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Sep092010

Stephen King's The Dark Tower to become a movie trilogy and TV show

Stephen King fans, you're in luck. The author's seven book (soon to be eight) magnum opus, The Dark Tower, may get its due. Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13), Brian Grazer, and Akiva Goldsman have secured the rights to adapt The Dark Tower into a movie trilogy and TV show. Details on how it will work are below, but the plan is one of the most ambitious in Hollywood history.

The Dark Tower is part western, part fantasy, part post-apocalyptic, and part sci-fi--it's a bit of everything. It follows a Gunslinger on the road to find a magical tower said to be the nexus of the universe. The first novel hit shelves in 1982 and the seventh in 2004. In 2009, King said that he is writing an eighth book in the series. 

Here's how the epic movie/TV deal will work:

  • Movie 1: The Gunslinger
  • Season 1: Picks up where movie leaves off, bridges to next film.
  • Movie 2: Continues the series
  • Season 2: goes back in time, following the "young gunslinger" and pulling from King's comic series
  • Movie 3: completes The Dark Tower

While I applaud the huge ambition, where are the books? This is an odd structure for a series cut distinctly into seven novels. A two season show? That's awfully short. Why not stretch the series into more TV seasons and movies? This is likely due to cost, but that didn't stop Peter Jackson when he decided to make Lord of the Rings the right way (though New Line pushed him in the right direction). And one of the two seasons will be pulled from a comic series. Why? There are seven books here. Harry Potter has failed to capture all the magic in its books with eight long movies; how will Ron Howard and his team cram seven books into 1 TV season and 3 movies? It doesn't make much sense.

Here's what Howard said to Deadline about the filming and how it's similar to LOTR:

What Peter did was a feat, cinematic history. The approach we’re taking also stands on its own, but it’s driven by the material. I love both, and like what’s going on in TV. With this story, if you dedicated to one medium or another, there’s the horrible risk of cheating material. The scope and scale call for a big screen budget. But if you committed only to films, you’d deny the audience the intimacy and nuance of some of these characters and a lot of cool twists and turns that make for jaw-dropping, compelling television. We’ve put some real time and deep thought into this, and a lot of conversations and analysis from a business standpoint, to get people to believe in this and take this leap with us. I hope audiences respond to it in a way that compels us to keep going after the first year or two of work. It’s fresh territory for me, as a filmmaker.

Akiva said, ‘Stephen will not let go of it, but it’s like nothing else you’ve ever read.’ It was frustrating because it’s one of those works where you read it, and then at odd times, the imagery and sensations just pop up in your mind. This is going to be an amazing life experience for us, trying to do justice to the story and the universe.

As skeptical as I am, it is reassuring that Ron Howard will direct the first movie and first season of the TV show and that Akiva Goldsman will write them. They are two big talents, but I can't help but wonder what will be glossed over as the seven books are crammed into 12-24 episodes and 3 movies. It doesn't seem possible. I've always felt that a whole TV season (at least 12 full hour episodes) is needed to capture a good novel. We try to cram books into single movies, but few live up to the challenge.

J.J. Abrams and Lost writer Damon Lindeloff were previously attached to adapt the series, but backed out. Lindeloff's chief concern was the density of the material.

"After working six years on 'Lost,' the last thing I want to do is spend the next seven years adapting one of my favorite books of all time. I'm such a massive Stephen King fan that I'm terrified of screwing it up. I'd do anything to see those movies written by someone else. My guess is they will get made because they're so incredible. But not by me." - Damon Lindeloff

What do you think? I'd love to hear from someone who is familiar with the series. Can the books be made into a trilogy and TV series?

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