These are exciting days for fans of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. After waiting years and years for a film adaptation, production is finally underway in Cape Town, South Africa, where director Nikolaj Arcel is building Mid-World with stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.
On Monday afternoon, we saw our first glimpse of Elba as the notorious gunslinger Roland Deschain. Today, Entertainment Weekly spoke with King and Arcel for their weekly radio show, and while the two expectedly kept mum on most details, they did drop a few interesting tidbits.
Below, we pulled a number of key takeaways from the audio conversation.
On the story
“The novels are kind of a mix between sci-fi and modern day fantasy,” digressed Arcel. “What Stephen King does best, and what I’m trying to do, is mix the every day — or what you would call, the mundane — with the fantastical. I think that’s been very much a part of the vision for the entire film, and even in the script before I got involved.”
“I expect that the movie will start where the book starts,” King explained. “You know, ‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,’ so I think that nails it right in place for people. I’ve been pretty insistent about that, and I think everybody’s pretty on board with it.”
However, the rest of the original novel, The Gunslinger, will not be adapted. Instead, the film will jump ahead into the middle of the journey, quite possibly with the third book, The Wastelands.
“It starts sort of the middle of the story rather than the beginning,” King added, “which may upset some of the fans a little bit, but they’ll get behind it because it is the story.
“A lot of it takes place in our world, in modern day world,” Arcel specified, “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.”
On the different mediums (i.e. television, film)
“Ron [Howard] 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,” King explained. “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 OnDemand, 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.”
Essentially, Akiva Goldman’s original script became the foundation for this film, and if this first entry proves successful, Sony would then revisit the initial plans.
“They’re still holding on to this idea that they could do a TV series,” King clarified, insisting that, “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.”
On casting Idris Elba
“Idris is someone who I’ve loved since watching The Wire,” Arcel 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.'”
“The books were published over a long span of time,” King contended. “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.”
On the book’s racial tensions between Roland and Odetta
“As the story progresses, that will be made clear how we deal with those things,” Arcel insisted. “We do have a plan.”
On the Man in Black
“We have a lot of layers to him,” Arcel explained. “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.”
And last but not least…
“Stephen King himself is not in this film,” Arcel confirmed.
Listen to the whole podcast below:
The Dark Tower hits theaters February 17th, 2017 via Sony.