idris elba the dark tower

UPDATE: Stephen King has confirmed McConaughey and Elba’s casting on Twitter, as you can see below. Original story from December 10, 2015 follows.

Matthew McConaughey fled across the desert and Idris Elba followed.

It’s the kind of left-field casting that is almost disgustingly perfect – why didn’t anyone think of this sooner? Idris Elba, the star of Luther, Pacific Rim, and Beasts of No Nation is the current frontrunner to play Roland Deschain in director Nikolaj Arcel‘s adaptation of The Gunslinger, the first novel in Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower series. If he does sign on the dotted line, he’ll be joining a cast that already includes Matthew McConaughey, who is set to play the mysterious “man in black,” the chief villain of the series and the Big Bad of the entire Stephen King universe.

Read more on the Idris Elba The Dark Tower casting after the jump.

This news was revealed by The Wrap, who say that Elba is currently in “early talks” for the part, so there’s still a chance for him to walk away from the project. However, the part of Roland may be exactly what Elba has been looking for. After playing second fiddle to other actors in a number of blockbusters for the past few years, this could be his movie franchise. Everyone knows that he’s an incredible actor (that’s why everyone has been fan-casting him as the next James Bond), so it’s always been a bummer to watch him stand on the sidelines of the Thor movies.

The Dark Tower series takes place in a desolate post-apocalypse that contains shades of horror, medieval fantasy, spaghetti westerns, and dark science fiction. Roland the gunslinger is the last of his kind, a pistol-packing warrior/cowboy searching for the Dark Tower, the mysterious center of the universe. When he first meet him in the pages of The Gunslinger, he’s hunting for the mysterious “man in black,” the villain who destroyed Roland’s world. King later revealed that the man in black, who goes by many identities, is actually Randall Flagg, a recurring and cosmically powerful villain who rears his ugly head throughout several of his novels, including The Stand.

In other words, The Dark Tower could be the start a shared Stephen King universe if someone sorts through all of the potential rights issues. Brace yourself.

Although the character on the page is obviously inspired by Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name, the long-gestating adaptation of The Dark Tower has consistently looked at outside-the-box names. Javier Bardem was attached the project years ago, back when producer Ron Howard was still planning to direct. Elba has everything that you need out of Roland: you can easily buy him as a seasoned killer and a world-weary traveler across worlds and dimensions. Sure, a certain segment of racist fandom is going to have a field day with this, but Elba is perfect.

The Wrap confirms what many suspected: the part of Roland was originally offered to McConaughey, who gravitated toward the role of Flagg/the man in black instead. Truth be told, no one would have complained in the slightest if McConaughey had chosen to play Roland because he’s the exact kind of actor everyone has been imagining as the character for years. Nobody saw Elba coming and that makes him far more interesting.

It’s actually fascinating that this is the project that these two have settled on, especially since the both of them have been turning down other franchises left and right over the past few years. The Dark Tower, which is supposedly still being planned as an experimental hybrid of film and television, could be something special if it’s what grabbed the interest of two actors of this caliber. King’s material, while not without its flaws, is a great blueprint for an amazing universe and we can’t wait to see what Arcel and these actors do with it.

The Dark Tower, which will probably be titled The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger before too long, will be released on January 13, 2017.

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