Why Mike Flanagan Is OK With Stephen King's The Dark Tower Not Being His Next Project

The Gunslinger Cover The Dark Tower
(Image credit: Plume)

Fans of Stephen King's The Dark Tower definitely know a thing or two about the virtue of patience. Not only did it take 22 years for King to publish the seven novels that make up the beloved series, but it took the better part of a decade for the first film adaptation to make it out of development hell and into theaters (though admittedly that Hollywood story doesn't exactly have a happy ending). As such, Constant Readers are well experienced when it comes to waiting at this point – and it seems that experience may come in handy in the coming years as we anticipate the brand new Dark Tower adaptation that is in the works from writer/director Mike Flanagan.

Excitement spread like a wildfire back in December when it was announced that Flanagan (the director of Gerald's Game and Doctor Sleep) had acquired the rights to The Dark Tower, but those who are champing at the bit to witness his vision for the journey of Roland Deschain would probably benefit from calming down a touch. On top of the fact that the project doesn't currently have a studio attached, Flanagan recently shared with the Script Apart podcast that experience has taught him to be patient with the projects he is ultra passionate about. Comparing the situation to his critically acclaimed 2021 Netflix series Midnight Mass, he explained,

All I wanted in the world back in 2014 was for someone to make Midnight Mass right then, and we took it to every studio in town – and I’m so glad they didn’t. I wouldn’t have done it right. And so I have that in the back of my mind with all of the projects, including The Dark Tower now. I want to do it right now so bad, but I don’t know that that’s right right now and that two years from now might not be the time when we got to do it properly.

Continuing, Mike Flanagan essentially said that he is now in a place in his career where he feels that he will be ready to make The Dark Tower when the industry is ready for him to make The Dark Tower – though that's certainly not stopping him from constantly working on the adaptation:

I’ve become much more flexible and much more kind of open to letting the industry tell me what’s next and letting life tell me what’s next and just being ready. And if I find myself with an hour to kill, I’m going to be working on my Dark Tower script.

Stephen King first started working on the Dark Tower saga when he was a 21-year-old  college student, and the western/sci-fi/fantasy epic follows the journey of protagonist Roland Deschain as he eternally quests to the titular monolith: a building that stands at the center of the universe. Over the course of the books, he is joined by a small group of close companions who aid him in his journey and help fight against the evil forces that wish to stop Roland and destroy the tower.

Unlike the 2017 Dark Tower blockbuster that exists as an insult to Stephen King's masterpiece, Mike Flanagan has a vision for an adaptation that would be wholly faithful to the books, and he is deeply passionate about making it. As the filmmaker explained in the podcast interview, however, things aren't moving super quickly – in part because he specifically didn't include The Dark Tower as part of the TV deal that he and producing partner Trevor Macy made with Amazon Studios late last year (which came at the end of the filmmaker's multi-year relationship with Netflix). Said Flanagan,

We have the Dark Tower, we carved it out from our Netflix deal knowing we were leaving, and we carved it out from our Amazon deal as well knowing that they’d already tried to do it and might be reluctant to do it. So The Dark Tower doesn’t have a studio, we don’t have a partner on it yet, so I’m developing it myself, which is really a blast. And that’s my dream project. I’ve wanted to do that for so long.

If he were to be given the opportunity to make The Dark Tower as his next project, Mike Flanagan would evidently jump at the opportunity, but he is also a realist about the state of the industry, and understands that now might not be the right time for it. The intense breadth of the Stephen King source material demands a massive commitment from a studio (either as multiple blockbusters or multiple seasons of a television/streaming series), and Flanagan knows that might not be possible to get at this present moment in Hollywood. He added,

God, I hope that’s next. But the industry is so crazy right now and there is no stable ground anywhere, really. And every time you kind of think, ‘Oh, streaming is where it’s at,’ or ‘Movies are coming back’ or ‘Movies are in trouble, no one goes to the theaters,’ no one knows what’s really happening. So I’ve learned over the years to try to keep as many plates spinning as I can because you never know which one is going to take off.

At present, we don't know when we'll get to see Mike Flanagan's vision for The Dark Tower, but the silver lining is that we won't have to wait too much longer to witness his latest work: his limited series adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. The show sports an outrageously talented cast that includes Bruce Greenwood, Carla Gugino, Mary McDonnell, Carl Lumbly, Mark Hamill, Rahul Kohli, Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel, and more, and it completed production last summer. It's expected to be a part of Netflix's 2023 TV slate, but a release date has not yet been announced.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.