Universal Passes on Ron Howard’s Film and Television Adaptation of THE DARK TOWER

     July 18, 2011


It may have been too good to be true. After first committing to an incredibly ambitious adaptation of Stephen King’s series The Dark Tower that spanned three films and two seasons of a TV show, Universal put the brakes on the project asking director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman to scale the project down to make for a more feasible budget. The summer start date was pushed back to early next year while everyone involved worked to bring the budget down.

Well now it looks like the new version of the adaptation wasn’t scaled-down enough, as Universal has passed on financing the ambitious undertaking. Hit the jump for the details.

Howard and Co. were ready to go with Javier Bardem attached to play the lead and Battlestar Galactica writer/producer Mark Verheiden onboard to co-write the TV series, but Deadline reports that Universal just couldn’t commit to the current budget. After receiving the scripts for the first film and the first season of the TV series, the report states that Universal agreed to finance the film but would not commit to the TV series.

The adaptation was pretty much unparalleled, with Bardem set to star in the three films and the second season of the TV series (the first season would have been a flashback of the characters of the first film, with a younger actor taking on Bardem’s role). It was definitely a stretch, especially seeing as how Universal had just passed on Guillermo del Toro’s $150 million R-rated adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness (and that’s with James Cameron and Tom Cruise onboard).

Howard recently committed to directing the Formula 1 racing drama Rush, which is scheduled to start production later this year, but many had hoped that this just meant the production of The Dark Tower would be pushed back a few months, though it now appears that Howard saw the writing on the wall.

Just because Universal passed doesn’t mean the project is dead, as the report claims that Warner Bros. is a possible landing place (they’re on the hunt for a new franchise with the conclusion of Harry Potter), but a project this size is a major gamble given that the property isn’t exactly a largely known commodity (not to mention the fact that it blends the genres of Western and sci-fi).

It’s possible that Howard’s The Dark Tower could eventually come to fruition, but it’s hard to imagine the film/TV series model will remain. It’s simply too costly, even if it is creatively impressive. In the meantime, Rush is a promising property as it focuses on the Formula 1 racing rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, with Chris Hemsworth and Inglourious Basterds star Daniel Brühl circling the starring roles.

  • Edward Lee

    WTF? Charlie Sheen was available at a bargain price? You mean to say that they couldn’t make the numbers work with Charlie Sheen attached?

  • Ben

    So disappointing! I was amped for this.

  • dean

    I’m not happy with this being made until a more suitable director/ better writer are attached. So this is a good thing imo.

    • Film101

      Agreed and Bardem doesn’t fit the part at all.

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  • Phoenix

    They need to forget about doing the three movies and two seasons of TV and get back the original people attached to adapt the novels: J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.

    The trio has proved they have the chops to faithfully adapt the novels, and given the clout Abrams is ranking up, he just might get a seven movie series deal.

    Here’s hoping that the property passes on to someone who can truly do it justice.

    • somnia

      i hear you man. given stephen king movie adaptation track records, i am actually glad that Howard is not moving forward.

      not to mention the movie, tv show, movie, repitition does not seem like a track record to success financially, which means it would probably fail.

      considering that Abrams and Lindelof ultimately rejected the property because they were too worried about messing it up, i’d put them higher on the list than Howard, who, while having some good movies, had poor adaptations of books (dan brown anyone?).

      • Scared for Movies

        I’m so glad Howard is off this project. The scripts couldn’t have been too compelling. As for the Abrams team I think they abandoned the project because they knew it was going to be rather difficult. They might have pulled it off because they had it written for them beforehand and weren’t creating the story themselves. MI3, Star Trek, & Super 8 aren’t exactly original ideas. Everyone then will bring up Lost. But Lost ended terribly and don’t say it wasn’t about answering the hundreds of mysteries they presented, it was about the characters. That’s a cop out. They never had any answers and it was just a convenient plot device to cover bad storytelling.(But that’s what can happen when you have a team of 20 writers pulling ideas out of a hat). And Super 8 although well acted and directed, had a terrible plot. It was very much like Lost. A great opening that fell apart after Act 2 or in Lost terms Season 2. I don’t necessarily want this project to die it just needs to be given to someone who can pull it off. I don’t know who that is but based on book adaptation skills I would say Peter Jackson if he wasn’t making the Hobbit.

  • Jason

    I’m curious; When was the TV series going to be release in conjunction with the movies? Before, during or after the 3 movies?

    • Adam Chitwood

      The plan was to do the TV seasons in between the movies. So after film 1, the first TV season would air, then the second film would be released, then the second TV season would air, and the last film would serve as the finale to the whole thing.

      • Jason

        Thanks for answering!

  • adam


  • rumrunner

    so disappointed that universal passed on these 2 brilliant projects. they could’ve done something revolutionary with dark tower and mountains of madness. such a shame. such a colossal blunder, universal!!!!!

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  • maryjanesuncle

    Its for the best…Ron Howard is not the man for the job…..The guy he had to play Roland was a fail…HBO could cash in on this property like they did Game of Thrones…

    • jimbo

      Agreed. HBO is doing a six-season adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I think the Dark Tower deserves something similar.

  • michael

    Screw that horrid company..a much of pretentious creeps who can’t even invest into a good idea for a film instead we are cursed with more complete nonsense from Hollywood..the bastards are scared to do anything brave and ground breaking in the world of film..I hope the company rots..Warner Brothers will do justice to this project no doubt.

  • Chris

    frankly i don’t think the dark tower is a series that could be made into a tv show/mini-series/movie it’s better left alone and untarnished people who actually read the books and graphic novels will understand this because there is no way anyone without knowledge of the book will be able to comprehend what is going on in the world of Roland and ka-tet, forgetting the face of your father etc…. i think its possible but def not with a low budget and what if the first movie bombs will they not do the other 6 if they are even going to do 7 it would be the financial equivalent of committing to a harry potter series (reference for length and movie #’s) and if it hits at the box office if it ever sees the light of day they will surely split the longer books into parts like wizard and glass part 1 and part 2 or the wolves of calla part 1 and part 2 OMG i think that would ruin it for me. anyway sorry for the rant and my unintelligent two cents on this topic.

  • jeenius

    the dark tower was a good series of books…. king book adaptation to film and made for tv generally suck, i’m saying like 80 percent of the time (exclude misery, the green mile, shawshank, stand by me) the dark tower needs someone really really visionary, i don’t think howard was it, bardem was a good choice for roland…watch no country and tell me he couldn’t be roland of gilead… the series needs to be worked into a trilogy, that means MAJOR cutting of kings lengthy crap and hitting the major plot lines and scenarios…probably 1,2 could be together, 3 and 4 with wizard being flashbacks (i’m thinking this is done kinda like the flashback in crouching tiger), and then 5, 6, 7 all in one, how do you do it when king made wolves, songs and the dark tower all looong novels….hard work and vision….if it’s not a trilogy then it wont work…..

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