Stephen King has confirmed that Matthew McConaughey is officially signed on for Sony’s adaptation of the beloved Dark Tower series as the antagonist Walter Padick/The Man in Black/Randall Flagg alongside Elba as the series’ hero, Roland Deschain.
Word first came of McConaughey’s involvement when we pegged him for the role back in October. More officially, it came a month later when he was issued an offer. His signing could be a multi-year commitment, as Sony plans to make The Dark Tower saga into a series of multiple films and a television series. It’s not yet known for how much of the proposed universe McConaughey or Elba (who signed on in January) are contracted.
In an interview with EW, King and Nikolaj Arcel, director of the series’ first film, discussed the casting and what fans can expect from the movies. Their decision to pick Elba, despite Roland’s in-book description, was “a no-brainer.” “For me, it just clicked. He’s such a formidable man,” said Arcel. “I had to go to Idris and tell him my vision for the entire journey with Roland and the ka-tet… We tried to figure out if we saw the same guy. And we absolutely had all the same ideas and thoughts. He had a unique vision for who Roland would be.” He also added that while skin color played an important factor in some of the racial tension between the character and Susannah (a black amputee drawn into the dimension of The Dark Tower), they’re still planning on making that relationship work. “… As the story progresses that will be made clear, how we’ll deal with all those things,” Arcel said.
King also heaped praise on Elba, calling him “one of the best working in the business now.” Though he originally crafted Roland after Clint Eastwood, he sees no problem with casting the Beasts of No Nation actor in the part. “For me the character is still the character. It’s almost a Sergio Leone character, like ‘the man with no name,’” King said. “He can be white or black, it makes no difference to me. I think it opens all kind of exciting possibilities for the backstory.”
As for The Man in Black, King admits he “never really thought of” what he’d look like, since he was always in the periphery of The Gunslinger. “But [in the movie] he becomes a character who isn’t just a mirage that Roland is chasing. The way things are set up, he’s right there.”
Story-wise, King promises that the first words you hear in the first film will be the opening line from the first book in the series, The Gunslinger. “It should start that way,” he said. “I’ve been pretty insistent about that.” That line is, of course, “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”
Despite this, it appears that the Arcel’s first film will not actually be The Gunslinger. “[The movie] starts in media res, in the middle of the story instead of at the beginning,” King explained, “which may upset some of the fans a little bit, but they’ll get behind it, because it is the story.”
Neither King nor Arcel would get specific on which book(s) would end up being the groundwork for the first Dark Tower film, though the director did offer one hint: “A lot of it takes place in our day, in the modern world.”
As previously reported, the first film in the series is set to hit theaters on January 13th, 2017. Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner adapted the novel for the screen, while the two will also produce alongside Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and Erica Huggins. Mad Max: Fury Road actress Abbey Lee is in talks to play the role of Tirana.
In related news, Warner Bros.’s own Man in Black-starring King adaptation, The Stand, was recently put on hold. A two-part feature remake of another King classic, It, was recently confirmed to be entering production this year and targeting an R rating.