Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Truth Inside The Lie votes "NO"

I like Idris Elba.  I really do.  I haven't seen most of his most noted roles, such as The Wire or Luther.  But he was great in the things I've seen him in.
He's not Roland Deschain, guys.  He just isn't.  And yet, Hollywood is apparently thinking about it.
Here's my problem with that: Roland's race is actually rather important to the story of The Dark Tower, and there are three reasons for that (at minimum):
  • He's intended to be visually reminiscent of old-Hollywood cowboy gunfighters in general, and of Clint Eastwood specifically.  Last time I checked, Eastwood was as white as it gets.
  • He's intended to be a Twinner for Stephen King himself in some ways.  Last time I checked, King was as white as it gets.
  • The racial component of Roland's (and, to a lesser extent, Eddie's) initial-stages relationship with Detta/Odetta/Susannah would be changed utterly by making Roland a dark-skinned man.
There are arguments to be made as to how you could easily alter all of those things and still have the result be a good piece of cinematic art.  For example, you could cast both Roland and Eddie with black actors, cast Susannah as a white woman, and have Detta call them both . . . well, you know what she'd call them.
But that doesn't really have the same meaning, does it?  Susannah being a crippled but privileged young white woman in the sixties just doesn't carry the same weight.  Will she go out to colored-only roadhouses and pick up black dudes and cocktease them in the parking lot?  Not quite the same thing.
Similarly, it's not the same casting a black man as a cowboy archetype.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's the difference between Clint Eastwood and Cleavon Little, but the fact is that a dark-skinned man in this role is going to elicit a different emotion when he strolls into Tull and everyone looks at him funny.  Unless they are all dark-skinned, too; which would be an elegant and interesting solution to the matter.
Elba would also be ill-suited to play an American West avatar; not that that is an absolute must, because there is room to argue that the High Speech of Gilead could sound like just about anything.  I was fine with Javier Bardem as Roland for that reason (and also for the fact that he looks like he could walk into a room and kill everyone in it without blinking, a quality Elba also possesses to some degree).  But if they're casting Elba, they're going to have him do an American accent, and his Southern accent in Prometheus was horrendously awful.  Good performance; terrible accent.
All of this makes me think that fidelity to the source material is almost certainly the last thing on the mind of the people making this film.  If you're confused -- or disdainful -- of the impact Roland's skin tone has on the subthemes of the movie, then you're not concerned with the books themselves, I'd imagine.  You're not interested in intricacies.  You're intrigued by the dozens of articles you read -- or that your intern read and told you about -- covering the buzz surrounding the idea of Elba playing James Bond.  You're seeing dollar signs; you're seeing people clapping you on the back for the diversity of your casting.
You're not seeing The Dark Tower.
Now, all that said, I'm a great believer in diversity when it comes to movies and television shows.  And -- as I've been arguing at least as far back as 2011 -- when the race of a character doesn't have any impact on the story, I think the movie producer who isn't actively pushing for diversity is making a woeful mistake in 2015.  Same goes for gender and sexual-orientation concerns.  So, for example, you couldn't -- and shouldn't -- get away with making a lily-white version of The Stand in 2015.  And that's fine, because I'd argue that the majority of those characters can be white, black, brown, red, yellow, or just about any other color.  A few, not so much; but mostly, it's irrelevant.
I don't think the same is true of Roland, or Eddie, or Jake, or Susannah.  Other characters, sure.  For example, good lord but Elba would make for a hell of a Father Callahan.  You might want to consider changing him into a former Baptist minister instead of a former Catholic priest, granted; but otherwise, he'd own the hell out of that role.  He'd be a beyond-awesome Cort.  He'd be a beyond-awesome Eldred Jonas, or (if you were okay with this causing changes to the themes of the hypothetical film version of Hearts In Atlantis) Ted Brautigan, or the Tick-Tock Man.  What a Gasher he would be!  I'd buy him as Walter, too.

As Roland?  I can't get there.  I'm a great believer in the idea that no one race is better than another; and I'm a great believer in the idea that eventually, our species can get to a place in ourselves when we no longer see racial differences.  But that time has not yet come, and pretending that it has won't get us there.  So in some instances, I think you can change a character's race and have there be no impact on the story as a result; in others, I don't think you can.  Not for now.  Someday is not here yet.
And hey, while I'm at it, sure, why not, I'll go ahead and be that guy: you never hear these arguments going any direction but one.  Nobody is out there demanding that there be a Murder, She Wrote remake starring Hugh Laurie as Jesse Fletcher; nobody is out there demanding that we redo In the Heat of the Night with Jennifer Lopez in the Sidney Poitier role.  Nobody is calling for a Hawaiian Doctor Who.  I've heard about a gajillion people ask this, but if James Bond is destined to be played by a black man, why isn't Shaft destined to be played by a white man?  I have yet to hear anyone actually answer that in a satisfactory way, except to say that Shaft's race is important whereas Bond's isn't.  
This ignores the fact that Bond's race is actually immensely important; he was a wish-fulfillment stand-in for his creator, author Ian Fleming, whose race was assuredly important to his own life.  That, my friends, means that if you don't have Bond be a white dude, you're failing to ground the character in Fleming.  So be it; but I think that's the wrong move, just as I think it would be a mistake to fail to ground John Shaft in Ernest Tidyman.  I'd be just as opposed to seeing a white Shaft as I am to seeing a black 007.  Put a good enough actor in the role, and I'll grit my teeth and go with it; but there will be teeth gritted.
Ultimately, my problem with this movement is that it's focused (without anyone admitting that this is the case) on stamping out Whitey.  And hey, I get it: Whitey sucks.  Historically, he has sucked ass.  This is not lost on me; after all, I am of the clan Whitey, so I have seen some of that from the inside.   (Similarly, I am of the clan Male Oppressor, and I know what sort of bullshit we've been perpetrating on you ladies for eons.  Sorry about that.) 
But here's the deal: why would you want to kill Whitey and then wear all his old shirts and all his old underwear?  Why would you want to drive his old station wagon and live in his old house?  I'd think it would be more satisfying by far to get my own house, my own car, my own clothes, and then drive my awesome self past old sourpuss Whitey every day and flip him the bird while laughing about how awesome my life was.  Even if my life wasn't that awesome, that's how I'd want to play it; if I can't have an awesome life, I'd at least want Whitey to think I did.
I think there needs to be less focus on co-opting white characters for non-white actors than on commissioning stories told by non-white (and non-male) (and non-straight) storytellers.  It's the story, guys, not he who tells it.  Except that's kind of bullshit, isn't it?  Because to a large degree, I think the two things are one and the same.  
Let's start looking not for the black Roland, but for the black Stephen King.  I don't want to read or see a gay Spider-Man; I want to know what the gay Stan Lee would be like.  Where's my Muslim equivalent of Larry McMurtry?  Find me a Native American Tolkien, or a Japanese Gene Roddenberry, or an Indian Jim Henson.  
Don't take the short road, guys.  If you want actual diversity as opposed to a diversity mirage, you do it through the stories, not through the pictures between the pages.
All that said, if Big Dris ends up playing Roland, I'll go see it, and I'll try to do so with an open mind.  Give me Jennifer Lawrence as Susannah and Grumpy Cat as Oy, and maybe it'll be a classic.


  1. Grumpy Cat as Oy is good stuff.

    Yeah I agree with all of this. Welcome to my Fantastic Four Never Gets Made AS the Fantastic Four world!!

    Sooner or later this trend has to end. Its motivations are highly offensive to me, and beyond, yes, as you rightly point out, the time and energy identifying white characters to gender/race-swap for dubious reasons, under a cloud of pandering Newspeak, might be better spent supporting actual non-white-male creators (and their works.

