It suddenly seems like Stephen King adaptations are everywhere. The Carrie remake and the TV adaptation of Under The Dome are on the way; Bad Robot might adapt the time travel novel 11/22/63 for TV; we’re getting not just King’s own sequel to The Shining, but a possible movie prequel as well; and finally, the film adaptation of King’s (not quite a) zombie novel Cell now has a director.

Still, there is one major looming property still waiting on the sidelines: director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman’s wildly ambitious film/TV adaptation of the seven-novel series The Dark Tower.

Having been in and out of development hell for years now, Deadline reports that the project has been pared down from its original size.

Initially envisioned as a film trilogy (with each film likely topping three hours – these are big books) augmented by a TV series between each film, Media Rights Capital has taken on the project as a standalone film starring Russell Crowe as The Gungslinger (the title of the first novel), with other installments to follow based on the success of the first.

Still, while it has been reported that MRC is “committed” to this plan, Grazer also mentioned “a Silicon Valley investor” who might be willing to fund the initial cross-platform plan.

In the past year or so, first Universal and then Warner Bros. passed on the project. Big names like Javier Bardem (who had signed on at one point) and Crowe have been willing to play the lead role of Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger in a world full of magic, doorways to parallel dimensions and psychotically sentient monorails trains, but one big star is clearly not enough to inspire much studio confidence in a production of this scale.

As expensive franchise attempts such as John Carter and Green Lantern have lost been flops, it’s not a shock to see financiers – as intrigued by the premise and built-in fanbase as they may be – wanting to take this saga one step at a time.

Die-hard Dark Tower fans could barely contain themselves between each book (with Stephen King deciding to write the last three of the series in a row, just to have it finished within his lifetime), and have clamored for this adaptation for a long time.

Howard and Grazer’s grand vision for this would certainly do the story justice, since King has called it his “Jupiter.” The Dark Tower saga seems to contain much of King’s other fiction; story threads cross over into over a dozen other novels, novellas and short story collections, include The Stand and ‘Salem’s Lot. The time-and-dimension-spanning scope of The Dark Tower redefines the word epic. 

The hesitation of the big studios, while understandable, may in fact present a failure to see the big, long-term picture within Howard and Grazer’s idea. The potential for spin-offs, across a variety of different media, is truly exciting.

The Dark Tower is a Western, a fantasy adventure, a romance, an epic quest for redemption, a time travel story, and on and on. It takes place in various different versions of New York City and across America, as well as in a fantastic realm called Mid-World which has “moved on,” and yet remains a dark, almost perverse reflection of our own world.

Beyond a film trilogy and limited-run TV series, there is the potential for even an Arrested Development-like VOD model, wherein multiple standalone stories taking place in this universe could premiere at once, all while the main story progresses on a different platform.

It is heartening to see that this project still has a pulse. If Howard and Grazer could pull this off, (and while Howard’s one Western entry, 2003’s The Missing, had its flaws, he nailed the right tone for at least the first entry in The Dark Tower series), they could a game-changer on the level of Game of Thrones: an epic tale that would please hardcore fans while capturing the imagination of all new ones. Still, focusing on just the first chapter would force the filmmakers to focus on perfecting their introduction to the story before expanding too soon.

Stay tuned for more news on The Dark Tower saga as details emerge. In the meantime, Under the Dome will begin its 13-episode run on CBS on June 24th, 2013 and Carrie opens in theaters on October 18th, 2013.

Source: Deadline