Last month Universal started having second thoughts about The Dark Tower, their adaptation of Stephen King’s epic book series to be directed by Ron Howard. The intention was to make a trilogy of films with a TV miniseries in-between each film, however budget concerns caused the planned shoot later this year to be delayed while screenwriter Akiva Goldsman re-wrote the script.
In a new interview Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer speak about the script changes, saying they aren’t that radical, and talk about why they decided the franchise would cross the realms of both movies and TV.
DEADLINE: Why does Dark Tower warrant three movies and two TV series in between?
HOWARD: The universe Steve King created is so dimensional and creative. It blends scope, sweep, and adventure with some very personal compelling stories. We could have tried to force all of it into one or two or three movies. It became clear to me that the medium of TV has become so bold and cool, we could use it to our advantage creatively and really fulfill the possibilities of this universe of characters King gave us to work with. We can use the intimacy of television when that’s appropriate, and the scope and scale of the big screen with the bigger fantasy ideas. We discovered elements that would probably never have a home either on the big screen or on TV, but would make fantastic narrative gaming opportunities that won’t rehash the movies or TV, but have its own material borne out of the books and graphic novels. We’ve got gaming designers and there is enthusiasm for that. It’s a way to use all the mediums at our disposal to try to fulfill what’s possible. Universal sees this as an asset that can benefit the company in a lot of different ways.
DEADLINE: Still, there were rumors last month that Universal might let The Dark Tower go. That hasn’t happened but they did push the start date to early next year. Why has it been so hard to get underway?
HOWARD: The first version represented a bold attempt to fast track, because of weather concerns. It was a little more dramatic to people on the outside than to us. We’d have liked to move forward on that fast track, but it was always Phase One. There was an understanding that if we couldn’t answer all the questions in a way that made sense to all the partners involved, then we would operate on a slightly more traditional timetable. Even if we go in March, that’s still moving quickly for something of this scale.
DEADLINE: You’ve been asked to bring down the budget. By how much?
GRAZER: I’m producing it with Akiva Goldsman, who wrote it to be sensitive to cost and is rewriting it to be more so. Without putting a number on it, the cuts aren’t that deep or that radical.
They also said that while Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) isn’t officially on-board, “he’s fascinated by the character and has great instincts for Roland. I’m hoping when we go, he’s available and will join us.”
The Dark Tower follows a gunslinger called Roland Deschain who is the last living member of a knightly order of gunslingers, and humanity’s last hope to save a civilization that will fall unless he finds the Dark Tower. Ron Howard says he sees the trilogy as their answer to the Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, with an old West setting instead of Middle Earth.