Why The Gunslinger’s Race Doesn’t Matter, According To Stephen King

Idris Elba is Roland the Gunslinger

Casting always was going to be an obstacle on any big-screen adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. Mainly because, when King described the central character of Roland the Gunslinger, he made him sound an awful lot like Clint Eastwood, circa 1966. Since Clint can't be de-aged on screen, any actor was going to fall short. But fans of the books grew extra skeptical after a black actor, Idris Elba, was cast as Roland in the upcoming launch of The Dark Tower saga. And yet, when we asked the author about the casting, he made it seem like no big deal whatsoever. King recently told CinemaBlend:

What I said in a tweet, after all of that discussion started, was that I didn't care what color he was, so long as he could command the screen, draw fast and shoot straight. It doesn't make any difference to me. I don't even really see people when I'm writing. If I'm writing about a character, I'm behind their eyes. Unless they walk by a mirror or something, I don't even really see what they look like.What really sort of made it an issue, in my mind, when they cast Idris as Roland was... all of those books were illustrated, to start with. And in all of those pictures, Roland is a white guy. I never thought about that one way or another. But obviously that became part of the mindset.But you know, it's weird, isn't it? Why shouldn't he be black? Why couldn't it be a black guy to do this? You know what's weirder than that? You see this show Game of Thrones? About Westeros? They're all British! Westeros is basically England, right! And nobody ever questions that. [Laughs] To me, the idea that a black man would play Roland is minor, compared to that.

There you have it. When the man who created Roland Deschain of Gilead says that the race of a particular character -- even one as revered as The Gunslinger -- doesn't matter to him, then it shouldn't matter to us. An interpretation of a beloved literary character is exactly that: An interpretation. And now we're left to see what Idris Elba, a spectacular actor, does with the coveted role.

We asked this question of Stephen King during an exclusive Q-and-A following a tour of his hometown of Bangor, Maine on behalf of The Dark Tower. Here's a shot of the author, entertaining our queries:

Stephen King in Bangor ME

In The Dark Tower, which opens everywhere on August 4, the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) is capturing powerful children and using him in his mission to destroy the Tower, a powerful structure that binds our universe together. Roland (Idris Elba) means to prevent the Man in Black from succeeding, and he'll need the help of Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a gifted child from New York City. The film loosely adapts King's works, not just in the casting, but also in the approach. We'll have plenty more on the film in the coming days, including a full review, and more from our exclusive trip to Bangor, ME, so stay tuned.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.