    I always use the Sherlock Holmes example. Instead of just making hima Filipino, Bob Kane and Bill Finger just used him as a template for a new character.

    It's a troubling sign of the times. Complete lack of imagination and reactionary bimboism resulting in cannibalism.

    1. I had enough trouble dealing with an American actor playing Holmes. Downey did well, but it still seemed wrong.

      The opposition would almost certainly claim that I am an oppressor who wants to assign everyone a box and then keep them in it. I claim that their refusal to admit that the boxes are there is ensuring that they will remain.

    2. I am outraged that Laverne Cox wasn't given this role. It's like the world wants to pretend trans people don't exist WELL THEY DO. Disgusting.

  2. I'm with you 100%. Just finished blogging about it myself, in fact.

  3. I will absolutely not be seeing this. Had it not been for the character of Detta, I'd be all for it, but since that storyline exists and Sony still wants to cast Elba that tells me they have zero respect for the source material or it's fans. Count me out. Even if they announce a proper choice tomorrow there is no chance of me seeing it. Not if the script allows for Roland to be black.

    1. Hear, hear.

      It's not about "denying a black man this opportunity" or "being threatened when your hero has a different skin color than you" or any of the other canards SJW's might lob at me. It's about respect for the source material.

    2. I'll see it no matter what. And there's a chance that it'd be good even if it ended up being different; after all, Kubrick's "The Shining" is very different, and I love it.

      But there's no Stanley Kubrick working on this project. I'll give the Kubricks of the world all the room to move that they need. I'll give the Nikolaj Arcels of the world a lot less room. Maybe he'll earn that trust, but it hasn't happened yet, and this potential decision would earn him none.

  4. I haven't yet read this series, so I have no strong feelings against it, but if race is a semi-important plot point, I don't know how much confidence you can have that the filmmakers are going to be faithful to the series. It's a shame to be put into that position, because there is always so much bitching about it in other productions. For instance, as iconic as Bond is, I don't see what's fundamentally white about the role, and I think Elba would be as good as any.

    I do have to tell you, if you ever do see The Wire, you might change your tune about Elba's American accent. I had no idea he was a Brit until halfway through the series, and other folks said the same. Dominic West, on the other hand, despite doing a pretty good job at it, had several moments in the series where his Englishness is obvious.

    1. I can tell you waht's fundamentally white about Bond: his origins. He was written and created by Ian Fleming, who imagined him as a sort of wish-fulfillment stand-in for himself. More than that, he was -- probably not consciously on Fleming's part -- a sort of symbol of fading British imperialism. British imperialists were overwhelmingly white, so Bond sort of represents that lineage carried over into modern times as a symbolic figure.

      Now, in the case of Bond, I'll grant you that that is a relatively tenuous distinction. But it's not meaningless, and it isn't nonexistent; denying it is denying a portion of what makes Bond Bond.

      Plus, there's continuity to consider. Unless you do a hard reboot, you can't just change a character's race in ANY series of ongoing films. Or shouldn't, if not "can't."

      Good point about "The Wire." I really need to see that someday.

    2. Anytime "The Wire" is mentioned, I feel compelled to jump in and say Stringer Bell is such a fascinating character. Like many people, that was the role that brought Idris Elba to my attention. 2nd or 3rd best American show ever made. BSG is, of course, #1. 2nd is debatable - might even be The Wire. Carry on, ladies and gentlemen.

      I've been thinking about this all day since reading your post this morning. I'm starting to come around to two ideas: 1) It might work quite well, since the story will inevitably be changed. The only thing it would really change is the dialogue and dynamic between Odetta and the rest of the ka-tet; a considerable change but one, I'd argue, that is going to be altered even more considerably and inevitably when and if the film gets to the screen. But 2) It's never going to happen. Fun to speculate, of course, but they're not going to cast Idris Elba as Roland.

      Poor Idris Elba - two franchises where he's become clickbait-fodder without any real good reason.

    3. The only good reason -- and I'll admit that this is a TERRIFIC reason -- is that Elba is clearly a superstar waiting to happen. The right role simply hasn't come around for him yet. I think he'd be a good Roland in terms of being a romantically-hardassed killing machine. But I don't think audiences would line up to see him play that role, so Roland is -- in my opinion -- not the role to put him over the top from stardom to superstardom.

      You are almost certainly correct that there are going to have to be huge changes in order to make it work on screen. And if the Roland/Eddie/Susannah dynamic is among those changes -- as it may very well be -- then yeah, absolutely Elba could play Roland.

      I simply don't believe those changes should be made. For STORY reasons, NOT because I, in my role as The Man, am intent on keeping my boot on the neck of the darkies. I don't have that desire, believe it or not.

      If #1 is Galactica and #2 is The Wire, surely #3 has to be Friday the 13th. I mean, Robey.

    4. Robey has just shot up to #1 for my casting of Susannah.

      Well, at least her legs, from book 6.

    5. She could be Mia. Let's make this happen, Hollywood.

    6. I understand that imperialists were white, but I'm not sure I agree that's a compelling argument in your favor. I suspect there are fewer people than ever who would consider that an essential part of the character. He's boned women of all shades, and I believe that goes back a long time. I don't know about continuity, either. I haven't seen all the Bond films, but until recently I'm not sure the series was very self-referential. I think you can make a case that the Daniel Craig Bond has been a reboot. The tone has been nothing like what we used to get (and I think, far better). There were people who were upset about having a blonde Bond, so I'm sure there would be legions of aggrieved fans. Would you object to any iconic role being re-imagined with a new skin color? Black Kingpin in Daredevil and Black Human Torch in Fantastic Four are the two that immediately come to mind, but both of those had problems going well beyond race into the complete and utter shittiness of the scripts and acting, unfortunately. Just a thought.

    7. "I understand that imperialists were white, but I'm not sure I agree that's a compelling argument in your favor." -- Maybe, maybe not. How is it a compelling argument against Bond remaining white, though?

      "I suspect there are fewer people than ever who would consider that an essential part of the character." -- True.

      "He's boned women of all shades, and I believe that goes back a long time." -- Obviously. What's that got to do with any of this?

      "I don't know about continuity, either. I haven't seen all the Bond films, but until recently I'm not sure the series was very self-referential." -- In other words, you don't know what you're talking about.

      "I think you can make a case that the Daniel Craig Bond has been a reboot." -- It would be difficult to argue that it hasn't been. So let's say that they keep current continuity. Would it make sense for Bond to suddenly be a different race? No.

      "There were people who were upset about having a blonde Bond, so I'm sure there would be legions of aggrieved fans." -- There would be, which is why it won't happen during my lifetime.

      "Would you object to any iconic role being re-imagined with a new skin color?" -- It would depend on whether I thought the racial component of the character was important to the story.

      "Black Kingpin in Daredevil and Black Human Torch in Fantastic Four are the two that immediately come to mind, but both of those had problems going well beyond race into the complete and utter shittiness of the scripts and acting, unfortunately." -- I didn't have a problem with either of those, mostly because I like both Duncan and Jordan a lot. But I knew the writing was on the wall for F4 when the decision was made to not simply have both Storms be black. The party line on that was that the producers wanted to show a different sort of family, one with an adopted sibling. The real reason is that the producers were okay with the movie being a little black, but didn't want it to be TOO black, lest white audiences skip buying a ticket. I'm speculating, of course; and that project was such a disaster that it scarcely matters.

