The upcoming Universal-led multi-platform, mega franchise launch of the adaptation of Stephen King's seven novel strong "The Dark Tower" is going to be one of the biggest undertakings in entertainment history. And certainly, the plan is a very bold one.
Universal plans a trilogy of feature films based on the books with the world and characters further expanded upon via a television series that would run concurrently in between the films. The bad news? Akiva Goldsman ("Batman & Robin," "I, Robot," "I Am Legend") will be writing the first film as well as the first season of the TV series. The good news (sort of)? Ron Howard will direct the first feature film and first season of the upcoming show. The duo have arguably done their best work together, with a writing/directing partnership that has created "Cinderella Man" and "A Beautiful Mind" (though in all fairness, it also produced "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels & Demons").
Speaking with the LA Times about the forthcoming endeavor, Ron Howard spoke freely about who might take on the lead character of Deschain, the gunslinger who searches for the titular castle which may or may not be the nexus of the universe, in a world in which magic is real and laws of nature and science have been shifted. Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman and Jon Hamm were all mentioned by the paper and picked up by Howard who said, “Sure, those are some names and on ‘The Dark Tower’ fansites they’re all about Viggo [Mortensen]," adding another prominent jawline to the mix.
While Howard was certainly gracious to chat up some names for the lead role, we would be very surprised if any of those guys end up signing on. Firstly, the film is aiming for a 2013 release and most of these guys have commitments to other projects -- Daniel Craig ("The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Too," "Bond 23"), Hugh Jackman ("The Wolverine"), Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") -- that we'd be surprised if they were able to get involved. Moreover, such a heavy commitment to multiple films and television shows might come at a higher price for an established star, and if Universal were playing things smart (and economically), they'd do with a cast largely of lesser known thesps whose careers will be launched by the series. Stephen King's name alone is enough to get fans in the seats and smart marketing should do enough to get those who may not be immediately familiar with the source material interested.
“Filmically, there are tones in this that I have never used before, tones of fantasy menace and elements of horror and real fear,” Howard said about his attraction to the project. “And there’s the burden, on the characters, of this journey that is really palpable. That’s what we need to get on the screen. I think there’s something about [the Frank Darabont films] ‘Green Mile’ or a ‘Shawshank Redemption,’ the complexity and the ballast of them, those are two [of the Stephen King adaptations] where you do get the horror and suspense that’s there on the page. We’re charging ourselves with the responsibility of getting a real understanding of the material and utilizing many of the best aspects of the books and graphic novels.”
Certainly, Howard has a rich mythology to draw on and fans are going to be very, very vocal about how he and Akiva Goldsman approach Stephen King's work and bring it to life, but with the author's blessing and the rigorous approach that saw Howard and co. develop the project for a year before seeking the writer's approval, their reverence for the series and their willingness to do right by it seems unwavering. We have our reservations but it's hard to not be interested in what will be one of the biggest franchise undertakings ever, and we're definitely curious to see if the world they develop will work on screens both big and small, and leave us wanting to come back for more.