The Oscar-winning triumvirate of director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer, and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) saw their plans to bring Stephen King's The Dark Tower series to the big and small screen dashed last year, when backer Universal was spooked off by the sheer cost and scale of the project - leaving the whole endeavor in a state of limbo.
Grazer previously teased the possibility of a leaner Dark Tower with a new "satisfying" ending eventually coming to fruition, but there's been little movement on the project in the months since then. That's changed now, seeing how Warner Bros. is reportedly near to closing a deal that would ensure (at least) one feature based on King's post-apocalyptic, western-flavored magnum opus ends up being made.
Fans of King's original Dark Tower novels have expressed somewhat mixed feelings about Howard being onboard to direct - and fellow Oscar-winner Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) remaining attached to portray the series' protagonist, Roland Deschain - with news that Goldsman has changed the conclusion likewise prompting both positive and negative responses. As it stands, though, all of those elements look to remain firmly in place.
Deadline says that Warner Bros. has essentially bought Goldsman's most recent Dark Tower script draft (which he is currently refining) and is eying an early 2013 filming start date for the first movie, to as to accommodate Howard currently being in production on Rush. Bardem should also be available to work on the project, seeing how his acting schedule will have cleared up by the year's end.
King began writing his Dark Tower saga back in 1982 and has averaged releasing an installment every five years since then - with a limited edition of the eighth entry (subtitled "The Wind Through the Keyhole") having been published just this past February. The series follows the ruthless last living member in a knightly group known as gunslingers (Roland Deschain) on a quest to locate the mythical Dark Tower, a building described as the "nexus of all universes." Deschain's journey takes him across a devastated landscape in a world which has "moved on" and leads him to encounter many a strange (and magical) character, human and nonhuman alike.
At first, Warner Bros.' decision to "take a chance" on The Dark Tower might seem a bit odd, coming hot on the heels of Disney's costly John Carter - a fellow ambitious adaptation of a multi-volume, genre-blending literary franchise - especially since concerns about the former project not being able to recoup its budget (which looks to be the case with John Carter) helped scare off Universal last year. Of course, King's Dark Tower is not only a "hotter" property nowadays than the John Carter brand, but the first film in the former series has been refit for an estimated budget around $100 million (a far cry from the other's $250 million price tag).
That's all to say: while The Dark Tower now reads as being much less of a gamble, there's no guarantee this won't ultimately prove to be a failed would-be franchise starter for Warner Bros. (similar to John Carter and the studio's Green Lantern movie from last year).
Grazer and Co. still have tentative plans for the Dark Tower TV series component to air on HBO, which is (not so coincidentally) a Warner Bros. sister studio. Such a move would better allow for production of a fittingly "adult" television adaptation of King's fantastical series, along the lines of HBO's Game of Thrones - or, at least, one closer to the tone and style of the Dark Tower movie(s).
So, all in all, even though The Dark Tower has shed a lot of weight, it remains (nearly) as ambitious an undertaking as it was this time back in 2011. So long as the deal with Warner Bros. doesn't fall apart - and early signs indicate that it won't - meeting and/or exceeding fans' expectations looks to be the next major task for the project.
We will continue to keep you posted on the status of The Dark Tower as the story develops.