Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower' adaptation reaches dead end, but all hope is not lost


Universal has said no to the quest.

The studio and filmmaker Ron Howard announced last year an ambitious plan to make three movies and two seasons of television based on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower — an epic, seven-part (so far) series of novels that fuse westerns and sci-fi/fantasy in the tale of Roland the Gunslinger and his journey through surreal and treacherous territories to a mythical structure that binds the dimensions of existence.

Here’s what went wrong: Today the studio told Howard — whose Imagine Entertainment was shopping the project with plans for him to direct and Javier Bardem to star — that the project was too costly, too big a risk, and not something they felt comfortable moving forward on, according to sources close to the project. It’s disastrous news for fans of the books, who had hoped this wide-ranging plan was a chance to see King’s imagination brought to live on the big and small screens.

But Imagine retains the rights — in fact, Universal’s first-right-of-refusal option expired this week, forcing the decision — and Howard and Co. are free to begin shopping the project elsewhere in Hollywood. The screenplay for the series was being developed by Akiva Goldsman (Oscar-winner for A Beautiful Mind) so another studio looking to acquire a series of high-end tentpoles, such as Warner Bros., which just saw its Harry Potter series come to a spectacular end, may decide to move fast to keep it all in place.

The project began to crumble about two months ago when Universal pushed back the planned start date of the movie from this fall to early next year while both sides tried to work out a deal that would lower the budget. (One source tells EW $200 million was what Howard wanted to make both the first movie and the first season of television.)

But for a sprawling, effects-heavy fantasy series that could either only be aimed at adults, or lose much of the savagery that made it distinctive, it was too big a gamble for Universal, which would find itself stuck with a costly commitment if the first film underperformed.

Howard did not immediately return a request for comment about what is next for The Dark Tower proposal, though he has already begun to make alternate plans for himself.

For more movie news, follow Anthony Breznican on Twitter: @Breznican.

Read more:
Is movie/TV version of Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ doomed?
Ron Howard takes over ‘Dark Tower’ movie adaptation
CASTING: Who should join Javier Bardem in ‘The Dark Tower’ films

Comments (103 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 4
  • Marten

    Kinda saw this coming. It’s too bad really, would have been great to see. It’s good Image can still shop around though, maybe we’ll see something eventually.

    • Tom

      Too original. Too many so-so movies could be made with the same amount of money and at least break even. And the plot is more confusing than Back To the Future Part III while on acid.

      • Phil

        Back to the Future III has a fairly simple plot.

      • Nancy


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      • Henri M.

        There’s a difference between confusing and just bad storytelling.

      • Mike

        “Doctor Brown? I brought this paper back from the future and now it’s erased!!!” “Of course it is…because your future hasn’t been written yet, none of ours have!! So make it a good one…both of ya!” Ooooh so painful. At least BTTF1 Still holds up lol

      • Gupta

        Tom – you were confused by Back to the Future 3??? Idiot.

      • Tim

        And the award for comment with most trolololling replies goes to: Tom! 2 CEO’s looking for love, some dude calling you an idiot, another person calling out either BTTF3’s bad story telling or Stephen King’s…. it’s just a murderer’s row of trolling.

    • Hutchy

      The suits must have read anything past book 4 and been like “Good God, this is truly the worst thing ever put to page!! Who approved this?!!?!”

      • Sabre

        Not sure HBO would have the budget on something like this. As great as Game of Thrones is, (one of the best) it is already having to skip some things due to budget and limit the seasons to 10 episodes. As much as I love the idea of HBO’s quality on any project, I just don’t think it would be possible if Ron wants to be faithful here.

      • sl

        Totally agree. Books 1-4 were amazing. The ones after that were a waste of time and money. And that ending? What a cop out. If they made the movies, they’d have to stop at the 4th book.

      • BogusPeavy

        Whoa there pard. Perhaps you were not following along? This is a poor example of a book to pick plot with dude. Good luck but certainly watch giving away your plot.

    • Buy the Graphic Novels Instead!!

      Awful news for Dark Tower fans!!
      But . . .
      if you’re looking for the next best thing to TV or movies for a great visual interpretation of this amazing series, you can always try eBay and get the Marvel Graphic Novels adapting these books.
      Try searching for “Marvel Dark Towers Hardcovers”.

    • Steve

      I hope it never comes to the big (or small) screen. I think the graphic novel was enough “dumbing down” of this epic fantasy story. The world has become so lazy when it comes to reading and I think that our collective imaginations are suffering for it. Great series, but one that should stay in written form. Besides, they would have to cut so much of the story that a movie wouldn’t ever do it justice.

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  • Carrie G.

    Phew! As much as I would love to see Roland on the big screen, Ron Howard was by no means, the right guy to get him there. Thanks Universal.

    • Nancy

      I would like to see some obscure indie foreign filmmaker do it on a shoe-string budget of 10 million, no CGI crap, and with complete unknown actors and actresses (that -can- actually act), then let Hollywood ruin what is probably one of the most inspiring stories written in the last 30 years.

