Ron Howard’s upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series was originally announced as one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. It was to be a project so big that it couldn’t be contained in one format, to be told in different parts both on the big screen and the small screen. Then, somewhere along the way, Universal’s accountants got involved and essentially said, no way, we’re not risking that much money. Now we’re not even sure if The Dark Tower will get made at all, or if it does get made whether Ron Howard will be given a big enough budget to do anything with it.
Ron and his producing partner Brian Grazer recent sat down with Deadline and offered an update on where they’re at with The Dark Tower, and while their project isn’t dead yet, things seem kind of bleak. Yet they sound determined to do it as a media format spanning project. Howard thinks that’s important and explains it this way:
We could have tried to force all of it into one or two or three movies. It became clear to me that the medium of TV has become so bold and cool, we could use it to our advantage creatively and really fulfill the possibilities of this universe of characters King gave us to work with. We can use the intimacy of television when that’s appropriate, and the scope and scale of the big screen with the bigger fantasy ideas. We discovered elements that would probably never have a home either on the big screen or on TV, but would make fantastic narrative gaming opportunities that won’t rehash the movies or TV, but have its own material borne out of the books and graphic novels. We’ve got gaming designers and there is enthusiasm for that. It’s a way to use all the mediums at our disposal to try to fulfill what’s possible. Universal sees this as an asset that can benefit the company in a lot of different ways.I get excited just reading that, not only because I love The Dark Tower, but because it’s a big, bold idea of the kind we haven’t really seen in Hollywood since New Line Cinema risked a ton of money on shooting three Lord of the Rings movies back to back. Actually, compared to this idea, Lord of the Rings was a small thing. I guess it’s easy to understand why the studio, Universal Pictures, might have blanched at the prospect of taking such a big risk. But it sounds like they may still be on board. Howard explains the delays:
The first version represented a bold attempt to fast track, because of weather concerns. It was a little more dramatic to people on the outside than to us. We’d have liked to move forward on that fast track, but it was always Phase One. There was an understanding that if we couldn’t answer all the questions in a way that made sense to all the partners involved, then we would operate on a slightly more traditional timetable. Even if we go in March, that’s still moving quickly for something of this scale.Delays we can live with, but as a fan of this series you and I know that this thing needs a massive budget if it’s ever going to be done right on the big screen. Initially they were supposed to have the money they needed, but now they’re being forced to scale it back. What no one’s sure of is just how much, and neither Howard nor Grazer will confirm how much money is being taken off the table. Grazer says:
I’m producing it with Akiva Goldsman, who wrote it to be sensitive to cost and is rewriting it to be more so. Without putting a number on it, the cuts aren’t that deep or that radical.As for where they are with casting, last we heard it was all but a done deal for Javier Bardem to play Roland, the movie’s lead. But now they seem to be leaving the door open for someone else to take the part. When asked of Javier’s set to play Roland, Ron Howard responded this way:
Nobody is pay or play but he has said he wants to do it. We’ve spent a lot of time together. He’s fascinated by the character and has great instincts for Roland. I’m hoping when we go, he’s available and will join us.