[Updated: We're now getting word that Ted-backer Media Rights Capital might pick-up The Dark Tower adaptation.]
Director Ron Howard's ambitious adaptation of the Stephen King book series, The Dark Tower, has been struggling for over two years now in various iterations of development hell. Unfortunately (or happily - depending on how you feel about the project), it sounds as if The Dark Tower is once again losing traction.
We're now getting word that Warner Bros. has passed on the recently retooled adaptation pitch - sending the project flailing back into development hell.
According to Variety, the studio isn't interested in moving forward with the project - though no specific reason was given. Despite a lack of comment from Warner Bros, it's easy to imagine why they'd be uneasy about taking-on The Dark Tower - specifically Howard's infamously expensive plan to tell the story by alternating between big screen features and television miniseries.
While it can be hard to defend the ballooning cost of big budget movie making these days, Howard wasn't just being greedy or overly-ambitious when he planned the movie/miniseries Dark Tower combo. The scale of the books could definitely benefit from the bang of big screen movie-making as well as lengthier (and more intimate) character pieces on the small screen. In a world where studios don't have to weigh opportunity cost, Howard's idea would be a no-brainer. However, the cost of such an ambitious venture was hard for Universal to swallow (even for a well-known Stephen King series) - think Lord of the Rings but with more installments and a full-scale television miniseries production to balance.
As a result, Universal withdrew their support of the project - since a scaled down version of The Dark Tower is even less-likely to succeed (and would have probably caused Howard to abandon the project altogether).
Fast-forward half a year and Warner Bros. was mulling over the possibility of resurrecting the project under their wing. As the studio debated whether or not they could greenlight one of the most expensive and formidable film productions in history, Hollywood heavy-hitter Russell Crowe threw his weight behind the project - asserting that he'd be willing to play leading man, Roland Deschain, if Warner Bros. decided to foot the bill. Unfortunately, unless Warner Bros. changes their mind, or another studio decides they want to get fan hopes up again, it's unlikely that Crowe will make it any closer than former star Javier Bardem in his journey to gunsling across Dark Tower's post-apocalyptic landscapes.
Given the lackluster turnout for other book-turned-big budget movie franchise starters, such as John Carter, it's hard to blame either studio for being wary of a commitment to Howard's Dark Tower - especially since the plan, ideally, called for production to start on the first TV miniseries before finally tallies for the first film would be in. Any studio that signs-on for The Dark Tower will need to have a very motivated TV partner and a lot of faith in the overarching franchise, not to mention very deep pockets, in order to get the ball rolling again.
Update: Deadline is reporting that Media Rights Capital, the investment company behind Ted and Elysium, might pick up The Dark Tower - and that an announcement could come very soon. We'll keep you updated as we hear actual concrete details.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more Dark Tower coverage as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.