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Very few people could legitimately claim to be surprised when Universal backed away from Ron Howard’s elaborate, expensive, combination-movie-and-television adaptation of Stephen King’s sprawling The Dark Tower series. In the current climate of ballooning budgets and costly disappointments, a studio’s less likely to take a risk on a multi-part project that doesn’t come with some guarantee of marketability to the general (read: teenage) audience. Years ago, when films like Carrie, Cujo and Firestarter were moneymaking movies, Stephen King’s name was bankable. Today, not so much.
Even King understands, telling EW.com in an email that he was disappointed but “not really surprised” by the studio’s decision. “As a rule, [Universal has] been about smaller and less risky pix; maybe they feel it would be better to stick with those fast and furious racing boys,” King elaborated.
That’s a sweet dig, though even King has to acknowledge that the Fast franchise helps pay Universal’s bills. Decisions in Hollywood are made with the bottom line in mind, and while commercial directors like Jon Favreau might be able to get risky, creative pictures like Cowboys & Aliens made, Howard hasn’t proven to be a moneymaker outside of the Dan Brown franchise (which he directed for Sony) and didn’t earn the studio’s trust with his pitch.
King doesn’t think that the project is dead yet, though. In his e-mail, he says that he trusts in Howard’s vision of Roland and the Dark Tower, and believes the filmmaker will get it set up “somewhere else.” Of course, Howard has since moved on to the Formula-1 racing picture Rush with Chris Hemsworth. So Roland’s quest to reach the Dark Tower continues. Now maybe King can help Harry Potter director David Yates get that planned adaptation of The Stand off the ground?