    8. Okay, let me clarify and be a little more strongly worded: did Moonraker and Octopussy reference The Man With the Golden Gun and On His Majesty's Secret Service? I'll cop to not being a Bond-phile, and that there is plenty of Bond trivia I don't know what I'm talking about, but I'm not a complete neophyte either. I don't recall a lot of continuity, and in fact it seems that they've even had to retcon some of it. I'm not even saying they should definitely cast a black actor, just that the modern UK is very different from 1962, and that whatever subconscious imperialist nostalgia Fleming may have had, it's long since been dormant in the character 007. They adapt to fit the times, and if it had been that big a deal, it seems like Bond's relations with multicultural women would have been frowned on, especially in the sixties and seventies. I think that was my train of thought yesterday. Anyway, bully for you on however you feel. It's never been my intent to wag my finger at anyone. Whoever takes it over has big shoes to fill, and I'd much rather see Elba than Hugh Jackman, as much as I like him in the right role, or even another Brosnan type (I never could really embrace him as a badass, where Craig seems like he could beat me to death with his bare hands).

    9. Moonraker and Octopussy do not need to reference The Man with the Golden Gun, seeing as how they all three star the same actor, Roger Moore. This would be like asking if The Avengers: Age of Ultron references Iron Man 1; even if it doesn't, that'd be no argument for saying that Robert Downey Jr. was playing different characters.

      Those two movies (Moonraker and Octopussy, that is) also do not reference On Her Majesty's secret Service. However, For Your Eyes Only does: Bond (once again played by Moore) visits the grave of his wife Tracy, who is killed at the end of Majesty's. Therefore, that means that all of Moore's Bond movies are in continuity with Majesty's, which is itself in continuity with all of Connery's movies. Oblique references to Majesty's can also be found in Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan's movies. Therefore, the code-name thing is complete bollocks. It's not the only reason, but it's definitely the best one.

    10. Now, all that said, I would be perfectly okay with Elba playing Bond, as long as it happened after another complete reboot. He's suave, he's incredibly badass, he's sexy, he projects a fierce intelligence; he's got everything you would want from a Bond actor.

      The one thing he doesn't have on his side is time: he's already close to being too old. If Craig retired tomorrow and they announced they were starting over from scratch (which is something I'd be okay with, given how much I disliked "Spectre"), he'd be too old to make more than maybe two or three of the films. If Craig does another one, which he almost certainly will, Elba has zero chance whatsoever.

      I used to think Jackman would be a good choice, but he is also too old.

      My hope is that they go out and find some relative unknown who can simply inhabit the role and BE James Bond. Even with Elba, he'd be good, but it's be like watching the screen and seeing Idris Elba playing James Bond. I want to just see James Bond. Which means I don't want Jackman, or Tom Hardy, or Damian Lewis (a horrible choice), or most of the other frequently-mentioned names.

      I'd also like to not have another reboot. Part of me feels it was a mistake to do that in 2006, as is.

    11. I somehow ended up on this post just now (I'm looking for your Lovecraft posts and was clicking through 2015 entries) and had to chuckle at my certainty that they'd never cast Idris Elba as Roland.


    12. What aggrieves me about it all is that I was VERY opposed to the idea initially, but on the grounds that it meant the movies were going to deviate radically from the novels, which struck me as a terrible idea.

      It DID mean that, and it WAS a terrible idea.

  5. So Sony is pretty much using a by-the-numbers approach for the Tower now is it?

    It sounds awful, but I can't say I'm too surprised. Not when this has been a kind of standard operating procedure for a lot of King's work. For instance I still worry that the It film(s) will be made with a backseat driver looking over the shoulder. Then there's that C.U.J.O. idea.

    Correct me if I'm wrong here, Bryant, but I think what's sort of at the heart of your entry here is the question when do adaptations go too far.

    That's a hell of a question and I'm not entirely sure of an answer. For instance, take "The Dead Zone". That was adapted for TV beyond recognition. Could it have been salvaged? Well I think as long as the changes were "good" in that they had some potential, then maybe. As it turned out though, not so much.

    I'm not sure what the answers are, though.

    I do know this has been a topic of debate on at least two podcasts, both by the same guy, Josh Hadley of 1201 Beyond. He discusses just what you mention in more general terms at this page (it's to start from the top down in terms of listening experience):


    1. "Correct me if I'm wrong here, Bryant, but I think what's sort of at the heart of your entry here is the question when do adaptations go too far."

      No, that's probably a fair assessment. And my answer is one that's going to serve as a self-contradiction in terms of some of my arguments above:

      I don't mind an adaptation that strays from the source material, be it mildly or radically. What I really care about is that the end product be good. And I see no reason why an Idris Elba "Dark Tower" couldn't be good in those terms.

      My objection is that this is a clear signal that fidelity to the source material is of minimal importance to the project. And while I don't mind a project straying from the source material if it results in a good movie...

      ...if it ends up NOT being good, then it tends to make me upset. Because...I mean, you had perfectly good material sitting right there! All you had to do was pay attention to it!

      "The Dark Tower" has some major issues, especially toward the ending (which I mostly love, but would change for a film adaption if I had the chance). But the first three novels (at least) are ripe for cinematic adaptation, and changing things the way it looks like this adaptation is going to feels to me like a recipe for fucking up even the GREAT parts of the series.

      But it's irrelevant. The movie isn't going to get made with him. Elba isn't a box-office star, and I have no Earthly idea why anyone is pretending that he is. He's toplined ZERO movies of this nature, and he's got at least two prestige movies under his belt that tanked at the box office with him in the lead role ("Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" and "Beasts of No Nation").

      What's happened here is that he wants to star in the movie, and his agent has leaked the story in the hopes of it gaining traction. Sony is looking to this series as a longterm franchise; they aren't going to risk his involvement alienating core fans AND, on top of that, potentially failing to bring new fans in. This is a risky project, and it's by no means a shoo-in for box-office success. Sony won't gamble on a non-star; they'll get a big name with a proven box-office record or they won't make the movie at all.

      My money is on the latter.

    2. This is so insulting and ridiculous to suggest Elba's agent leaked the story so that he would get the role. How do you know that they didn't do dozens of auditions for many different actors and they felt Elba was the best for the part because of his acting skills? Have you seen the auditions? Have you talked to the casting directors to ask the reasons for this casting? Have you talked to anyone to suggest the rumors you are spreading? You haven't of course, you just like to make stuff up. (also, that's not how works, they have the most reliable and official sources for such reports of movie productions, that's why they are considered the best media site out there. They don't just spread false rumors like a certain blog.)

      There was an interview a few years ago with Drarabont where he said he was "color blind" as far as casting actors, which I assume that's what led him to have Morgan Freeman in Shawshank. And I can't think of a single actor that could have done that role better than him, and I hear the same from other people who consider the movie a true classic. It's a shame that some people here lack the imagination to even consider that the same thing will happen again with this movie.

    3. I think it's a bit unfair to accuse or blame where there's no real call for it.

      I don't really know how Elba's name came on on the casting list. Besides, I'm not sure that "how" is what's really important.

      I think the real question here is what makes a good adaptation, or what can make a "Hollywood adaptation" salvageable. My answer to that is still the same, I'm not quite sure.

      I admit that its possible to expand on the material sometimes, and have it work. To give an example, lets take short story such as "One for the Road".

      I saw a fan-made trailer for such a project once:

      Now, it strikes me that at least "something" could be done with that kind of material.

      To be continued.


    4. Continued from above.

      For instance, it could be adapted so that the film version would start with the family heading out for a vacation. At first things seem okay, then take a slightly "Summer Vacation" vibe as one thing after another goes wrong. The tone would change once the family gets lost in the wooded back roads of Maine, and tension builds as nerves start to fray.

