Deadline's got a sprawling new interview with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard up today, and over the course of the interview the pair talk at length about their experience getting The Dark Tower into theaters. It sounds about as arduous as you'd expect.
Here's Howard on when the project initially began to take shape:
Akiva Goldsman first pitched it to me while we were making A Beautiful Mind and the rights weren’t available. JJ Abrams was working on it at first and then Akiva told me JJ was involved in so many projects he let it go. We started talking about what it could be. I read all the novels and we broke them down.
He presented this idea to Stephen King, and this is insider material you might not get, but it was about introducing the Horn of Eld into the very first story. He knew it would allow us to use elements of the novels in a new combination that would give us the latitude to be true to the essence of the novels, but also re-balance and refocus the narrative in a cinematic way.
As the process went on, Howard says Grazer decided to hinge the first film on the relationship between Roland and Jake:
...We focused more on the Jake Chambers-Roland relationship at the very center of the first movie as a way of launching the universe. We simplified the story line, made it less expensive as a result, but we still utilized a lot of those important structural adjustments that Akiva and I had devised going back years ago.
He also says the production hired a team of Dark Tower junkies to help map the journey the film adaptations would take. Somehow, I was not invited (an unforgivable oversight I expect both Howard and Grazer will come to regret in the years ahead):
One of the things we did was put together a team of Dark Tower researchers, devotees of the books. We wanted to restructure the novels to be most cinematic and Stephen King agreed completely and understood the journey we were on immediately and supported it. We used this group to inspire our thinking and stay in the universe of Dark Tower.
Grazer, meanwhile, suggests that there were unintended benefits for taking their time, restructuring the novels and focusing the first film on the Jake/Roland relationship.
We’ve definitely been working on it at least 10 years, but we found the perfect way to make it. It’s economical, and forced us to focus on the scenes that were the heartbeat of the story. It’s still a big landscape, but the scenes are more bull’s-eye than maybe it was back then. And we have the hippest cast with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. We never had that cast.
Speaking of that hip cast, Howard sounds over the moon with the work turned in by stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey (who play Roland and Walter, respectively):
Idris brings this crucial combination of coiled danger, quiet charisma, undercurrents of complexity and nobility, and a kind of timeless cool. These are the elemental qualities of Roland, in my mind, and I think Idris carries it incredibly well. Then there is McConaughey. I had always thought he would be a tremendous Walter.
I worked with him once and long have been a fan since he emerged on the scene. So is Akiva, who wrote the script for A Time To Kill. He and I always believed Matthew would be a great trip and it was a dream come true when he said yes. He brings that combination of diabolical amorality mixed with an intelligence and his own logic that he adheres to, relentlessly. And a kind of wry wit that kept readers and will keep the movie audience off balance in a very entertaining way. You never know what to expect next from the Walter character. Matthew mixes that with an undercurrent of impending violence and danger, in a very watchable way.
And, finally, here's what Howard has to say about that Dark Tower TV spin-off series (and, god willing, future film installments):
It hasn’t, really. We’re developing the television part, now. We don’t know what platform it will be on at this point, but we’re developing the content in hopes for more movies that will cover the epic and the characters involved.
Nikolaj Arcel's The Dark Tower opens on February 17th. We're expecting to see the first footage from the film sometime near the end of October, so stay tuned for that.