By: Mac Maclamore
I reported last Friday that Warner Brothers had officially let their option on “The Imitation Game” lapse, and now it seems just a few days later they are ready to let another project fall to the wayside in the Stephen King adaptation THE DARK TOWER.
For those of you not quite up to speed on the King adaptation, lets get a quick refresher…
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
The basis for the proposed three film & two season TV crossover is based on the seven-book Stephen King series “Dark Tower” that began it’s life with “The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger” in 1982 and has since gone on to sell more than 30 million copies as of 2010.
WHO ARE THE MAIN PLAYERS?
Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Akiva Goldsman. Howard and Grazer were the pair to snatch the rights up for their Imagine Entertainment, with the duo tackling familiar duties in director and producer. Goldsman, who they’d previously partnered up on “A Beautiful Mind” with was hired to come aboard and write both the first feature script, the first TV pilot (alongside TV vet Mark Verheiden), and to create a working bible for the story as it would play over multiple films and TV seasons. When the project transitioned to Warners, he and his Weed Road company would also step in to produce. To say this was, and still continues to be ambitious is a huge understatement.
WHO ARE THE SUPPORTING PLAYERS?
Casting shortlists & quite frankly “longlists” have come and gone with a laundry list of A-listers in contention for the main roles. The most frequent, and closest to confirmed on Warners’ version continued to be Russell Crowe and Idris Elba (as Roland and Walter). But a lot of other names have slid across the 3-picture/2-season run including; Javier Bardem (who was the lead for Universal’s take), Viggo Mortensen, Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Carpenter, Ghita Tazi, Naomie Harris and Zoe Saldana. Keep in mind the commitment to “Dark Tower” would trump any 6 picture Marvel commitment by miles.
WHERE HAS IT BEEN?
Being that Imagine has a deal with Universal Pictures, the first stop always had to be Uni itself. Seeing the high caliber of talent behind it Uni of course stepped up to plate and set the project into a year long active development cycle. In the process, it was easy for them to walk the project over to their sister broadcasting network NBC and set the series up as well. So far, so good. Actually, dare I (and everyone in the industry) say, “so far, spectacular” for such a huge multi-platformed project. But, the ship was soon to steer off course, as late Spring 2011 Universal issued a release announcing production on the first film (starring Bardem) was being pushed to 2012. This was the beginning of the end, as Uni then told Howard/Grazer not only that they needed to trim the budget (they managed to cut $45 million out), but that they’d now only commit to one feature film, and would review everything upon release. For the filmmakers this was a non-starter, and the transition from Uni to Warners began to take its first steps.
But before Warners stepped in, Imagine met with several suitors, even announcing in October 2011 that HBO had signed on for a guaranteed two-to-three season TV run – something they needed for the multi-platformed trilogy to work. A few months later, in March 2012, Warners steps in to finance and release the three film trilogy, which is now set to star Crowe, not Bardem, and which Goldsman and his Weed Road Pictures, and King himself are now also officially producing. Production is set for early 2013, and off Goldsman goes to rewrite the first installment.
Cut to August 1st, 2012, and Warners (like most every studio right now) starts to get cold feet at the idea of launching a “Lord of the Rings” sized trilogy with no previous awareness in the film or TV world. Just under three weeks later, a script comes in from Goldsman, that in truth probably weighed very little (if at all) on the final decision, and Warners pulls the plug on the project.
One day later, financing company MRC (Media Rights Capital) begins early talks to step in and become the new backers of the trilogy, knowing that HBO is still interested in keeping a series running. This commitment would be MRC’s largest (and most prestigious) to date, having only previously committed to films in the $60 million and under range. Dark Tower would command in the realm of triple that per film. But, MRC has slowly been building a steady stream of profitable films, from their most recent release “Ted”, the 2011 released “Adjustment Bureau”, and the 2010 released “Devil”. And lets not forget “Elysium” – the very highly-anticipated Neill Blomkamp follow up to “District 9”. MRC made that happen too.
If MRC and the creative team come to terms (I think they will on most everything) I think an early 2013 start date is still very practical for the film, with a possible Summer 2015 release, and Fall 2015 release for the first season of the series. MRC seems like a great fit for this project because they bring fresh blood, eagerness and drive… and they clearly see “Dark Tower” for what it is – a very real chance at being the guys who make the biggest trilogy in history come to life – and a very real chance to not only make MRC one of the top level mini-majors (remember Summit pre-Twilight to post-Twilight), but to also make outrageous amounts of money and prestige in the process.