×

‘The Dark Tower’ Stars, Director on How ‘Pared-Down’ Film Compares With Stephen King’s Novels

At just 19 years old, Stephen King began penning an eight-part “The Dark Tower” series of novels that would take 30 years to finish — and three directors, as many studio changes, and over a decade before it made it to the big screen.

Was it the “tricky” task of adapting 4,250 pages of material that had become so beloved to fans — the obstacle cited by “Lost’s” J.J. Abrams, who, in 2007, first took a stab at it? Was it the lofty (and costly) ambition of Ron Howard, next director in line, to adapt it concurrently as a television and film series? (Howard is still attached as producer.) According to Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who remained onboard after Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel took the helm in 2015, the problem was genre.

“This is part why ‘The Dark Tower’ novels are Stephen King’s magnum opus,” explained Goldsman at the film’s New York premiere at MoMA on Monday night. “They are liberal as they skitter across horror, science fiction, family drama, and that is much more acceptable outside of America, interestingly enough. But we like our genres in boxes.”

King’s story — about a mythical tower bridging many worlds, which “the Gunslinger” Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) strives to protect, and archenemy “the Man in Black,” Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey) sets out to destroy — marries fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and Western elements. His main influence was Robert Browning’s 1855 poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” while King also references J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” character as inspirational.

But is America finally ready for this first film installment, and the television show that Goldsman and writer/exec producer Jeff Pinkner imply is forthcoming? “I think we’ve always had an appetite for things that bridge the genre, but we’re guarding our ability to accept it,” said Goldsman. “So ‘Stranger Things,’ for example, is a beautiful example of that sort of hybridized entertainment; Spielberg is sort of the king of it, ‘E.T.’ is that, ‘Close Encounters’ is that.”

The script was enough to intrigue McConaughey — who enjoyed throwing his conscience to the side and depicting “a lightning bolt of evil.” (“The devil’s in the ‘yeses,’ not the ‘nos,’” he cautioned the press line.) “The true fans are going to see, we left a lot of nuggets in there for them to see, that they’ll know about, that some people who didn’t read the books won’t know about, and at the same time, it lives on its own.”

Goldsman described the final, “pared-down” script — alarmingly pared-down to fans, who’ve questioned the 95-minute length — as quintessentially a father-son story: “a boy who is fatherless, and a man who has lost hope, who finds it in the eyes of a little boy.” It draws primarily from King’s first and third books (in which the Gunslinger makes futile and repeated efforts to reach the Tower), and serves both as a first installment and sequel to the series — which even director Arcel admits is confusing.

The director, who’s making his English-language feature debut, and who taught himself the language by reading King, said,” “It’s the heightened state of awareness for our hero, so that it’s his last journey through the adventure.” King also tweeted a photo of a long-lost horn, which the Gunslinger now carries, that was a hint to fans this might be Roland’s final journey to the Tower, disguised as his first.

But what does this eponymous “tower” represent in the first place? While King intended it be metaphorical, the answer depends on whom you ask.

“The Tower is that which we search for, which we can never find,” said Goldsman. “It’s the thing that is at the other end of your quest, happiness or redemption, forgiveness, a cold beer, whatever it is that spurs your heart and keeps pulling you forward.” A slightly more-optimistic Pinkner believes it to be “that thing which is unattainable, and yet, you go for anyway — it’s hope, it’s faith, it’s a reason for being.”

Arcel’s take was decidedly more spiritual. “If I were a believer, I would probably say [the Tower is a metaphor for] God, that sort of divine presence that protects the universe and protects us with light… ‘The Dark Tower’ is the perfect embodiment of that idea — that there’s something out there, whatever it is, that at least is trying to protect us. It’s not doing a very good job right now, but it’s trying.”

“The Dark Tower,” from Columbia Pictures and MRC, opens nationwide on August 4.

More Scene

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream hosted by AT&T and from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. “The images and stories recognized [...]

  • Emile Hirsch, Matt SmileyEmile Hirsch hosts

    Emile Hirsch Hosts Smiley Face Art Opening at Mondrian Hotel

    Despite the rain on Wednesday night in West Hollywood, there were plenty of smiles inside the Mondrian hotel thanks to artist Matt Smiley‘s Refresh exhibition. Not only is Smiley his real last name, but several of his paintings and other pieces in the exhibit feature smiley faces. “I’ve seen more smiley symbolism lately, and I’ve [...]

  • Randall Park, left, and Constance Wu

    Constance Wu Wants Her 'Fresh Off the Boat' Co-Star Randall Park to Host the Oscars

    While the Academy may have decided to go hostless for this year’s Oscars, that doesn’t mean the rest of Hollywood has stopped thinking about who would be a good choice for the emceeing gig. Former host Whoopi Goldberg recently suggested Ken Jeong. Jeong said, when he was a guest on “The View,” Goldberg told him [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. For those who haven’t caught on to the “Schitt’s Creek” [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. “When I moved to LA, the air was unbreathable. Rivers were catching fire in [...]

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content