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It's been almost two years since the film adaptation of Stephen King's Dark Tower series opened in theaters and bombed hard with critics and at the box office. The feature's failure to perform came particularly hard since the movie was headlined by two of the biggest actors working in Hollywood today, Idris Elba (playing Roland Deschain/The Gunslinger), and Matthew McConaughey (Walter Padick).
During an appearance on MTV's Happy Sad Confused podcast, producer Ron Howard opened up about the movie, talking about how it may have benefited from a higher, more mature rating and tone. Akiva Goldsman (Titans) was also a producer on the project, with Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel (writer of 2009's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) directing.
"I think it should’ve been horror. I think it landed in a place, both in our minds and [in] the studio’s, that it could be PG-13 and sort of a boy’s adventure. I really think we made a mistake," Howard said, adding that a fatal misstep was probably putting more emphasis on the character of Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) than on Roland.
Another issue could have come from the fact that The Dark Tower books (of which there are eight, along with some short stories, comics, and other tie-in materials) are a massive narrative epic that King himself considers to be his magnum opus. They've become so influential that nearly all of the author's works tie into The Dark Tower universe in some way or another, be it big or small. It's hard to capture that massive Tolkien-esque worldbuilding in a mere 95-minute picture. A longer-running format like television was, perhaps, the best route in a situation like this one.
"I’m not sure we coulda made this movie, but I think if we could’ve made a darker, more hardboiled look and make it the Gunslinger’s character study more than Jake['s]," Howard continued. "In retrospect, I think that would’ve been maybe more exciting. We always felt like we were kind of holding back something, and I think at the end of the day it was that. The other thing might have been to just straight on tackle it as television first, I don’t know. [It was] disappointing, because I poured a lot of myself into it and sometimes this happens on these projects, where everybody [has the] best intentions, you’re all pulling in a direction, and then you sort of say, ‘Was that the right direction?’ I wouldn’t say it was all a compromise. I do think it was just a sense of maybe too much listening to what you think the marketplace is calling for instead of really the essence of what Stephen King was giving us.”
Indeed, Amazon is currently working on a TV adaptation of the novels with Sam Strike (Timeless) in the central role of Deschain. Joana Ribeiro (Fatima), Jasper Pääkkönen (Vikings), Abraham Popoola (Electric Dreams), Ivan Kaye (Dark Shadows), and Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones) have also been cast in the series.