      The film could (potentially) build to a literal breaking point where all the family members snap at one another, and that's big "no turning back point". The audience would have to get the vibe that, if they ever get out of the woods, odds are the husband and wife would be looking at a divorce in their uncertain futures. Then the blizzard kicks in.

      What could happen then is that the husband can remember a town they just passed, and he braves the storm and makes it to the town. The problem is the town is Salem's Lot. This part would consist of the husband exploring the Lot with the creeping feeling that he's both watched and stalked. The buildup here would be toward a brief, yet effective vampire attack that the husband survives but with lots a scratches bruises. This segment would end with the husband staggering out of town and the audience thinks he's a goner, when he sees a light in the distance and as he makes his way closer, we see its the light from a tavern.

      From here, the film could follow the events in King's original short story, which opens with the husband staggering into the tavern and everything else plays out from there. Some things could be changed of course. The ending can be different, if you want.

      Like for instance the husband can fend of the vampires and stake both them and his undead wife and kid if that's what you want. Hell, you can even have Elba in the main role. The point is I hope I've at least given some idea of how a King adaptation can work, even things are changed around a bit.


    5. Chris, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable version of "One for the Road" to me. It's almost got a little bit of the beginning of "Children of the Corn" mixed into it, which is kind of a staple of King's road-trip stories.

      If Elba were cast in that, yeah, absolutely. The race is utterly unimportant. By the same logic, it wouldn't matter if you swapped the husband/wife roles and had it be the wife who survives and has to deal with the undead. Doesn't matter in the slightest. Make it a gay couple and their children. Fine!

      Some stories are much more flexible in this regard than are others.

      I just hope whoever is working on this hypothetical "Dark Tower" movie is putting as much thought into this stuff as you are.

    6. "But it's irrelevant. The movie isn't going to get made with him. Elba isn't a box-office star, and I have no Earthly idea why anyone is pretending that he is. "

      Exactly. Great actor. And like I say, maybe even a fine Roland in Neo Dark Tower of the late 2010s. But: it's just not going to happen. Trigger warning!

    7. I wish Marvel hadn't used him as Heimdall so they could have used him as T'Challa. Elba as Black Panther would have been so badass nobody would have been able to stand in. Chadwick Boseman should be fine, too, but he's a lightweight compared to Elba.

      I'm also very curious to see what his role in the next "Star Trek" movie is like.

    8. Idris as Roland, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Eddie Dean, Ron Glass as Father Callahan, keep Grumpy Cat as Oy, Teyonah Parris as Susannah, and Selena Gomez as Jake Chambers.

      C. Thomas Howell as Stephen King, Joe Hill as Bryan Smith.

      Still working on Crimson King and Man in Black.

    9. Yeah he'd have been a great Black Panther.

    10. Crimson King would have to be Vin Diesel. Walter would be Jack Black.

      Ron Glass as Callahan is something I probably actually WOULD support...

  6. "This is so insulting and ridiculous to suggest Elba's agent leaked the story so that he would get the role."

    To whom? That's a common practice in Hollywood. Happens all the time.

    "How do you know that they didn't do dozens of auditions for many different actors and they felt Elba was the best for the part because of his acting skills? Have you seen the auditions? Have you talked to the casting directors to ask the reasons for this casting? Have you talked to anyone to suggest the rumors you are spreading?"

    No to all of the above.

    "You haven't of course, you just like to make stuff up. (also, that's not how works, they have the most reliable and official sources for such reports of movie productions, that's why they are considered the best media site out there. They don't just spread false rumors like a certain blog.)"

    You're right to point out that Deadline is reputable.

    "There was an interview a few years ago with Drarabont where he said he was "color blind" as far as casting actors, which I assume that's what led him to have Morgan Freeman in Shawshank."

    Freeman also brought instant credibility to the role from a standpoint of awards attention and audience recognition. In other words, the role needed a star in order to get the movie made.

    Notice how Darabont's color-blindness didn't extend to the roles in "The Green Mile," where the racial makeup of the characters was considerably more important.

    "And I can't think of a single actor that could have done that role better than him, and I hear the same from other people who consider the movie a true classic. It's a shame that some people here lack the imagination to even consider that the same thing will happen again with this movie."

    I've considered it and admitted that it's a possibility. YOU, sir, are reading what you want to read and not what I've actually written, which is very consistent with many people who feel the way you feel. For example, you seem to feel that I am bound to have some sort of journalistic integrity. What the fuck are you smoking? This is an opinion-based blog. Anyone who reads it as anything other than that is too stupid to be reading things on the Internet.

    I suspect you are the same anonymous prick who couldn't wrap his -- or her, as the case may be -- mind around the idea that the "Cell" movie was in trouble. You got all butthurt about that for no apparent reason and have struck again. Put a name to your idiocy in the future or your comments will be deleted.

  7. I'll give anyone who wants it some vintage ammo for their Bryant-is-a-hypocrite gun:

    "I don't necessarily have a preconceived idea of what a cinematic Roland should be. Frankly, I don't even need him to be a white guy; if you told me that Denzel Washington had landed the role, I'd be thrilled. Denzel has gotten a bit too fat for the role, but he could probably slim down if needs be. Idris Elba? Even better (although based on Prometheus, I think he might be best to avoid southern American accents when possible). All I need is for the actor to be a great actor who is able to play badass and haunted and obsessed and ruthless on screen, and for him to be a relatively mature actor (i.e., not some fresh-faced fellow like Taylor Kitsch or Aaron Paul -- both of whom I love, but are way too young for the role)."

    That comes from a brief piece I wrote in August of 2012 ( about the news of Russell Crowe potentially playing Roland. So apparently 2012 Bryant thought Idris Elba was a perfectly good idea for the role of Roland!

    It gets better. Check out this statement I made in the comments:

    "And frankly, I'd kinda love to see it happen if for no better reason than to hear some of my King peeps twist themselves into knots trying to rationalize their need for Roland to be a white guy."

    Oh, 2012 Bryant, you were so adorable.

    So, what's the difference between 2015 Bryant and 2012 Bryant? All I can say is that 2012 Bryant must have forgotten how important Susannah's racial issues were, and how important those racial issues were to the subtext of the series in relation to the sixties and King's youth.

    2015 Bryant stands by everything he has said, but I knew you'd all enjoy the ability to be very specific in pointing to a time when I had a different opinion.

    And, for the record, if it works out I'm going to take credit for it.


    1. Nice find!

      I think the Dark Tower is going to have be changed substantially enough from page to screen that maybe there's a way to make it work after all. i.e. it could just be one several sweeping changes that more or less have to be made to turn this into a film (and franchise).

      I just hope they change it in a The Shining direction and not an Under the Dome direction.

    2. There'll be water if God wills it.

  8. From the Wordslinger himself via Twitter:

    "To me, the color of the gunslinger doesn't matter. What I care about is how fast he can draw...and that he takes care of the ka-tet."

    As expected. Uncle Stevie puts us back on the path once again.

    Thankee sai.

    1. Once again, King shows he knows which side his bread is buttered on...

    2. Even if King did disagree, he wouldn't say so -- he's too much of a class act to go there, plus it would be nightmarishly bad publicity for the movie and for him personally.

      What I'll say is that: if the color of the gunslinger didn't matter to him, he wouldn't have written the novels the way he wrote them.

      I'll further say this: Uncle Stevie is a lovable rascal, but his opinions are not always the best when it comes to the movies based on his works.

    3. I'm curious, what disagreements do you have with King about the adaptations of his books? I know he's a big fan of Stand By Me and Misery and hated what Kubrick did to The Shining. And unfortunately, at least 80 percent of what Hollywood has done to his work is widely regarded as crap.

