The successful television series adaptation of Stephen King’s huge sci-fi/collapse-of-society novel Under The Dome is just the opening chapter of a new wave of King adaptations. Director Kimberly Peirce’s remake of Carrie is hitting theaters in just under a month, and the big-screen version of The Stand has found a new director.
Still, the proposed multi-platform adaptation of King’s sprawling über-epic, The Dark Tower, remains unmade. It’s a project that has been cancelled – and then seemingly resurrected – multiple times, but the ambitious fantasy/sci-fi/western is still in development limbo following a pass from Warner Bros., after Universal put the whole thing into turnaround.
Ron Howard has long been attached to direct and produce the project, with screenwriter-producer Akiva Goldsman still onboard to adapt the seven-novel series. Every now and again Howard will provide an update and remind fans that Dark Tower still exists – as he did while talking to Empire while promoting his Formula One-racing drama Rush.
Howard is still adamant that the project is alive, but won’t provide a schedule:
“The Dark Tower is something that we’re still working on. We’ve all taken a vow of silence about the progress, the headway, what we think our timetable is, because I don’t think I realized how much media interest there was in the title and how much excitement there was.”
The director goes on to address the issues the studios have had with the property (its niche appeal, despite – or perhaps because of – its size and scope):
“It’s a fascinating, powerful possibility and even Stephen King acknowledges it’s a tricky adaptation, but to be honest, from a financing side, it’s not a straightforward, four-quadrant, sunny superhero story – it’s dark, it’s horror.
“That edge is what appeals to me, the complexities of those characters is what appeals to all of us. And I think Stephen King really respects that, with Akiva Goldsman and myself, that that’s what we love about it, and that’s what we want to try to get to the screen.”
The Dark Tower is indeed a difficult tale to adapt, even for a supposed film trilogy augmented by a TV series. The story follows Roland Deschain, the last in an ancient line of gunslingers in a world which is one of an apparently infinite number of dimensions, all overlapping with our world. Roland is on a quest to find the titular Dark Tower, which is sort of a linchpin of all reality. And that’s just the basic storyline. Besides the seven main books, there are various novellas and short stories concerning the story’s universe – a universe that even finds its way into many, many other King novels.
So what exactly happened/is happening?
According to Howard:
“So my answer is: it got delayed, it’s never gone away. We’re working on it, and Stephen is very patient with us, and Akiva’s just gone off and directed a movie, I’m continuing to work, but the Dark Tower dreams – fever dreams, rather – are still there, but we’re not going to give it a timetable.”
This more or less echoes Howard’s previous updates, but he did provide one interesting bit of news regarding the direction of the story. At one point, King inserts himself as a character in the story, and while this meta-King has a pivotal role, Howard hinted that things could change. Has Howard thought about it?
“Yes. And I will admit Stephen has said, ‘I don’t have to be in this.’ But that’s not to say that he won’t be!”
It would be fun to see King play himself (or different versions of himself), but none of this amounts to much more than keeping the hope and idea of this project alive in the fan consciousness. With this year’s The Lone Ranger tanking hard – adding to the list of niche properties adapted into would-be blockbusters which no one cared about – don’t expect a major studio to throw it’s weight behind this anytime soon.
Then again, if the slate of upcoming Stephen King projects prove successful, this might be enough to keep his brand popular in the public eye. If so, it could give a studio the confidence to push forward with filming at least the first novel in the series, The Gunslinger, which is enough of a stand-alone entry to make its success – or failure – a decent gauge for the rest of the series’ potential.
The Dark Tower is currently in development. Stephen King’s Under The Dome series just wrapped up its first season, and Carrie hits theaters on October 18th, 2013.