Universal Considers Pulling Out of THE DARK TOWER

     May 5, 2011

Every time I had the opportunity to write about the developing adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, I wrote with awe at the ambition.  Three movies and two seasons of television!  I still can’t believe the studio is actually pulling this together.  Well, you see, here’s the thing…

Variety hears Universal is rethinking the original plan.  After encountering budgetary complications, the studio executives are expected to meet soon to decide whether to put the project into turnaround, at which point Imagine Entertainment heads Ron Howard and Brian Grazer could shop it to another studio.  If this happens, Universal could still co-finance or partner with the new home studio.

Variety stresses that, as of this writing, Universal has no plans to halt the development process.  Akiva Goldsman will write the screenplay, with Howard committed to direct at least the first movie.  Javier Bardem is on board as Roland Deschain, and the filmmakers are casting the supporting roles around him.  At the very least, though, this news casts a shadow of doubt on the planned May 17, 2013 debut.  More, including a synopsis of the series, after the jump.

The report is unfortunately timed just two months after Universal pulled the plug on Guillermo del Toro’s $150 million R-rated creature feature At the Mountains of Madness.  The internet was not happy with that decision, and while I’m bracing for a similar uproar here, I beg of you: please don’t.  Like Madness, there is massive risk in committing to The Dark Tower.  The reward could be similarly massive — heck, if the first movie hits big, practical planning enables Universal to amortize the setup costs across the sequels to maximize profit.  But how can you will a $400 million hit into existence?  How do you cut a trailer for an apocalyptic Western that appeals to all four quadrants?  How do you adapt a sprawling, perhaps unfilmable, seven-book series that has conquered the likes of J.J. Abrams into a guaranteed hit?

Universal is crazy for thinking this could ever work, and I’m still rooting for the wave of crazy to carry The Dark Tower to movie theaters.  But if the journey stops here, objectively, it’s because saner minds prevailed.

We’ll update when we hear more about the state of the project going forward.  Click here for all our Dark Tower coverage.  The series synopsis:

In the story, Roland Deschain is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers and the last of the line of “Arthur Eld”, his world’s analogue of King Arthur. The world he lives in is quite different from our own, yet it bears striking similarities to it. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West but is also magical. While the magical aspects are largely gone from Mid-World, some vestiges of them remain, along with the relics of a highly advanced, but long vanished, society.

Roland’s quest is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to be the nexus of all universes. Roland’s world is said to have “moved on”, and indeed it appears to be coming apart at the seams as mighty nations have been torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish without a trace and time does not flow in an orderly fashion. Even the Sun sometimes rises in the north and sets in the east. As the series opens, Roland’s motives, goals and age are unclear, though later installments shed light on these mysteries. [Wikipedia]

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  • Wolstenholme

    Good. As much as I want to see this on film, Ron Howard is 100% the wrong guy to do it

    • Bill Graham

      I agree completely. However, he is putting his money where his mouth is and helping back the film. IF, and this is a BIG IF, he and Goldsman get the right tone and feel, this could be a monster film and please nearly everyone, as the LOTRs films did. People eat these epics up, and I think there is no bigger one that is in the process of being made into a film than this. Hell, the scope of the film makes LOTRs feel small, IMO. The world is fully developed and being expanded every month with the ongoing comics.

      I agree with Brendan, the basic idea of turning this into a film series AND TV show is nuts. But it’s that insanity that is needed to make this work in a film medium. I am rooting like hell that this turns out great, no matter how long it takes to get there.


    Too bad Howard doesn’t pass this one off to Eastwood.

  • Goobity

    As much as I long for this to be done, I want it to be done in the way it deserves. It sounds great conceptually…three films cut with two seasons of t.v. as a bridge sounded brilliant, if unlikely…
    If it can’t be done in a way that gives this series the treatment it deserves, then it’s best left undone. Or ‘Unfound’ as it were. :)

  • Dogg

    Universal would be dodging a bullet to pass on this. It’s far too abstract to translate well to screen. There’s a bunch of weird, surreal things that happens (giant robot bear attack!) that would just seem like loose plot ends without the context only the books could provide. And even die hard fans of the series have to admit it’s got a terrible ending. Like biggest black mark on Stephen King’s career level of terrible.

    • Bill Graham

      That’s a wild statement about the ending. It’s polarizing, sure, but I loved it. And have gotten to actually discuss it with many others, which I love.

    • Steven

      I am a die hard Stephen King fan and think the ending was amazing, couldnt be done any other way. In my opinion the ending was only understood by the die hard fans. Ka is a wheel.

    • Jake Mongoose

      Put me in the “loved the ending” camp. Then again, I loved the ending to Lost as well.

      • battleangel

        I guess I’m in the “loved DT’s ending / hated LOST’s ending” camp, so I can understand why some people are disappointed by the brilliant conclusion to The Dark Tower. But with TDT, I really do feel it could have only ended that way.

        One cool thing the films could do is pick up from the very last page in the book, where our protagonist has found himself in a state of strange deja vu… holding the horn of Eld.

  • Blahhh

    Wow!!! This is the second time Universal is chickening out on a project.

    Universal should stop using the Globe as their symbol. Since clearly they have no balls.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/colliderbrendan Brendan Bettinger

      There it is!

    • Bill Graham

      This is the studio that also gave Edgar Wright $60 million and clearly no studio interference to make SCOTT PILGRIM, which kind of tanked at the box office. I will always love Uni for that risk, and do not blame them for getting cold feet with this project.

      • Wolstenholme

        What about Del Toro’s Mountains…I can never forgive them for that

      • Blahhh

        What risk? It was comic book movie. Which is a popular genre last time I checked.

        And people need to stop making it sound like Universal is some poor film company. I would understand if this was a company like MGM.

        But is the same company that produced that 200 million bomb named “Waterworld”. If they could survive that. Then they can clearly survive this.

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  • Boy

    Daniel Day Lewis for Roland Deschain.

    Alfonso Cuarón or David Fincher for direction.


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