    4. Go back and look for anything he had to say about "Under the Dome" prior to the series ending. Or anything he said to say about "Dreamcatcher" or "Graveyard Shift" (to name two) prior to their release. Consider the many kind things he's had to say about the various movies/miniseries Mick Garris directed for him.

      It's two things happening at once. One, he's not always the best judge of cinematic quality. Two, he's an extremely nice guy, as well as a guy who knows how to play Hollywood politics; there are times where even if he was inclined to say something negative, he's not going to say it. (Such as with "Under the Dome.") And to be clear, I'm not saying or even intimating that this is one of those cases. I see no reason not to take him at his word.

    5. It does sorta make one scratch their head when you consider which adaptation King is unreservedly NOT a fan of: The Shining.

      Of course, one of the biggest problems he had with Kubrick's film was how it just used the characters as plot devices, and how it turned Jack from a tragic hero-turned-villain into a raving psychopath.

      Say what you will about Mick Garris's films; they were as true to the source material as it was possible to be. So was Dreamcatcher (which I maintain was a bad book before it was a bad movie) and, for the most part, Graveyard Shift.

      Now, as for his comments about UTD, I'm stumped.

    6. Ditto to Josh. Dreamcatcher is one of King's most reviled works, but my understanding was that the movie was pretty faithful to the book. Were you a reader of King's contributions to Entertainment Weekly, The Pop of King? Honestly, those columns were a big part of what drove me to try reading his fiction. There are things I disagree with him on (he doesn't much like Mad Men, for one). But the perceptiveness and incisive commentary that's there in all of his fiction was also there in those columns, and actually made me a fan of his (along with hearing about his footing the bill to bring Maine troops home for Christmas) before I'd read anything of his aside from The Green Mile, despite his reputation for the grotesque, which wasn't necessarily a big part of my wheelhouse. I think he IS a pretty good judge of cinematic quality. Maybe not when it's from his own works, but man, I loved those articles, and subscribed to EW largely because of him, and I was disappointed when he left not long after I started my subscription.

    7. The movie version of Dreamcatcher veers away from the book pretty sharply toward the end. Incredibly sharply, actually. I do agree that it isn't a great (or even a good) novel, but the movie is dreadful.

      I read most of the Pop Of King columns, if not all of them. I'm still amazed and annoyed that EW hasn't issued a book collecting them all. Maybe King won't allow them to. Either way, it's a shame; there was some good stuff there.

    8. I skimmed "Pop of King" a few times. I was a Constant Reader (kinda) well before then, though. I say "kinda" because while I'd read a lot of King, there was also a lot I had not read.

      Yeah, Dreamcatcher's first hour or so is very, very faithful and then it just goes off the rails. I guess I have less animosity toward the movie than some, but that's because I refused to see it for years, having not appreciated the book at all, and when I finally saw it, having heard how abysmal it was for well over a decade, I thought "meh, that could have been worse."

    9. For me, it was a case of expectations. Not due to the novel, which I liked a bit but mostly found mediocre. No, it was the fact that Lawrence Kasdan was directing a William Goldman screenplay with that cast. That should have been sufficient to polish the book into a good movie. Not quite how it turned out.

      But in an objective sense, yeah, there are definitely MANY worse King movies.

  9. Again, if racial issues weren't central to how Roland, Eddie and Susannah relate to each other, I wouldn't care. Well, that and the fact that Roland is one of those iconic characters that should be altered as little as possible.

    1. I saw a piece of concept art of the ka-tet once -- this was from the Ron Howard days -- that showed Susannah as a white lady with legs. So...yeah...

      I know it's not exactly news that Hollywood is staffed almost exclusively by fuckups in the upper echelons, but jeez louise, man...

    2. I believe Susannah's white legs are in the books, are they not? I remember commenting on the oddness of it when I got to book 6.

    3. Probably different than the concept art you refer to, of course, the detail just occurred to me.

    4. B McBolo, he doesn't mean she had white legs. He means she apparently WAS WHITE.

      Changing Roland to a black man would be irritating. Changing Susannah to be a white woman would be evil.

    5. Gotcha, gotcha. Just googled it and yeah, problematic.

      Really, tho, Mia is problematic all around, as is Odetta. For the screen, I mean, in 2015-and-points-beyond. Maybe any decade.

      I kind of like B McBolo better than the real thing.

    6. Yes, to be clear, I definitely meant that she was white. However, I was mentally conflating two different stories, so I wasn't entirely correct.

      The concept art I mentioned can still be found here:

      You can see that Susannah is still black. But you can also see that she has legs, and this is NOT in a Book VI context.

      The second story mentions that both Jennifer Carpenter (a Caucasian) and Ghita Tazi (a French/Moroccan) were in the mix for Susannah:

      Put these things all together, and it tells me a couple of things. First, it tells me that the casting is utterly non-specific in terms of race. That means, obviously, that Odetta's origins are being ignored or have been massively changed.

      Second, it tells me -- or, at least, suggests to me -- that they are going to give Susannah her legs back and instead focus on her multiple-personality disorder. And I have to admit that Jennifer Carpenter would be GREAT in that capacity.

      However, I really don't want Susannah's race to be changed for the movies. I love Susannah as she is; she's an iconic film character just waiting for somebody to point a camera at her. Also, if we're taking PC concerns into account, there are a great many ladies in wheelchairs in the world, and they deserve to have a badass like Susannah representing them in a series of major motion pictures.

      So, yeah, I agree; making Susannah a white woman with legs WOULD be evil.

    7. All excellent points. I guess we'll see how it all comes together when we get there.

      My general take is: all iconic works deserve adaptations that are 100% faithful, at least once - something to point to and say "Okay, there it is, for better or worse." Maybe we'll have to wait until after they experiment with it a few times (a la FF) before someone gets to that point and just bring it to the screen as faithfully as possible. Here's hoping there are at least a few billionaires out there who are huge Stephen King fans and/or Dark Tower fans who might be motivated to do so.

    8. Agreed on all points.

      It's just so weird. Studio exec sits around table, says, "Whatta we got that could make a billion?" Intern says we've got The Dark Tower. "What's that?" exec asks. Intern explains premise. "That sounds GREAT!" enthuses exec. "We've gotta change everything about it!"

    9. I don't see any issue here. Yes, the dynamics of their relationship will change but not drastically. You thought Susannah was mad at a white man? Imagine how pissed she would be at a black man that acted like a white man?

      To me staying true to a story is capturing the spirit and major themes of it. Everything being brought up here as issues is window dressing stuff.

      It's also saddening to see readers of the DT stories where skin colour is irrelevant in the dynamics of the ka-tet not pick up on that.

    10. One more thing.

      For me the biggest character issue any adaptation of the DT has to face is Jake's age. How the hell will they be able to film the series, which will take 5-7 years - if not more, and keep Jake between 9 - 10 years of age? That is a character aspect that, to me, is immutable.

      Sure, you can allow Jake to age up to his late teens but in doing so it would diminish his character arc.

      Jake's age in the story is what I consider a true character adaptation issue.

    11. It's irrelevant within the bounds of the ka-tet, yes. It's very relevant to the process by which the ka-tet is formed, and it's at least somewhat relevant to the subtext of the series overall.

      "Imagine how pissed she would be at a black man that acted like a white man?" -- When you say "acted like a white man," what exactly does that mean? All of a sudden somebody in this conversation has intimated that behavior is tied to skin tone, and I'd have the record show that that person is NOT me.

      "To me staying true to a story is capturing the spirit and major themes of it. Everything being brought up here as issues is window dressing stuff." -- I honestly don't see a way in which Susannah's race, as it relates to the Odetta/Detta element of the story, could be referred to as mere window dressing.

