Ron Howard Talks About 'The Dark Tower'

In the past week, as Ron Howard starts to promote The Dilemma, I've seen a couple threadbare sets of quotes in which the filmmaker talks about his upcoming adaptation of Stephen King's sprawling fantasy/horror/'unified field theory of genre' series The Dark Tower. I say 'threadbare' because he hasn't opened up at all about how he, Brian Grazer and Akiva Goldsman actually plan to put the books on screen.

But now Ron Howard has opened up a little more — but only a little.

The director talked to the LA Times, and reiterated what we knew about the basic structure: there will be one film directed by Mr. Howard, then a season of TV that he would direct, both of which Akiva Goldsman would write. Then two more films would follow, with creators unspecified. The TV series would continue between the second and third film, essentially filling in the blanks. How the films will be constructed so that the show is a useful narrative support rather than essential viewing remains to be seen. Ron Howard says the ongoing Dark Tower comic series has been instructive as a way to expand the story's scope, so that might be a hint.

(Actually, that Ron Howard will direct the first TV season is implied rather than explicit in the LAT's sentence structure. That seems wildly ambitious. Just having Akiva Goldsman write the feature and first season is pretty big, if the season is planned for anything more than six episodes or so.)

There's a lot of talk in the LAT article about the general nature of The Dark Tower, and how it will be different from anything else Ron Howard has done. But one statement stands out, amidst discussion of the story's layers of references and allusions and ambitious narrative complexity:

We say, 'At their root they're simple stories, don't be afraid to keep it simple.'

That, to me, is a beautiful thing, and the first suggestion that this could actually work. The books are huge, and no matter how many movies and TV episodes you have to play with, something has to go. I expect that some die-hards will feel the opposite, but you can't please everyone. And realizing that there is a core story from which a lot of King's references can be stripped is important. As long as it always comes back to that point, this one could have a fighting chance.

Related to that point is this statement:

It's different than anything I've ever done and in really interesting ways... With 'Da Vinci' the mandate was different. That was about getting the story and the action and focusing on acting. With this, there's this entire world and all of these references and there are the books and the graphic novels and just talking to Stephen and it's all this ongoing conversation with the material and it's really exciting. In all of it, he leaves a lot open to interpretation and so it gives a great deal of latitude.

Finally, with respect to casting, the director notes the frequent fan hope for Viggo Mortensen to be cast as Roland the Gunslinger, and doesn't shoot down names like Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman and Jon Hamm when they're mentioned. But why would he? It's way too early for casting just yet, as it sounds like the script(s) are in infant stages.