      • iggy

        Agreed. I’d also like to see AMC make a tv series out of it…that could be the quality treatment the epic tale deserves.

      • @nancy

        I’m pretty sure you meant “than” let Hollywood ruin it. Not ‘then’.

      • wait…

        what about neill blomkamp (sp?)

      • Mike

        Come on “@nancy” there are far worse grammar/spelling issues on this site than that one! Pick your battles! LOL

      • Colleen

        Actually, @nancy, Nancy was correct. You’re the one who needs a grammar lesson and should certainly not be handing them out.

      • La

        Really, Colleen? It’s correct to say she’d rather see an indie effort than a Hollywood attempt. Otherwise, she would be seeing Hollywood ruin it after the indie film came out.

    • Dr. Chim Richalds

      SO true. Also, I still imagine Viggo Mortensen playing Roland, but I was willing to keep an open mind about casting. Javier just seemed SO miscast, though.

  • Kelley

    Iknew it! Jeez, I was so looking forward to this. I am happy in that maybe Javier Bardem will move on because there is no way he was Roland.

  • WillFerrellStinks

    Disastrous news ? Hell this is great news given the horrible casting of Bardem for Roland and the rumor of a white Jennifer Carpenter as Susannah . Proof positive that Howard does not understand or probably didn’t even read the King books ! This is better done as an HBO series anyway . Splitting it up between movies and tv was a dumb idea that wouldn’t work anyway . Opie must have been smoking Floyd the barber/drug dealer’s good stuff in the back – the crack !

    • Theresa

      Whoa, huh?! A white Susannah? No effing way! So then they could make Oy an elephant and cast Jake as a precocious 90 year old. I like both Howard and Bardem…but not in relation to The Dark Tower. Agreed, horrible casting.

  • Kate

    “It’s disastrous news for fans of the books…”

    It’s very good news for this fan of the books. Ron Howard was the wrong person to trust with this material, and I think it was destined to be a train wreck.

    • visacrum

      Ahaha Gunslinger? Train wreck? I see what you did there!

      • Nancy

        Blaine is a pain.

  • SuicideSamurai

    Yeah… most of the fan pages I’ve seen have been pretty anti-Howard as some of his choices were revealed. He makes good things, but this is not his genre/style/forte at all.

  • Jeannie

    As much as I would desperately love to see The Dark Tower in movie/television form, it seems this news is for the best. Javier Bardem (while a great actor) is NOT Roland. And Ron Howard does not seem to be the right person to bring this to the screen. I hope this eventually gets made but by the right people with the right cast, by a production company that truly believes in the material.

  • Thad

    So, you can say no to ron howard. Didn’t see that one coming. Another director maybe, but not ron.

  • dryedmangoez

    It was a pretty big and ambitious project to begin with. A feature film leading to a TV series. And on NBC too? Probably not the best time to do something this big.

  • Jason

    Now that we have Game of Thrones running successfully, can HBO PLEASE snatch this up and do it right?
    They can get a good ten seasons out of these books.

    • Janie Jones

      Yup.HBO’s the way to go on this one!

      • Matheus

        I’m with you on firing both paetris. Personally, if I had my way, I’d clear every office out, evict all the career politicians and start fresh with honest, intelligent folk who actually have the welfare of the populace set as their priority. I’ve long since gotten tired of these politicians whose only concern is how to stay in office longer so they can keep their nice, cushy jobs and a better paycheck than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. I wonder if they’d work harder and more honestly if they got paid less to do what they’ve supposedly been elected to do.

    • Love and let live

      i agree and hbo needs to also bring back rome. the best show ever

      • Robert

        HBO needs to become worth the money people spend on it per month.

      • Jason

        HBO is worth the money for Game of Thrones and Curb alone.

  • John

    Im saddened, because I wanted to see it come to life. I just finished the series last week and was thinking the entire time of how to transition it to screen. Ron Howard would not have been my first choice, but still a really good one. I’ve also never agreed with Javier Bardem, great actor, but lacking blue eyes. Hopefully a studio (Paramount) picks this up and gives it the right treatment. And hopefully they film all the Jake scenes first!

    • ken feller

      javier would be great and now a days the contacts would deal with the blue eyes im sad that it has stalled i think it would be a great movie ….. not sure about the tv show though….. please make this into a movie i dont care if it is hbo or warner or who ever just listen to the fans we want it and you will make your money ……. like there hurting anyways.

  • Rolo Tomasi

    Too bad

  • Antonio of Gilead

    Yea a bit bumbed, but would love to see HBO pick this up, or even AMC.

  • yo

    Best News Ever. This is not going to work with Ron directing and Javier staring in it. Hopefully HBO will buy the rights and will do it justice.

    • Kobolos

      My thoughts exactly. As Game of Thrones proves, big screen isn’t necessary. HBO make it so!

  • Bill


    • George

      bummer. i was looking forward to this.

      • Tony

        This decision may come back and byte them in the *** Just like when Disney turned down Peter Jackson with LOTR. The ones who made that decision were ultimately let go. This series has great potential to be the next multi $billion series.

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