“You don’t sit down one day and say, ‘Well, I think I’ll write a magnus opus.’ But I said to myself, ‘This could be really long and really exciting and I wanna take a crack at it.’ Look what happened.” What happened, is that Stephen King (speaking exclusively in the brand new issue of Empire) wrote something so audaciously ambitious, so creatively complex, that it seemed unfilmable. The work in question? The Dark Tower, of course.
“It never seemed likely to me that someone would come along and want to make a film out of it,” King continues. “There were things from time to time, when people would talk about the possibility, but I never took it seriously.” The Dark Tower’s journey from page to screen has certainly been a colorful one, with J.J. Abrams attempting to adapt it alongside Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse as far back as 2007. Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman came on board in 2010, casting Javier Bardem as gunslinger Roland Deschain and planning to deliver three films with two television series sandwiched between. “I liked that idea,” King tells Empire. “Everybody did.”
Though Ron Howard eventually moved on, his replacement – first-time director Nikolaj Arcel (screenwriter for the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) – set about tackling Goldsman’s draft. “I like Akiva Goldsman as a writer very much,” says King. “(Akiva) said, ‘Why don’t we start in media res, in the middle of the story?’ Akiva’s idea and Nic’s idea, was to say, ‘Maybe this is the second time around for Roland Deschain…’”
After 10 years of in-production limbo, it was only “two years ago” when King started to actually believe this film would hit the big screen.
Remarkably, The Dark Tower pops the author’s producing cherry, also gifted casting approval over an ensemble headed by Idris Elba (“in the books, it’s never said that Roland Deschain is a Caucasian person”) and Matthew McConaughey (“to me, he was always Walter, pretty much the way I’d imagined him. When people fall back from him in fear, you understand why”).
According to King, The Dark Tower “is something completely new that melds the Western with fantasy. This is a risky project. It’s not backed up by a bunch of comic books. (It’s) scary. But I’m happy with what we’ve got.”
For more on The Dark Tower, including interviews with McConaughey and Elba, be sure to pick up the brand new issue of Empire.