The Dark Tower: Idris Elba Talks 'Cowboy' Influences

The Dark Tower: Set Photos Show Idris Elba as The Gunslinger

As production continues on the adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, information is trickling through on a near daily basis. From casting announcements to rumors to leaked set images, all signs point to the fact that the long road from the page to the screen is quickly coming to an end, and fans will finally see the beloved Roland Deschain come to life.

Idris Elba (Thor: Ragnarock) has been hard at work creating the cinematic version of the much beloved character. A cross between a Sergio Leone inspired cowboy and an Arthurian knight, Roland is the last of the gunslingers, an ancient class of warriors known for spreading justice through the land. The marriage of genre tropes—the western and the high fantasy—has enchanted fans for decades in the eight novel series by King. But how will that translate when it hits the box office? A new interview with Roland himself offers a few insights into the film’s inspirations.

Elba recently spoke with Iron Man director Jon Favreau in a conversation for Interview Magazine. The interview shed some light on Elba’s work as an actor, but Dark Tower fans will be excited to see a few new details about the film’s production come to light. While largely staying away from spoilers, Elba details a bit about how director Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) is creating the world of Roland and The Dark Tower, as well as the film’s scope.

“We're making a very big movie, and I'm doing long hours, shooting guns and whatnot. I'm enjoying it…It's exciting because it doesn't feel like it comes from any other source. It's not an existing group, like the Marvel films. It feels very original. The guns and fights are really essential to the story, but our director…isn't overcooking it.”

It’s good to hear that Elba is having fun with the creation of The Dark Tower; it certainly bodes well for the movie, which has been the subject of a few eyebrow raising rumors about the direction they’re taking in the translation to the big screen. Most notably, while this movie is largely being adapted from the first novel in the cycle, The Gunslinger, several casting announcements have suggested that the film will be taking elements from other parts of the novels for the movie, the planned kick off of a new franchise that may include some cross-platform synergy with a TV show.

Stephen King's The Dark Tower, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey

This has led to the idea that the movies will be a continuation of the novels rather than a direct adaptation, which makes sense if you’ve read the entire series. King seemed to confirm that idea in a recent social media post, which certainly explains some of the changes that have come to light about the movie. What won’t be changing, however, is the story’s marriage of western and fantasy:

“I used to watch Bonanza…Bonanza, man. I've always wanted to try the whole cowboy feel and look, so when I took this role, I was wondering, ‘Are we going to bring that to life in this character? Is he a real cowboy?’ And the answer was no. We had to reinvent that a little bit because the world—it's quite a fantastical world and we aren't making a Western. But there's definitely some characteristics from those great cowboy movies, the Sergio Leone movies and all. I was definitely drawn to it. I've got two smoking guns that just look incredible, and I love to pull them out whenever I can.”

A fantasy western is a difficult balance to strike, for sure (the book series at times resembles how The Lord of the Rings might’ve looked if it had been written by Louis L’amour). Bringing this concept to life would require some reevaluation of both genres in order to work, and from the sounds of things, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Stylistically, that might not be too difficult. Both genres are known for their sweeping landscapes and their depiction of good vs. evil, which makes the process of blending the genres somewhat easier to manage.

It’s also a bit of a relief to learn that the filmmakers haven't taken the easy route of making Roland a straight up cowboy - a temptation that would’ve been easy to give into. Even though Roland does share traits that fit the cowboy trope, the world he inhabits, with its post-apocalyptic overtones and magic, doesn’t exactly meld perfectly with the wild west ideal.

Still, the character of Roland owes a lot of his existence on Leone’s Man With No Name, the character immortalized by Clint Eastwood in Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It’ll be interesting to see how Arcel manages to meld the two ideals of fantasy and western together when The Dark Tower hits theaters next year. There will certainly be more information from the set of the movie as the year moves on, and we’ll keep you posted on all news at it develops.

The Dark Tower is scheduled to hit theaters on February 17, 2017.

Source: Interview Magazine

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