July 19, 2011

THE BIJOU: Lights Out For “The Dark Tower”

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Once upon a time, there was a series of fantasy adventures by a hugely bestselling author, and a grand, ambitious plan to film them all.  In the end, they were adapted into gigantically successful movies, and the last one set the world’s record for the most successful opening weekend ever…
But this is not that story.

Filming Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series would dwarf the difficulties of bringing Harry Potter to the screen.  The Tower books, inspired by a Robert Browning poem, are set in a variety of different dimensions, with a surreal, genre-jumping storyline that’s crazily complicated (apart from the official 7 volumes, it seeps into more than a dozen of King’s “non-Tower” books and involves characters from his entire career) and no central conflict as clear as Harry vs. Voldemort.  And then there’s the ending, which I won’t spoil here.
The news that Universal has ditched its plan to try to film all this with a combination of 2 feature films and 2 TV series is, frankly, a relief.  I don’t think anyone outside of the Ron Howard and Brian Grazer households thought Howard was an ideal match for the dark, stylized, Moebius strip material.  The idea of turning some of it into a pair of network TV series always sounded cockeyed, and from Universal’s point of view, it was doubtless going to cost bazillions of dollars (and be hard put to avoid R ratings).  
The Dark Tower has tantalized filmmakers over the years, and no doubt it will continue to do so (for that matter, Howard, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and Imagine are now free to try to sell their version somewhere else).  Possibly Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron or Terry Gilliam could do it justice, if there were a practical way to pull it off.  For now, though, everyone seems to have dodged a gunslinger’s bullet.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."