Woods) as Pimli, Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) as Richard Sayre, Michael Barbieri (Little Men) as Timmy, Claudia Kim (Avengers: Age of Ultron) as Arra Champignon and Katheryn Winnick (Vikings) as Laurie Chambers.