What We Know About The Dark Tower Movie So Far

By  · Published on March 9th, 2016

After years of waffling, we’re getting a Dark Tower movie. While not the most popular of Stephen King’s stories (with almost sixty novels and over 200 short stories, it’d be like being the most popular Beatles song or Picasso painting), King’s epic fantasy magnum opus has a devout following. Blending Clint Eastwood and Lord of the Rings-style fantasy adventure, the series is the dirty, desperate alternative to the typical Arthurian retelling.

At its core, the story follows Roland Deschain’s quest to find The Dark Tower and take revenge on The Man in Black, a novel-hopping sorcerer whose past includes Roland’s mother and the destruction of his homeland. Deschain is the last gunslinger (the revolver-twirling equivalent to a Knight of the Round Table) trying to reach The Dark Tower, said to be the nexus of all universes, to restore order to his collapsing world. The series spans multiple dimensions, timelines, and reference material (at one point involving Stephen King the real-world author as a character), charming readers with the sheer absurdity of its existence. This thing is almost too weird to exist in book form, let alone on the big screen.

And yet, here we are. What was once in the works as a Javier Bardem-led miniseries is now going to be a 2017 film directed by Nikolaj Arcel, who’s known for co-writing the Swedish The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and directing A Royal Affair (18th century romantic drama), King’s Game (government conspiracy flick), and Island of Lost Souls (crazy fantasy featuring possession and necromancers). If those credits don’t inspire faith, know that veteran writers Anders Thomas Jensen, Akiva Goldsman, and Jeff Pinkner all have a hand in the script. Sure, the last thing Pinkner and Goldsman put out was the abysmal YA-adaptation The 5th Wave, but let’s just hope that was a source material problem.

That said, we already know the writers aren’t shy about straying from the books. They’ve already cast Mad Max: Fury Road’s Abbey Lee as the female lead Tirana, who isn’t a lead at all in the books, but rather an extremely minor henchman in a group called the Regulators. She may be spinning a character named Susannah (a dissociative double-amputee) in a new direction, swapping her race to keep racial tension (an important book component) alive between herself and Idris Elba’s Roland. Perfectly charismatic, Elba’s wordless, macho strength finds its way into most of his roles, from Luther to Beasts of No Nation, but his sly charm (see Prometheus) will add proper depth to the nomadic lead.

Meanwhile, on the other side of morality, Matthew McConaughey’s The Man in Black – a constantly shifting devil with tons of aliases – is an ageless deceiver and generally sleazy guy. When casting the same role for the TV adaptation of The Stand (novel-hopping, remember?), Stephen King said he wanted someone who “would make the ladies’ hearts go pitty pat, that looked like the type of guy you would see on the cover of one of those sweet, savage love paperback romances”. McConaughey’s transformed from rom-com slacker to stripper to AIDS victim to Lincoln spokesman, showing off a slippery versatility perfect for a trickster.

As for the other two members of Roland’s group, we can only speculate. While Eddie, a drug mule who functions as a narrative instrument for King’s own battle with drug abuse, could be anyone, I’d love to see Buzzard’s Joshua Burge bring his abrasive desperation to the role. When considering eleven-year-old Jake, the stable, reserved surrogate son of Roland, there’s nobody better than Jacob Tremblay. Just imagine that kid with a pair of pistols.

As to what material the movie will cover, Arcel is vague on the details, saying it’ll skip the beginning, and heavily involve our non-fantasy world. Entertainment Weekly has wisely speculated that the film could be adapting The Waste Lands, the third book, in order to incorporate the group elements of a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. The Waste Lands, skipping over much of the lone-desert-wanderer material that might not play with popular audiences, finds Roland completing his ka-tet, or crew, by pulling Jake from New York City. Then his party, which in the novel consists of Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy the billy-bumbler (like a raccoon dog with parrot-like speech ability), follows an effective Yellow Brick Road to the Tower.

I’m thinking they’ll also grab material from the end of the first book, The Gunslinger, whose opening “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed” served as an accompaniment to the casting announcement of Elba and McConaughey, and the second, The Drawing of Three. Some combination of these books would cover the coalescence of the main characters a la The Fellowship of the Ring, and allow us to jump right into the mythology without flashbacks or lone character wandering.

If you want to prep yourself for this certainly epic film, you’ve got until January 13, 2017 to read up and create fan theories of your own. It might just be enough time to get through the eight monstrous books and find out there’s a crazy talking train that tells the ka-tet riddles. So, to sum up: a fellowship made up of a junkie, a gunslinger, a New York kid, and a legless woman follow the path of their destinies to a magical tower which is the center of all realities, combining fantasy, sci-fi, and western genres along the way. Also, an evil talking train. See you in a year.

Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).