With news and updates arriving from the set of The Dark Tower regularly now (set images and Idris Elba as Roland), the man behind the epic novels, Stephen King, and the man tasked with bringing it to life, Nikolaj Arcel, have chatted to EW about the movie and what we can expect.
The novels were King’s magnum opus and he’s been writing them (and rumoured still to be) for close to 50 years, so he, like the fans, has waited a long time for this as he tells EW: “I’m excited, it’s been a long trip from the books to the film. If you think about it, I started these books as a senior in college and it’s been a long trip. I’m delighted and a little bit surprised.”
Royal Affair director Arcel is, to our great relief, clearly a fan of the books and seems keen to get that enthusiasm on the screen: “In my view, the novel is a mix between sci-fi and modern-day fantasy. What I think King does best and it’s something I’m trying to stay true to is mixing the mundane with the fantastical – that’s been a part of the entire vision of the film.
“A lot of it takes place in our world, in modern day world [the books take place in our world at three various times within the last 70 years, so hopefully this is what he means] which is also very much a part of that journey, because when you think about it, it does sort of veer between Mid World and modern day Earth, so we’re also doing that.”
As we reported before, the books will not focus on the first part of the novel (it looks like it will focus on books three, The Wasteland, and five, The Wolves of the Calls), King says: “It starts in the middle of the story, instead of at the beginning, which may upset some of the fans a little bit, but they’ll get behind it because it is the story.”
But the movie WILL open with the iconic first words from the novels: ‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
So we’re guessing there’s going to be flash-forwards in the tale. The director says: “The movie will start the way the books start. You know, ‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,’ so it nails it right into place for people. It’s been established the way, I’ve been pretty insistent about it and I think everyone’s on board with it.
The interviewer points out that those words are as iconic and memorable as ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ and, as a life-long fan of these books, I have to agree.
King talks about Rn Howard’s original plan for the story, which is massive, to be a multi-media experience: “Ron wanted the TV series to go all the way back to [Roland’s earliest days], so that the TV series and the movies would run in tandem, so, it’s like Game of Thrones, but one-up on that, and I think there were a lot of people who had trouble with the concept at first because it’s tough to get show people to actually try something new, which is one of the reasons they’re so bent out of shape about Netflix.
“I think a lot of people in Hollywood are really, really leery about that synergy between what’s on On Demand, TV, and the movies. So, there was some push back for that, but little by little people started to get on board with the idea.”
Hearteningly, he hasn’t ruled this out if the movie is a success, with a TV show possibly filling out the parts of the story – we’re guessing in particular book three Wizard And Glass, which is mostly a flashback to Roland’s early days and love. This fills us with hope: “They’re still holding on to this idea that they could do a TV series,” King says.
“All of this is dependent on the idea that this first picture will be a smashing success, and it will become a kind of tentpole.”
One of the most controversial parts of the movie so far, if not THE most, is the casting of Idris Elba to play Roland, who is frequently referenced in the books was being white and having deep blue eyes – King himself admits he was at first modelled on Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name – in Wolves of the Calla they meet a character called Father Callaghan (who first appeared in King’s other novel Salem’s Lot), the name clearly being a nod to Dirty Harry, Eastwood’s other iconic character.
Director Arvel said: “I’ve been following his career for a long time, and when we started talking, for me, it just clicked. I just felt like, ‘Wow, he’s such a formidable man.’”
Arcel also says that the racial tension between Roland and Odetta – a young black amputee who is a massive part of the story – will be explained in this version of the story.
King defends the casting of a black actor in the role: “The books were published over a long span of time,” King added. “Roland, in the books, there’s a lot of talk about his blue eyes, and what makes that even more of an issue for the fans is that all those books were illustrated. Roland is there in all those pictures as a white guy. So, for them, it’s going to take a little bit of an adjustment.
“But to me, the character is still the character. It’s almost like a Sergio Leone character, like the man with no name, and he can be white or black, makes no difference to me. I think it opens all sorts of exciting possibilities for the backstory. I like it.”
We love Elba, but we are concerned due to Roalnd’s colour being a part of the character and story in the novels, however, King and Arcel have won us over somewhat here.
Finally, on the casting of Walter/Flagg/The Man in black, Arvel says that Matthew McConaughey will embody a character greatly fleshed out from the books: “We have a lot of layers to him – He’s not just this one-note villain. I think we’re very true to the novels, in the sense of who Walter is, how he speaks, how he moves, how he’s thinking about the world.”
You can check out the full interview below and let us know if you’re won over by what the two have said – we are. And we’re following the path of the beam to the end…