matthew mcconaughey dark tower

Earlier today, we got our first official look at Nikolaj Arcel‘s The Dark Tower, the adaptation/remix of Stephen King‘s beloved horror/fantasy/western/science fiction series that has become a cornerstone of modern genre fiction. While the first wave of news rode upon a series of great quotes from star Idris Elba and a very evocative description of one of the film’s key sets, the second wave is all about Matthew McConaughey‘s black-clad villain and how this very tricky, dense series is making the transition to film.

Let’s start with the former. Entertainment Weekly sat down with McConaughey on the film’s South African set and they chatted all about Walter, otherwise known to King fans as “the man in black.” Throughout the interview, McConaughey sounds like he never left the skin of True Detective character:

Well, he is a man, actually. They wanted to go very human and grounded with this. Obviously there are mythical proportions of good and evil in Walter. But we didn’t want to go overly fantastic. That would drop the humanity. So Walter, for me, is a man who exposes hypocrisies.

As many Stephen King fans know, Walter goes by many names and has emerged as an arch-villain in the entire Stephen King universe, where all of his novels and stories are interconnected in unique and strange ways. Interestingly, McConaughey turned down the role of the demonic Randall Flagg in the long-gestating adaptation of The Stand so he could appear in The Dark Tower…but Flagg and Walter are actually the same character within the pages of King’s books. Movie news can be weird.

Anyway, this article is full of great weird McConaughey quotes that paint a great picture of the cinematic Walter, who has a powerful respect for Elba’s Roland, the vengeful Gunslinger chasing him across dimensions:

revere him. He’s really the only true adversary I have. I expose hypocrisies, and he’s the closest to pure there is. It’s his persistent, resilience to be good and altruistic. He’s very precious to me. I almost don’t want to see him go.

McConaughey later says of his onscreen enemy: “My love, my adoration, my muse, my shadow, is Roland,” so shippers, start your engines.

The rest of the article is full of deep cuts and details and plot points that Dark Tower fans will appreciate and newbies will puzzle over and it is very much worth your time. At the very least, it confirms that the great character actor Jackie Earle Haley is playing Richard Sayre, the “ambassador” of the Dixie Pig, a New York City way station between worlds where monsters and creatures can take on human guises before entering our realm.

The third of today’s Dark Tower news blasts deals specifically with how the film was developed and written and who they chose to leave on the cutting room floor. First of all, King himself was heavily involved in the writing of the screenplay, giving his approval to changes and personally modifying Roland’s dialogue so the stoic gunslinger says as little as possible. Right now, the project has his stamp of approval:

I feel more wrapped up in this one because the books took so long to write and the fan base is so dedicated. They sent me a number of different drafts and it came into focus, let’s put it that way. I’m 100 percent behind it — which doesn’t mean it necessarily will work, just that it’s a good way to try and to get into these stories.

The article also confirms that Eddie and Susannah, two of Roland’s companions who join his quest in the second novel, The Drawing of the Three, will not be in the movie. While the film draws elements from all seven books in the series, they will be saved for the sequel…if the $60 million first film is a success, of course. It makes sense – the relationship between Roland, Walter, and the young Jake Chambers is the heart of the first book and will remain the heart of the first movie no matter what changes – but it also means we may never get to see the rest of Roland’s ka-tet on screen if the film underperforms.

And finally (and consider this a huge spoiler if you intend to read King’s books before the movie comes out), it has been confirmed that the cinematic Dark Tower will act as a sequel-of-sorts to the original books. The final book in the series concludes with Roland finally reaching the Dark Tower and realizing that he’s gone on his quest countless times, only for a time loop to send him back, memories washed away, each and every time. However, the newly reset Roland is now in possession of an artifact known as the Horn of Eld, which suggests that things have changed and whether he knows it or not, he may be on his final loop.

This is a fascinating choice, because it allows the filmmakers behind The Dark Tower to change the story as they see fit because Roland’s new quest can be different from his previous attempts. If the rest of the series is adapted, it may even give the fans who felt disappointed by the ending of the books some closure.

The Dark Tower is filming now for a February 17, 2017 release date.

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