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SYFY WIRE Mike Flanagan

Mike Flanagan's dream project? To adapt Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower'

The Dark Tower is the horror filmmaker's dream project.

By Matthew Jackson
Mike Flanagan

Though he's told plenty of original stories over the years, from Oculus to Midnight Mass, much of Mike Flanagan's well-earned reputation as one of the best genre filmmakers working right now has come from his skill at adaptation. From The Haunting of Hill House to Doctor Sleep, Flanagan has proven adept at breathing new life into classic stories and bringing challenging prose to the screen in a way that makes sense. So perhaps it's no wonder that one of the most challenging pop culture behemoths in recent memory is on his bucket list.

Mike Flanagan's lifelong Stephen King fandom has already led him to adaptations of Gerald's Game (a novel famously thought unadaptable by many King fans) and Doctor Sleep, as well as an attempt at adapting Revival that has since fallen through. But Flanagan's not done with King yet, and in a new interview with IGN, he explained that one of his dream projects is a full adaptation of King's The Dark Tower, the mammoth eight-book fantasy/horror/sci-fi saga considered to be King's magnum opus. 

"I have that conversation with myself every day," Flanagan said. "It's my dream project, and I keep coming back to it because it has its own gravity. I can't get too far away from it for too long. Nothing would be a bigger honor or make me happier in my career than to work on that."

The Dark Tower, which tells the story of gunslinger Roland Deschain and his lifelong quest to reach the title Tower, a nexus for all of reality, made it to the big screen in 2017 after years of development hell, but was poorly received and a box office failure. A streaming series based on the novels, helmed by former The Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzarra, made it as far as the pilot stage but never reached a series order at Amazon. Now, the property is in limbo, one of those rare King stories that's been kind of adapted but never given the full, epic, faithful treatment fans long for. Though Flanagan doesn't shed any light on how likely taking on the property could be for him, he did make it clear that if he had the chance, he would be as faithful to King's story as possible. 

"It would look like the books," Flanagan said. "It would be a black screen and the words, 'The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed' would come up on silence, and you'd hear the wind, and we'd gradually fade up to this Lawrence of Arabia-esque landscape with a silhouette in the distance just making his way across the hardpan and we would build it out from there, in order, to the end."

When it comes to The Dark Tower, "the end" and "the beginning" can be somewhat malleable concepts, particularly as the story starts to diverge into flashbacks, alternate universes, and even meta-textual ideas about King himself as he works to tell the story. As a longtime fan, Flanagan is certainly aware of that, but he's also aware that there's a core to the narrative that must be maintained, and that keeping that core intact is the secret to getting it right.

"Otherwise, the characters are who they are, the arc is what it is. And I think the way not to do The Dark Tower is to try to turn it into something else, to try to make it Star Wars or make it Lord of the Rings. It's what it is. What it is is perfect. It's just as exciting as all of those things and just as immersive and it's a story about a tiny group of people and all the odds in the whole world are against them, and they come together. As long as it's that, it'll be fine, and there won't be a dry eye in the house."

The future of The Dark Tower onscreen remains a mystery, and Flanagan is certainly busy with many other projects at the moment. If he ever did get his hands on the property, though, it would probably be the fulfillment of quite a few fan dreams, including his.

Looking for more epic fantasy in the meantime? Stream the entire Harry Potter film saga on Peacock.