      It may be that whatever changes they have in store will work just fine. However, they are unlikely to result in an adaptation of the series that captures what I feel to be the core dynamic.

      As for the Jake issue, that's not as big a deal as people make it out to be. Chandler Riggs on "The Walking Dead" has aged quite a bit; the kid who plays Bran on "Game of Thrones" has aged quite a bit. Nobody cares. With "The Dark Tower" you can simply say that time is funny due to the world having moved on. Simple as pie!

    12. I'd add that there are various points in the books where Roland is compared to John F. Kennedy. Susannah relates to him in that way; it's mostly a subtextual thing, but it's certainly there.

      In some ways, Roland is a quasi-mythical inspired by Stephen King's experiences of and understanding of the sixties and the cultural upheaval of the era. The books were begun when King was a college student in the midst of those times; the quest was literally born out of the struggles of those times.

      So if you remove that element of the story, you're removing a BIG chunk of subtext. If you do so knowingly, and remove everything impacted by it (or replace it with a sturdy equivalent), then maybe it will work.

      If not, you get the Mick Garris "Bag of Bones."

    13. Now...all that said...

      If you want to, I suppose you could look at the casting of a black man in the role of the Gunslinger to be a symbol of the victory of the sixties, at least insofar as the civil-rights movement is concerned. That would have a certain amount of poetry to it.

      Never let it be said that I don't consider these things from multiple angles!

      Still, I think the books -- certainly the first five of them, if not all 7 (8?) -- are pretty close to perfect as is. I don't see a whole heck of a lot to be gained from screwing around with them.

  10. There seems to be some new trend of "breaking" news that is not news on social media, only so the world can quickly divide itself into angry camps. I'm thinking of literally every "news" release on the "Ghostbusters" reboot, none of which contain any info of value but seem calculated only to trigger certain reactions, most especially the "LOOK AT ME DENOUNCING SEXISM!" reaction.

    I don't know if this news falls into that category or not, but it saddens me when I see reasonable questions about adaptation-mechanics get turned into low-hanging-fruit sentiments regarding race or gender, usually only vaguely related to the matter at hand.

    But I spent last night screencapping "Saved by the Bell," so I'm pretty sure that disqualifies me from discussion of many, many things. Anyway.

    I think the books have a lot of changes that are going to be made to them, some of them may be drastic enough to make gender/race-swapping a moot point. Who knows. We'll see. Like I say, sooner or later, it'd be nice to see an adaptation of such an iconic work that treats the source material the way Peter Jackson et al treated Tolkien's trilogy.

    1. I couldn't agree more with the "Ghostbusters" comparison, although I do feel obliged to point out that not only did the decisions in casting that movie not bother me, they thrilled me. I love Wiig and McKinnon; McCarthy less so, but I've liked her in several things, and I'll probably like her in this. So I'm fairly stoked for this new "Ghostbusters," and hope it won't disappoint me.

      I think things have gotten very, very strange the past . . . oh, I don't know how long, but let's say two years. There's this weird rush to prove how NOT racist you are, or how NOT sexist, or how NOT homo- or trans-phobic you are. And the way to do it is by saying that OF COURSE Spider-Man should be black the next time, or James Bond, or Doctor Who or whoever. It's a better idea in some cases than in others (for example, there really IS no reason Doctor Who can't be just about anything), of course.

      I've got a lot more to say about all of this, but I'm going to not to so. I sense that I'd struggle to do it elegantly, and I don't see a virtue in that.

      The Jackson/LotR comparison is apt. Those movies aren't perfect as a Tolkien adaptation, and the Hobbit trilogy is even less so, but in both cases they stuck as close as they could and kept such considerations in mind even while filming. Ian McKellan literally carried a paperback onto set with him and would conduct spot-checks!

      One suspects this will not happen with "The Dark Tower."

    2. "There's this weird rush to prove how NOT racist you are, or how NOT sexist, or how NOT homo- or trans-phobic you are. And the way to do it is by saying that OF COURSE Spider-Man should be black the next time, or James Bond, or Doctor Who or whoever."

      Oh, hell, do I agree with this. It's just so weird. Recently on IMDB (can't find the thread now, it might have been deleted) someone suggested that Jamie Foxx should be case in the planned biopic of Frank Sinatra.

      Jamie Foxx. As Frank Sinatra. You know, a guy who really existed and was, you know, white?

      When people reacted as I'm sure you have guessed, the person replied saying "So what, Foxx is cool and smooth, just like Sinatra was, and he can sing. Just because the real guy was white you think that Foxx isn't talented enough to play the part?" And the usual schpeel.

      Have we honestly gotten to the point where even if we're talking about an ACTUAL PERSON who was white we STILL have to pretend we're okay with supposed "color-blind" casting?

      Coming soon: Elvis: The Movie, starring Will Smith!

      Now, I get that historically, we've shut black people out of literature, out of comic books and out of films, preferring to pretend they didn't exist, because back in the day we were ignorant, fearful and stupid, and thus, most classic characters are white. This means that adapting classic material into film or TV form will necessitate either making a few characters black who were written white or just having an all-white cast, which in today's world just won't work. And no, changing a black character to white isn't the same thing; we've been white-washing nearly everything for years for the same reason western literature and film were almost totally white for decades, and that's not even counting the number of times a black character was cast with a white actor in make-up (blackface). I totally get that, and for the most part, I'm on board with updated diversification. For the most part, as people have argued here, the race of most characters is incidental anyway.

      But it isn't ALWAYS incidental. Sometimes, race matters. Let's use the Morgan Freeman in Shawshank example. The character was white in the book but black in the movie. Okay, but who was Red? A criminal sentenced to life in 1947. Were there prisons back then with both black and white prisoners? You bet there were. But what if Darabont had decided to cast Freeman as the warden? Think THAT would have been okay? Not on your life. A black prison warden in 1947, especially in a facility with white prisoners? No way, no how.

      I and others have argued exhaustively as to why Roland's race is not incidental. The response is basically "hey, Roland comes from another world, so of course his race is incidental", to which I reply "You apparently have not read this series in some time, and have forgotten nearly everything to do with Susannah and how she and the other ka-tet members relate to each other."

    3. It goes like this:

      Person A: I think this classic, beloved character treasured by many and immortalized in numerous pieces of artwork, and who has been historically white from the outset, should be played by a black actor.

      Person B: No way, this character is a classic and we shouldn't be changing stuff about them willy-nilly, especially not for PC reasons.

      Person A: You're just a racist.

      Person B: No, I am a fan of this character and want them to stay true to the source material.

      Person A: What's that? All I heard was "I'm a racist, I'm a racist."

      Person B: I'm saying that, while I don't usually have a problem with updated diversity in film, this character is too well-loved and classic to be screwed with.

      Person A: So what you're saying is, you own a white hood and burn crosses on peoples' lawns.

    4. It's all very wearying. I've had a few moments where I thought to myself, "Holy shit, AM I being racist? I don't THINK so, but what if I am and just don't know it?" Which, of course, is insane. But there's so much shit out there that I don't know how I could avoid swimming in it; I just hope none of it gets in my mouth, nose, or ears.

      A new episode of the Stephen King Cast ( discusses the topic. It's a great -- REALLY great -- podcast, and the host did a decent job of persuading/reminding me that there's virtually no chance the books won't be heavily adapted and changed for the movies. And given that I'm a realist and a proponent of changes provided they end up being sensible and effective, I think it means I can and will accept Elba as Roland provided the overall project is tailored to suit him.

      But I'm also going to regret not being able to see the movies I have in my head.

