It was eight months ago that we first heard that director Ron Howard, writer Akiva Goldsman and producer Brian Grazer had acquired the rights to Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower' and were planning an ambitious multi-platform adaptation of the seven-book series that would span three films and two seasons of television. After much speculation as to what a Howard-directed fantasy epic would look like, plus the wringing of sweaty, fanboy hands over the potential quality of such an endeavor, the LA Times has an excellent "first look" of sorts at the current status of the project.

As the headline suggests, a series of names are thrown about for the role of Roland Deschain, a wandering Gunslinger who goes on an epic quest across multiple dimensions to reach the fabled Dark Tower and save the universe from destruction, and Howard doesn't shoot any of them down: Viggo Mortensen, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig and John Hamm.

Before we go off half-cocked and declare this a final list or some such nonsense, it's important to note that this is just friendly spitballing and that of course these names are on Howard's list -- they're only some of the biggest stars working right now. The big question is whether or not they'll be able to lock down a big star willing to commit years of his life to a single project that would span the large and small screen -- and with a series this geeky, violent and downright strange, a star will be all but required to sell this thing to the norms. You really can't sell a mass audience on "fantastical science fiction spaghetti western."

It's difficult to picture Jackman and Craig joining another major franchise (aren't Wolverine and Bond enough, really?) and Hamm, although a wonderful actor, is all kinds of wrong for the role of a grizzled, worn out cowboy, but Mortensen feels right for the role, having dabbled in epic fantasy and quiet badassery on more than one occasion.

Casting rumors aside, the original article is quite a read, especially for fans of the series who must be scratching heir heads as to how they can possibly pull this thing off, particularly in regards to the last few books which just get, well, weird. As in unadaptable weirdness. As in "There is no way this conclusion could ever work in a film" weird. (Fans are still debating over whether or not the final stretch of the series even works at all). Heck, the sprawling, mythic story already defeated director JJ Abrams and writer Damon Lindelof, who should know a thing or two about weirdness after their work on 'Lost.'

Howard directly addresses the difficulty in adapting the series and his thoughts can be boiled down to one simple statement:

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

And you know what? He's right. A filmed version of 'The Dark Tower' will never be able to encapsulate everything about the books and there are more than enough moments in the series that simply don't feel particularly cinematic (particularly a controversial ending that feels stunningly anti-climactic after seven books of build-up). Stripping down the story and making it about a group of characters on an epic quest and sidestepping the metatextual subplots that permeate the second half of the series will be the only way for a film version to even begin to function.

Although Howard doesn't seem like the first choice for this series, his enthusiasm feels palpable in this article. The strongest endorsement for this take comes from Stephen King himself:

"I've been waiting for the right team to bring the characters and stories in these books to film and TV viewers around the world. Ron, Akiva, Brian along with Universal and NBC have a deep interest and passion for the 'The Dark Tower' series and I know that will translate into an intriguing series of films and TV shows that respect the origins and the characters in 'The Dark Tower' that fans have come to love."

So keep yourselves optimistic, ladies and gentlemen. The project still hasn't even received and official green light from Universal, which means we've got a long wait ahead -- and it's better to wait in anticipation rather than dread.
CATEGORIES Movies, Cinematical