Why The Dark Tower Was Able To Escape Development Hell, According To Akiva Goldsman

Earlier today, the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower took a massive step forward – but it’s a step being taken after years and years of being idle. J.J. Abrams first started developing the film version of the story back in 2007, and since then the project has seen major ups, as well as devastating downs. So what is it that has kept the project going for so long, despite disappointments? According to screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, all of the credit goes to belief in the quality of the source material and the passion of those behind it, who were unwilling to just let it dissolve into dust.

I had the chance to talk with Akiva Goldsman on the phone earlier today, and after a lengthy discussion about the new series he’s producing, Underground (stay tuned for more on that!), I took the opportunity to ask him about his work on The Dark Tower and its triumphant emergence from the depths of development hell. Discussing the project – to which he’s been attached since 2010 - the filmmaker explained that the reason the film has managed to survive is because the people behind it just wanted to see it be made that badly. Said Goldsman,

I am a great believer that objects of quality find their way. I think The Dark Tower is so seminal for so many of us, that there were a lot of people with a lot of love for it, and a lot of folks who were not willing to give . It’s our own dark version of the little engine that could - some version of ‘I think I can’ has, I hope, gotten us most of the way there.

As alluded to, the last decade or so has been a serious roller coaster ride for The Dark Tower. J.J. Abrams left the film two years after signing on, but things looked optimistic when Ron Howard came aboard to direct and Akiva Godsman was hired to write the script in 2010. An epic plan was set in motion that would see Stephen King’s narrative play out at both the movies and on television, and Oscar winner Javier Bardem was even brought on to star as Roland Deschain. A few months later, however, Universal Pictures decided to dump the ambitious project, leaving it without a home.

In the years since then, The Dark Tower was given new life at Sony and Media Rights Capital, but despite rumors about Russell Crowe and Aaron Paul being cast, the project seemingly couldn’t get a foothold. As Akiva Goldsman told me today, there were many times when it looked like the film would simply never have the chance to happen, but he’s incredibly excited that it’s finally moving forward:

We’ve had our hands locked for such a long time on this, and you know, to have this morning happen, it just seems so… it has seemed unlikely, it has seemed near impossible not once, not twice, but quite a few times. So, you know, look, the boat hasn’t sailed yet, but at least we just broke the champagne bottle on the hull and I’m sure happy about that.

Adapted from Stephen King’s series of books that began in 1982 with The Gunslinger, The Dark Tower tells the story of Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) as he quests across great distances to find the Dark Tower: a building said to be the nexus of all universes. Matthew McConaughey is attached to play the villainous Man In Black, while Mad Max: Fury Road’s Abbey Lee will play the female lead, Tirana. A release date has been set for January 13, 2017, so look for production to start up in the coming weeks/months.

Stay tuned for more from my interview with Akiva Goldsman, and you can catch Underground on WGN starting Wednesday, March 9th at 10:00pm ET/PT.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.