Mike Flanagan's The Dark Tower: 8 Actors Who Would Be Terrific As Roland Deschain

The Gunslinger book cover
(Image credit: Grant)

At long last, the dream of many Constant Readers may actually come true. Stephen King fans have been waiting patiently for years to see Hollywood produce a proper live-action adaptation of The Dark Tower series, and the first steps towards making that happen have been taken: Mike Flanagan and Trevor May’s Intrepid Pictures has acquired the rights to the books and are planning an adaptation as a five-season television series that is followed by a pair of feature films. As of right now we have no idea how quickly the project will come together or where it will be developed… but that’s not going to stop us from already imagining who will play all of the major characters.

Of course, when it comes to fantasy casting The Dark Tower one has to start with Roland Deschain. Idris Elba did a serviceable job playing the part in the truly terrible 2017 movie, but if we’re discussing a live-action version of the character that is more faithful to the Stephen King books, Hollywood has a number of great options to choose from. The majority of them would have to sport a pair of blue contact lenses, but here are eight actors we’d love to see play the Gunslinger in Mike Flanagan’s The Dark Tower.

Timothy Olyphant as Raylan on Justified

(Image credit: FX)

Timothy Olyphant

This isn’t a ranked list, but I will unequivocally say that Timothy Olyphant is my top choice to play Roland Deschain. As proven many times over the course of his career, he can rock the hell out of a Stetson, and he’s an ace when it comes to characters with grizzle and dark swagger. His role as “Spirit of the West” in Rango directly affirmed that he has the Man With No Name energy, and that is ultimately what the performance will need. This is the role he was born to play.

Javier Bardem as Anton in No Country for Old Men

(Image credit: Miramax)

Javier Bardem

Over a decade ago, Javier Bardem was cast as Roland Deschain in the Dark Tower movie that Ron Howard was set to direct, and while that didn’t end up becoming a thing, it’s a casting choice that has aged well. His on-screen presence remains as commanding and powerful as ever, and it really only works better for the part that he is older (take note that all of the actors on this list are 50 and over). His stature and demeanor has led him to deliver amazing villainous turns in his career, but he could use them in a very different and incredible way playing Roland.

Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) celebrating eight years of sobriety in Doctor Sleep

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Ewan McGregor

Ten years ago I probably wouldn’t have included Ewan McGregor as a potential candidate to play Roland Deschain, but his work since then has changed my attitude. Admittedly a big part of this is Doctor Sleep, which sees McGregor deliver and dark and powerful performance working in collaboration with Mike Flanagan, but I’ll also throw some credit to seeing him stoically wind-beaten in the desert playing the titular role in the Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ series. My only question mark about his ability to play the character would be his voice – which he would have to deepen and erase his accent from.

Hugh Jackman (Logan) in Logan

(Image credit: 20th Century)

Hugh Jackman

Assuming that Hugh Jackman’s run as Wolverine will actually come to an end with his role in the upcoming Deadpool 3, the actor is in a position to take on a new character that will define a new era of his career, and Roland Deschain could be a brilliant fit. Gunslinger vibes can be clearly registered from his performance in Logan, and he’s consistently shown throughout his career that he can play a blend of grit and ultimate warmth that the character needs.

Karl Urban in The Boys Season 3

(Image credit: Amazon Video)

Karl Urban

Between Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Dredd, Thor: Ragnarok, and The Boys, Karl Urban’s genre cred is beyond reproach, but starring as Roland Deschain in Mike Flanagan’s The Dark Tower series could be the icing on the cake. He has an intimidating screen presence that the character needs, and he is capable of the necessary quiet charisma.

Negan talking on walkie in The Walking Dead

(Image credit: AMC)

Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is another actor who is cut from the Clint Eastwood cloth, and has the tough and gruff standing for the part. His time as Negan on The Walking Dead has come to an end, and, like with Hugh Jackman and Wolverine, it could be the next role that takes him into the next phase of his career. He has both the gravitas and subtle emotional range that the turn would need – from letting Jake Chambers fall to his death to continue his pursuit of the tower, to embracing Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy as his family.

Josh Brolin in Outer Range

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Josh Brolin

Between playing Cable, Thanos, Gurney Halleck, and more, Josh Brolin’s resume is already stacked with standout pop culture characters, but that’s not going to stop me from suggesting that he could be an excellent Roland Deschain (and he’s never actually been in a Stephen King adaptation before). From No Country For Old Men to True Grit to Outer Range, there is no questioning that the man is a snug fit for the western genre, and it’s effortless to imagine him playing any scene from any of the Dark Tower books. He has the stature and demeanor that the role requires in all facets.

Denzel Washington in The Magnificent Seven

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Denzel Washington

While we’re having this discussion, we might as well take some big shots, right? At the present age of 67, Denzel Washington is admittedly considerably older than all of the actors on this list, but that doesn’t actually matter in the discussion of a relatively ageless character, and he obviously has the necessary gravitas for the part. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, Washington has not yet brought his talents to the modern television landscape, but The Dark Tower could be an awesome fit.

Stay tuned here on CinemaBlend as Mike Flanagan’s The Dark Tower hopefully continues to take steps to get closer and closer to becoming a reality. You can keep track of all Stephen King projects that are in the works with our Upcoming Stephen King Movies and TV guide, and learn about the long history of adaptations with my weekly Adapting Stephen King column.

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.