      I agree that Morgan Freeman would not have been convincing as the warden in "Shawshank." Anyways, yeah, Red being Irish was not important to the story in any way.

    5. I'm trying hard to figure out when, as a society, we suddenly decided that everything is racist. I mean, I grew up in the southern US. I had neighbors that would casually describe a person as "the n-word that lives down the road" in the same tone of voice they'd use to say "that blonde woman from the diner". I witnessed a pastor being told not to invite "n-words" to his church because "they have their own church." I lived in a community that was about 70% black but went to a school that was 90% black because other white families sent their kids to a school the next county over that didn't have any black students. I've seen racism. I've lived among casual racists. I know what racism is.

      And thus, I declare it to be the height of stupidity to declare that, for the simple reason that you want a film adaptation to remain true to source material, this is somehow the same thing as wishing to see a return of Jim Crow laws or something, as if I'm saying "You can't have this character! He's ours! You've got Shaft, be happy we let you have that much!"

      I listened to the podcast, and I honestly think that Lou was to blase about changes to the source material. I mean, there's changes, and then there's just re-writing the damn thing and keeping the name. Lou sounded like he not only expected but even WANTED the latter. I admit, I'd be okay with some fairly major the last three books. But the first three, and Wizard and Glass, those books are classics and should be kept as close as possible to the source material.

      It's one thing to amalgamate three wardens into one, and quite another to completely change everything about a character's motivation. If that character is a side character or incidental character, well, okay. But the main character?

      In the end, I'm on the same page as you, Bryant. I'll still likely see it, but it won't be the same.

  11. Bryant, I doubt the Kennedy subtext would make it into the movie even if a white actor is cast. Or they could just substitute Martin Luther King Jr.

    1. In that case, they need to dump Elba and get David Oyelowo.

    2. Lou (Sytsma),

      It seems Hans Lilja has added his two cents to this debate:

      Odds are you both are way ahead of me on this, however I think it might, just possibly, be a good idea for this topic to be the center of attention for the next podcast (schedules permitting).

      I don't know, but with you taking one side and Lilja taking another, it just seems like such a podcast might conceivably be a good means for both sides to present their respective cases, and possibly even reach some kind of resolution.

      As for me, I'm not a fan of casting Elba as Roland, for much of the reasons Bryant outlined above in the blog post.

      The only thing I could add would be to take this move as something that is fundamentally anti-art and pro-backstage politics, a combination that doesn't go well with actual entertainment.

      However, with that said, maybe an ideal way to solve this problem would be for them to make a kind of tie-in Tower related movie that is stand-alone, yet has connections to the main series, and they can cast Elba in that one, maybe even making his character a gunslinger. Who knows, at least its an alternative.


    3. I second Chris's call for that podcast idea!

      Ultimately, I think I'd have to say that whatever my objections to the potential casting is, it might be a good thing in the greater cultural sense of things. I wouldn't want Elba to play Roland, and I know myself well enough to know that my motivations for feeling that way are honorable. But then, I have to ask myself: what would the cultural impact be if he got the role and went on to make a hugely successful series of movies with it? What impact does that have on kids the world around who look more like he does than they do like Christian Bale or whoever? Also, what impact does it have on kids who DO look more like Bale than Elba? Does that help or hurt in the grand scheme of things? I suspect it's almost entirely a help.

      I feel like the same thing could probably be accomplished through other means, means which didn't involve compromising some elements of these particular books. But until we can get more diversity behind the scenes, that's probably not in the cards.

      Anyways, make me some great movies and all of a sudden I'm not going to care if Roland is played by Bardem, Crowe, Bale, Elba, or __________. I'm just VERY worried that this decision is indicative of a disinterest in the content of the books themselves.

    4. That's the key. As I said on my blog, none of the actors who have apparently been "in talks" have been right for the part. They're just popular, therefore the studio considered them. Up until now they've all been white.

      I also am against the idea of Matthew McConaughey as Walter, and he's obviously white as well. I object to him for the same reasons I object to Elba; he's wrong for the part and indicative that the people behind this project don't really care about it and aren't really expecting it to be a success. The January release date already had me worried. The casting rumors just sorta cement in my mind that the studio in charge of this isn't trying to give us the movie that this book series deserves.

    5. I thought Bardem was relatively right for the part. He didn't exactly scream "Clint Eastwood," but other than that, I was 100% behind that decision.

      I can also get behind the idea of McConaughey as Walter. Assuming the first movie is going to be based on "The Gunslinger," he'd fit right in with the quasi-Western milieu, and he could also play weird and starry, which would be a hint that something decidedly non-Western was happening. I think he'd be just fine.

    6. I might be alone, here, but Roland's world never felt like the "old west" to me, at least in terms of how people spoke. The sort of dialect he includes always made me think Irish or something. What really settled it was when Roland referred to the airplane bathroom as "yon privy". Cowboys don't talk that way.

      That and the constant Arthurian-type stuff. Made me think "looks like old west, sounds like Shakespeare".

      No matter how hard I try, I cannot hear Walter's lines with McConaughey's twang. It just doesn't compute.

      My issue with Bardem is that he's just too classically handsome. Roland is supposed to look hard, cold, weather-beaten and rough-hewn, with a lined, creased face that gives off a distinct "don't fuck with me" vibe. Sure, Bardem can play scary, but both of his more frightening, villainous roles had him playing psychotic, not cold and hard.

      Now, I could be wrong. Maybe he would have made a perfect Roland, but he was far from the best choice.

    7. Cowboys say "yonder" a lot, which is where "yon" derives from. But yeah, it's certainly true that much of Mid-World is anything but Westworld.

  12. Why, oh why, can't we have Liam Neeson?

    I'm of the opinion that Elba would make a fantastic Bond, or Doctor for that matter. I am of the camp that sees the Bond role as being a code name and assignment that very talented agents take over (after first having been thoroughly profiled and tested to ascertain their suitability and skill) and that this explains the shifting characters through the years. So I don't see any race issue in casting a black actor.

    But for Roland ... No. Just no. I agreed with all your points and more. Not only is Elba the wrong race, he's also the wrong age! Roland is a father figure to Eddie, Jake, and Susannah, in his way. But especially Eddie. That would never play out with Elba, no matter who they have play Eddie. What about the arthritis which begins to cripple him when they're holed up in the Calla, which Rosa helps him treat?

    This is an older man. A quiet man. A cautious man. A hardened gunslinger. Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western. Cold blue eyes. Quick flashing steel. Toughened leather skin.

    And how can the backstory of Susan Delgado hold as much bittersweet nostalgia, looking back over the years as Roland does ... if not from the perspective of a much older man?

    1. "I am of the camp that sees the Bond role as being a code name and assignment that very talented agents take over (after first having been thoroughly profiled and tested to ascertain their suitability and skill) and that this explains the shifting characters through the years."

      At the risk of being insulting, I'd have to point out that this means you're of the camp that ignores the evidence proving it is NOT a codename. There isn't a huge amount of it, but it's there. There would probably be more of it, except those movies were mostly made during the blissful pre-Internet era, when wackadoodle "theories" like this one didn't happen. There was no need for anyone to explain that Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby had played the same character, because it was assumed that everyone simply knew it.

      The Craig movies rebooted to a different timeline, but even they make it plain that James was born with the name "James Bond." Unless they reboot again, you couldn't bring Naveen Andrews or whoever in to play Bond after Craig, because it just doesn't work. I guess the new movies could always introduce the codename idea into canon, but what a silly development that would be. Wouldn't be any worse than some of the bullshit introduced by "Spectre," though, so nothing will surprise me at this point.

