'The Dark Tower' adaptation: Ron Howard is the new J.J. Abrams

dark-towerQuick, what’s the greatest horror-fantasy spaghetti-western meta-memoir epic ever written? No, not Don Quixote. I’m talking about The Dark Tower, the seven-book saga written over several decades by novelist (and EW contributor) Stephen King. The series throws all the author’s themes and fascinations into a massive tale and forms the connective material between pretty much everything King’s ever written. It’s difficult to imagine adapting it, but for the last few years, us Tower fans could imagine quite a lot: J.J. Abrams held the rights to the series, with the intention of turning Tower into a TV series produced by Lost masterminds Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. (The three producers actually hung out with King for an EW-mediated geek date back in 2006.)

Alas, the world has moved on. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Team Lost understandably couldn’t figure out how to crack Tower as a TV series. In a bizarre twist, however, another pop culture trio has stepped in to carry the fire: Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Akiva Goldsman. And they’ve got big ideas.

As a Dark Tower fan, I always wondered: Would the books work better as a TV show or a movie? Well, Howard-Grazer-Goldsman have answered my question: “Can’t it be both?” According to their current game plan, Howard will direct a film adaption of the first book in the series, The Gunslinger, to be written by Goldsman. There will be three movies total…but there will also be a TV series that will run concurrently. (The series will be produced by Imagine Entertainment, the production company owned by Howard and Grazer.) Warner Brothers and Universal have been fighting over the rights to the project, but Universal looks likely to win out. This is a classic good news/bad news scenario:

Good News: Howard and Grazer are Hollywood heavies, so the actual chances of a Dark Tower adaptation being made have just increased by infinity.

Bad News: Crazy as The Dark Tower‘s storyline is (and believe me, you haven’t seen anything like book 6), it still felt right in the wheelhouse of the genre-hopping Abrams and the Lost boys. Conversely, although Ron Howard has directed practically every genre there is, his fantasy film was Willow and his western was The Missing. This does not inspire optimism. (Dear people who like Willow: No.)

Good News: Imagine Entertainment has a ridiculous winning streak when it comes to TV shows: 24, Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, and the first TV show they produced, Felicity, produced by (destiny alert!) J.J. Abrams.

Bad News: I dig the idea of a story that runs between a movie trilogy and a TV series, but there aren’t too many successful examples of that kind of movie/TV synergy. The X-Files tried something along those lines, but the resulting movie, which came out during the summer break between seasons, wasn’t satisfying for fans or newcomers.

Akiva Goldsman apparently has a real passion for the franchise — he brought the project to Grazer and Howard, with King’s blessing — so color us hopeful. What do you think, PopWatchers? Are you excited by the prospect of Ron Howard making something other than true-life biopics and Dan Brown thrillers? Can we all agree that Viggo Mortensen gets to star as Roland the Gunslinger? Will we get the Akiva Goldsman who produces Fringe and wrote I Am Legend, or the Akiva Goldsman who produced Constantine and wrote Lost in Space? Sound off below!

Comments (59 total) Add your comment
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  • Dewel

    Of course, Viggo is the first thought since Clint Eastwood is too old, but I think Stephen Lang would be a great pick to play the last line of the Eld.

    • Brian

      I actually always pictured Davod Carradine as Roland inj my head when I read these. Oh well. I’m 100% behind the Viggo idea.

    • Karina

      How about Clint Eastwood as Donald Callahan?

      • Scott

        Good Call

    • MyMy

      I always kinda pictured Hugh Jackman, but Viggo would be great!

  • Cliff

    It’s an ambitious concept, and I like the above-the-line names, but I think the plan would fail, at least commercially. The movies might stiff while the TV viewers wait for it to premiere on DVD/Blu-Ray, and the series with its complex, multi-genre storyline might put off many of the current ADD generation (Yes, “Lost” was a hit, but now that’s the exception and not the rule.) It could, however, earn a mention as the geekiest “Complete DVD Box Set” ever.

    • Anggita

      Definitely cool to see your blog up and in action. You seem to have a way about tecnaihg and hopefully we’ll pick up some great tricks. As well as just peekin at the art you post. Im looking forward to it.

  • Alicia

    While I’ve read many books by Stephen King, I haven’t tried this series. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the films of Ron Howard and his collaborators, but I would love to see Carlton and Damon tackle this.

    • Melissa

      I held off on reading The Dark Tower series for a long time too. You should definitely read it.

    • shelly

      you have GOT to read dark tower!! I’m a long time King fan & had never read these, never even really knew what it was about. i was hooked immediately, it’s everything I love about Uncle Stevie & I think by far the best thing he’s ever written. All this talk makes me want to go home & read the series again!

  • Annie

    Please, Hollywood, please please please don’t ruin my favorite book series. I don’t think I could forgive you for that.

  • WhichWayIsUp

    An HBO miniseries; however many episodes it takes to tell the entire tale.

    • Scott

      I agree it’s the only way a trilogy just wont cut it.

  • elizabeth

    The story is already too intricate, it shouldn’t be used as an experiment to cross-pollinate between movies and TV. (And I doubt Viggo – a great casting choice – would do broadcast TV.) The HBO idea seems the most practical, and I’d love to see the Fringe team tackle this, with Ron H. EP’ing only. And keep JJ around somehow, because the creative synergy among all the names raised is best when they all have some role to play (e.g., Fringe).

