By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist July 27, 2011 at 12:58PM
Ron Howard's insanely ambitious "The Dark Tower," a three-film, two-TV series adaptation of Stephen King's epic fantasy series, looks to be pretty much dead: it was delayed in search of budget cuts, before Universal dropped it altogether, and the chances of another studio picking up the slack looks to be slim at this point. But the director, still seen as one of the safest pairs of hands around, hasn't sunk into grief: he's prepping Formula 1 drama "Rush" with Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, which should shoot at the end of the year, and he's got a number of other projects circling: fantasy actioner "Amnesty," MAD Magazine adaptation "Spy Vs. Spy" and the Dustin Lance Black-penned Mormon drama "Under The Banner of Heaven."
One film definitely on the director's dance card, as had long been suspected? The third in Dan Brown's Robert Langdon series, "The Lost Symbol." Howard had teamed with Tom Hanks for the first two entries, the blockbuster hits "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels & Demons," and Brown's third novel in the series, involving a Freemason conspiracy in Washington D.C, has been in development at Sony for some time, particularly as the book became the fastest-selling adult novel ever on its publication back in 2009.
But despite the presence of a classier writer -- Steven Knight, of "Eastern Promises" fame -- Howard was said to have been dragging his feet about the project, and Brown himself was said to be rewriting the script at the end of last year. Now, Deadline confirm that Howard won't direct "The Lost Symbol," quoting an unnamed insider as saying that "Ron told Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton that he was not going to be directing Dan Brown's novels anymore. He just didn't want to do that thing over and over, the same character and the same stories."
We're not sure we blame him; the two previous films were truly horrible, as bad as any Howard has ever made, and the box office dipped significantly on the second film. It doesn't seem to help that Howard was keen to direct Hanks in the Somali pirate drama set up at the studio, but they gave it to Paul Greengrass instead, apparently wanting someone "hotter and cooler." Cooler than Opie? Surely not. Sony are now seeking a new director, although with Hanks (who admittedly isn't signed on yet) tied up on "Cloud Atlas" and the Greengrass film until next year, there's no great rush.