Whatever you think of the grand career sweep of the creative team, Imagine Entertainment and, in particular, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Akiva Goldsman are trying something pretty outrageous with their adaptation of Stephen King‘s novel series The Dark Tower. Set to span three films and two limited TV series, with an offshoot game or two to add additional flavor, there’s nothing quite like it on the drawing boards anywhere else.

Javier Bardem is provisionally cast as the Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, but Universal wanted a bit of a budget reduction, and the schedule was pushed back. We’re still waiting to see the studio flash the green light for The Dark Tower, but in the meantime Ron Howard and Brian Grazer clarify where the project stands.

Speaking to Deadline, Ron Howard has quite a lot to say about the project. Let’s start with the big  questions. Will Javier Bardem still play Roland Deschain when the film shoots? That will come down to scheduling. “I’m hoping when we go, he’s available and will join us.”

And how drastic are the changes that Akiva Goldsman has made to accommodate the lower budget mandated by Universal?

[Akiva] wrote it to be sensitive to cost and is rewriting it to be more so. Without putting a number on it, the cuts aren’t that deep or that radical.

Most interesting, perhaps, is the quick take on what the original vision for the project was like — that being the one that Universal abruptly decided to scale back just a bit.

The first version represented a bold attempt to fast track, because of weather concerns. It was a little more dramatic to people on the outside than to us. We’d have liked to move forward on that fast track, but it was always Phase One.  There was an understanding that if we couldn’t answer all the questions in a way that made sense to all the partners involved, then we would operate on a slightly more traditional timetable. Even if we go in March, that’s still moving quickly for something of this scale.

Finally, he explains, or reiterates in some respects, the general idea behind the many facets of the project:

We could have tried to force all of it into one or two or three movies. It became clear to me that the medium of TV has become so bold and cool, we could use it to our advantage creatively and really fulfill the possibilities of this universe of characters King gave us to work with. We can use the intimacy of television when that’s appropriate, and the scope and scale of the big screen with the bigger fantasy ideas. We discovered elements that would probably never have a home either on the big screen or on TV, but would make fantastic narrative gaming opportunities that won’t rehash the movies or TV, but have its own material borne out of the books and graphic novels. We’ve got gaming designers and there is enthusiasm for that. It’s a way to use all the mediums at our disposal to try to fulfill what’s possible. Universal sees this as an asset that can benefit the company in a lot of different ways.

If you have even a passing interest in Ron Howard’s work, check out the entire interview, which covers a great deal of ground. It turns into a full career retrospective, really, and is a good read.

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