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Over the course of the decade-long development process The Dark Tower wound itself through, producer Ron Howard was on board for almost the entire ride, joining the project in the wake of J.J. Abrams’ departure. So if anyone knows what the first film in the failed Stephen King franchise went through in its birthing process, it’s him.
As such, Ron Howard is also qualified to discuss just what went wrong with the 2017 film that baffled critics as well as fans, and saw Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey occupying the center of the black hole that was The Dark Tower’s would-be origin story. And discuss this he did in a recent interview, in which Ron Howard admitted to the following mistake when it came to Roland the Gunslinger’s big screen debut:
I think it should’ve been horror. 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.
It's a story that any Dark Tower fan could tell you from memory: the day that what was supposed to be the first entry in a series of films and TV seasons that told the story of all seven books was confirmed to be a PG-13 film. With the focus shifted to Tom Taylor’s Jake Chambers, and the story retooled to be a sequel that took the series past the events of the final written volume, aptly titled The Dark Tower, the Sony-produced picture eventually became a pretty big flameout when it was released into theaters.
As the literary source was a darker, more mature fantasy that saw much weirder and more gruesome events, including Jake’s own death after being sacrificed by Roland himself, the PG-13 style of filmmaking just couldn’t cut it. And while he was initially bullish on the film, even Stephen King himself admitted that the studio went crazy with trying to turn an R-rated novel into a franchise-ready, less hard-edged product.
But alas, hindsight truly is 20/20, and Ron Howard’s discussion on Happy, Sad, Confused showed just that. And while he admits it was a mistake, Howard does note that it was one that helped the movie get made, seeing as the studio may not have wanted the R-rated version of what was eventually a $66 million film version of The Dark Tower’s first, and so far only, cinematic installment.
However, the storied franchise’s fortunes aren’t totally washed out, as Amazon has been working on a brand new Dark Tower TV series that would stick to the original plan of adapting book four, Wizards and Glass, into a sprawling epic that would fill in the backstory for Roland. So while there was a failure to be had in The Dark Tower’s initial journey to the screen, it looks like that regret might become a big stepping stone on improving for the future.
We don’t have a premiere date on when The Dark Tower will hit Amazon, but you can see Ron Howard’s latest documentary, Pavarotti, when it opens in theaters this Friday. And if you’re looking for more excitement in theaters this weekend, or anytime in the near future, you can check out our 2019 release schedule to see what’s on the horizon. Results may vary depending on which dimension you’re reading this article in.