Roland’s destiny is to quest after the Dark Tower in perpetuity. So too is Hollywood’s. Stephen King’s epic fantasy series is officially moving forward at Amazon, under the eye of MRC, which produced the recent film adaptation. The Man in Black will flee across the Desert, and the Gunslinger will follow, once more.
Despite a franchise-sinking box-office return of $113 million worldwide on a $60 million budget, and negative reviews from every corner of the critical sphere (settling, in the end, with a 13 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), 2017’s The Dark Tower didn’t dissuade rights holders from forgetting the face of their father. The Stephen King boom is real, and the Dark Tower books would find life on screen — even if it’s a 40-inch one in front of a couch.
Though a theoretical TV series version of King’s books percolated at after the disastrous film version — in January 2018, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke said that, while she hadn’t read any actual scripts for a Dark Tower series, the plan was very much alive — there was little word of if or when the project might spring to life, or how long the company would have to wait to relaunch the property. The answer was not very long at all; according to Variety, Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead, Damien) is on board as a showrunner, with a pilot for the series in the process of casting up — making good on a rumor that the show could start filming as early as April.
The report suggests that Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are out as Roland Deschain the The Gunslinger and Randall Flagg the Man in Black, respectively, though there were early rumors that the series would directly reap the A-list benefits of the film. Instead, with the series expected to adapt early stories from the universe, like those featured in the prequel novel Wizard and Glass, the casting skews younger: 25-year-old British actor Sam Strike (Leatherface) is reportedly playing Roland in the pilot, with BlacKkKlansman actor Jasper Pääkkönen co-starring as Flagg.
This is an aggressive play by Amazon in the land-grab scramble for eyeballs in the wake of Game of Thrones’ final season. Along with The Dark Tower, the streaming studio is also in the works on a Lord of the Rings series set during the Second Age, and an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time books. Amazon isn’t thinking twice about the lingering effect of The Dark Tower movie, which after years and years and years of development (passing from J.J. Abrams to Ron Howard to Akiva Goldsman) sought to remix the mythology into a single, digestible feature film.
That didn’t work — but in today’s blockbuster-a-week pace, no one will remember either. Though the loss of Elba is enormous, for fans of the series, this new ka-tet means a future for the series that could carve out everything King put on the page. Ka, much like the reboot cycle, is a wheel.