    • Jed Fish Gould

      Because the large insects of The Mist, while fun to look at, seemed used in a heavy-handed way, I think Frank Darabont could be a poor choice for the end of the series. Owl heads and torture chambers, etc. However when it comes to weighty relationships on screen, how can you argue against the man who made me cry watching The Green Mile and Shawshank. Maybe Frank could lend some sincerity to the relationship between Roland and his father, as well as the one with the Man in Black.
      JJ and his producers perhaps could best deal with story complexity. They and his show-runners from Lost and Fringe have certainly had an intense learning curve with that element of pre-production. This saga could take years to write before a frame is even shot. The Ron Howard mind trust may be the best call when it comes to the CG work toward the end of the film, simply because they know feature film FX budgets. Also, they are master tear-jerkers. Or didn’t you see Stand By Me? Thinnies, robot wolves, disorganized thugs with bird-heads…I think Ron Howard could deliver all of this best, because it will be so huge if done right.
      It seems that the biggest problems are time and money. What would the Dark Tower budget be, combining TV and film? $500,000,000.00? More? And how can anyone predict a project of this size would remain on budget?
      Maybe the naysayers are right. Maybe Hollywood should resist the temptation to film King’s greatest work.

  • Angie

    The X-Files movie tanked because it came out several years after it had reached its popularity peak. If it had come out in say, 1999 or 2000, and been woven along with the plot of the show I feel like it would have fared much better at the box office.

  • James Poteet

    Every time I watch a movie based on a book I’ve read I vow never to do it again. But I’m jumping up and down with glee right now. If there’s one person I trust to faithfully turn a book into a movie it’s Ron Howard (See Apollo 13). And this series is just irresistible. Count me in 100%

  • Britt

    I really wish hollywood would leave this one alone, and focus all their efforts into getting The Talisman made into a miniseries (and no, I don’t think Spielberg will ever get around to doing it.)

  • Remington

    This sucks. Hardcore.
    Ron Howard is a competent director, at best. And “The Dark Tower” absolutely needs a visionary, exceptional director for it to work in any degree.
    Akiva Goldsman, on the other hand, is a complete and utter hack. This is the man who wrote “Batman Forever” and (even worse) “Batman & Robin”! Please don’t let the man who made both Batman and George Clooney lame anywhere near my favorite story of all time!
    BUT, if it has to be done, then at least let these guys screw it up with pizzaz: cast “Cocoon” star Steve Guttenberg as Roland!

    • Al


      • Parmar

        Much fun – Barn, Floyd the barber and Goober imtrseonapors were on hand. There was a parade down main street, music, showings of The Andy Griffith Show in the town theater – real Americana in action. It happens each fall in late September. If you’re a fan of the show – you gotta go!

  • Washington

    I love “The Dark Tower,” but I have a very hard time seeing how it could work as a film. Just too complex. Perhaps as a serialized, multiple-season show on HBO or Showtime. (Especially if they added some made-for-TV movies of the “peripheral” books such as Insomnia and Eyes of the Dragon). But even then, it needs a big, big budget to work. And Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman should stay the F away! Nothing– NOTHING– good will come of their involvement. “The Da Vinci Code” seemed tailor-made to be a movie, and look how that turned out!

  • Jed Fish Gould

    Viggo would be great. But as you know, you are asking him to set aside most of his other projects for, um, a dozen years or so.

    I agree that no one has tried integrating the release of TV episodes with a film trilogy. Scariest for a show-runner, I am guessing, is how on earth do you keep a young audience interested throughout that much material. I don’t think the Potter franchise is going to finish in a particularly stellar way. I hate thinking that, because I will be sitting there with my silly 3D glasses on the way most Potter fans will be.

    One thing that might keep the Tower hope alive, is keeping it out of the ratings game. It could be released on Blu-Ray, long before it goes to cable or big screen. What if King re-released the books one at a time, bundled with the corresponding epis on Blue-Ray. The film releases could be done similarly, with each book coming with a pair of tickets. ALso the films could cover the non-linear parts of the saga: The early days, covered in the recent graphic novels. The crazy cowboy days where Roland uses Susan. And finally book seven, with the creepy hybrid creatures and the forked ending. Or we segue back to episodic for the cruel-to-the-constant-reader visit to the actual Dark Tower.

    As you can see, the problem is not necessarily in the telling of the story; but in the amount of time it would take to do so.

    Not to minimize the mystery of why King’s novels have such a problem getting to the screen of any size. They do. Rich characters need development. Detail takes its time to explain to the reader why its important. An adapter is reluctant to eliminate a character or sub-plot created by the master King, even if given explicit permission by King.

    Finally, maybe JJ’s posse can take a section of the great story (if they knew the project weren’t so huge), Frank Darabont can take the next, and the Castle Rock people could finish it, or however it works out.

    Still, using those same cast for that length of time might be too big of a commitment for anyone to deal with. It’s basically another Harry Potter.

    All production teams would have to innovate a method of working more quickly. A page a day is not going to cut it.

  • Dicazi

    I loved “The Stand” miniseries. Loved “Golden Years”. Most of the rest of the adaptations have ranged from good to adequate to g#dawful. Viggo would be perfect as Roland.

  • girlie

    i just cant imagine it! too big in volume and scope. would king have creative control? we all know what happens when he doesnt!

  • Al

    i can’t say much about the rest of it, but I think viggo is definately the best guy to play the part. i think Ron howard can get it done right, but lets, just forget about willow. I had completely forgotten about it before it was mentioned in this article, and I was happy.

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