      I like the Liam Neeson idea. I think it would be very cool for Roland to be a bit older, and it definitely would help to sell the arthritis issue (although I figure that will be totally abandoned and therefore won't matter). Neeson doesn't do American accents very well, though, so if it were to happen, I'd just as soon he keep his natural Irish voice.

    2. In regards to Bond, no, that's so obviously not true.

      Now, when they cast Daniel Craig, they had to reboot the continuity (flimsy though it might have been) because Craig could never claim to be the same man in the same universe as Sean Connery (actually, I don't know why they rebooted it, but I'm glad they did for that reason). As long as they did it again, I'd be very much on board for Elba's Bond. That said, he's too cool for the Doctor. The Doctor's got to be a bit nerdy, and there is nothing nerdy about Idris Elba. If you want examples of black actors who could play the Doctor easily, Richard Ayoade would be an amazing Doctor, and I also understand the part was offered to Chiwetel Ejiofer, who would have also been great. But just being British isn't the only qualifier where being the Doctor is concerned.

      Back to Roland; I understand Liam Neeson was in the running for a while, if only briefly. The idea of Liam Neeson as Roland kinda gives me goosebumps, but I don't know if he's the best choice anymore. He's in danger of being TOO old, and he's filling out in the face.

      Roland is definitely not young, but I would not object to someone in their 40's or 50's playing him as long as they could look older than they are. I think the youngest I'd be okay with would be about 45. The oldest would be around 60, but still hard and hearty. If Neeson was cast tomorrow, I'd be fine with that. If it's 2021 by the time this thing gets made, my answer is NO.

      Presently I've got two guys who are my first and second choice. Neither one has been one of the "popular" choices. That said, some of the ones I've been holding onto have been discarded as unrealistic.

    3. Funny thing about Liam Neeson: he was attached for probably the better part of a decade to play Lincoln, and he just got too old. The way the Dark Tower thing has been plodding along, we'll be lucky to get it by 2021.

      Also, the thought of Richard Ayoade as the Doctor makes me laugh. I'll never be able to think of him as anyone but Moss.

    4. I still wish I could have seen a Spielberg/Neeson "Lincoln." I mean, it turned out fairly well with Day-Lewis, granted, but still.

      Roland's age is an interesting issue. I don't think I'd want him to be TOO young, but at the same time, I'd want a genuine sense of vitality from him. Neeson could probably still bring that quality, but over the course of what you've got to hope is a long series? Debatable.

    5. If they went for an older actor, how about Mel Gibson? Obviously that's not going to happen, but I think he has the right look these days, he certainly has the acting chops and he could even double as the director. They can do a hell of a lot worse in that department than the director of Braveheart and Apocalypto. And, by all appearances, they have.

    6. It would never happen as a result of the controversies attached to Gibson now; but in terms of pure acting ability and filmmaking ability, yeah, I could get behind that. Moreso as director than star, but I could go for either.

    7. The perfect age range to play Roland would be somewhere between 40 and 50, but they'd have to be a 40 with "some city miles" on them, or a 50 that still looked powerful.

      I'd be willing to see them go a bit older, as long as the person in question is in excellent physical health and looks a bit younger than 60+. I do agree, Bryant, that being that old now means they'd be pushing 70 by the later installments, so yeah, that's too old.

      Liam Neeson would have been excellent about 10 years ago. It's kind of a shame.

    8. I agree, but he has been working a bit more regularly these past few years, including a semi high-profile role in The Expendables 3. But I doubt that he ever headlines a major Hollywood movie again and certainly not a big budget film like this one. He came to mind because I was thinking that George Miller (Mad Max series) would be the perfect director. But at 70, I have my doubts as to whether or not hr could see it to completion. So, I thought, why not Mad Max directing and starring?

      I do like the idea of an older actor who hasn't really made an impact at the box office in a while using this as a comeback vehicle. Kevin Costner has made some westerns and was good in them, but I don't see him as Roland. Ditto Kurt Russell (though he's still my top choice for Bill Hodges).

      Michael Douglas is a bit too old at this point, but he would have actually been acceptable at one time. Even now, I'd really have no worries if he were cast. His father is still alive and kicking at 99, after all.

      I can picture Matt Dillon (currently 51) as Roland for some reason.

    9. I don't think I'd end up casting Dillon, but I'd give him an audition. And then consider him for Callahan.

  13. 10 Best Directors to Make a King adaptation

    1. Stanley Kubrick
    2. John Carpenter
    3. Brian De Palma
    4. David Cronenberg
    5. Rob Reiner
    6. Frank Darabont
    7. George A. Romero
    8. Tobe Hooper
    9. Bryan Singer
    10. Lawrence Kasdan

    Did those directors deliver the absolute best King adaptations? Not all of them. In fact, Kasdan's contribution is dire (though there wasn't much to be done with the weak source material) and I consider Carpenter's to be the one mediocre film in a decade-plus stretch of home runs. But with directors like these in charge we at least knew we wouldn't be getting the very worst King adaptations. These days I'm skeptical of every King adaptation that's announced because the directors do not inspire confidence. Cast whoever your number one choice is in this movie and it will still be mediocre at best. You could have been guaranteed the same result even if you cast Adam Sandler as Roland in a great director's movie and of the two it would have more potential to rise above mediocrity.

    Casting is secondary. Hire a good director first. Somebody who could be added to the list I made and the closer they come to the top the better. I'd rather have no Dark Tower movie than a half-assed Dark Tower movie.

    1. I absolutely agree that the director is a crucial decision. The guy they've hired (Nikolaj Arcel, I believe -- too lazy to Google it right this second) is a completely untested director; I'm not sure he's ever directed anything. That does not inspire confidence. But it also isn't automatically a bad thing; all great directors started somewhere, and a few of them started by directing great movies. No reason this dude couldn't join those ranks.

      But I'm not confident in it.

      I don't agree that Carpenter's "Christine" is mediocre, though I certainly see why somebody else would feel that way. I think it's a very good movie, and a better one than "The Fog" at the very least. I might take it over "They Live," too, but probably not. That was a heck of a decade Carpenter had, though.

    2. Arcel has directed four films, all Danish. I understand they're pretty good films, and one of them was a fantasy.

      That said, hiring him does seem like they just picked the guy they could get for the least money. I mean, they've decided before the script is even handed in that they're releasing it in January. It's like they're sure it's gonna fail.

    3. January isn't a dumping-ground like it used to be. Movies like Cloverfield, Lone Survivor, and American Sniper have done very well during that month in recent memory.

    4. Sniper was released in December though.

    5. Well...yeah, but that was only a limited release. It made the overwhelming majority of its money in wide release, which didn't happen until January. Same thing happened with "Lone Survivor."

      Take it from someone who works at a movie theatre: January is no longer a sign of a movie being dumped with low expectations.

    6. Yeah, I guess you'd know better. But how many of the movies that do well in January are Oscar contenders getting their wide release? I'm truly asking, not just being contrary. It still seems, to this guy who doesn't work in a theater, that movies that get their first release in January still have to struggle with those award contenders and Christmas crowd-pleasers. The 5th Wave, Jane Got a Gun and The Finest Hours look like they might be pretty good, but I doubt they'll make Star Wars worried about box office.

      But you're most likely right.

    7. It's a mix. Some (American Sniper, Lone Survivor, Gran Torino) are; some (Ride Along, Paul Blart, Cloverfield, Taken) aren't. The mere fact that Sony jumped on the release date they chose is an indication that they think it can be a successful one for this particular movie. After all, some movies released during that month ARE just being dumped, but that's generally not something that's applicable to a movie for which the release date is chosen prior to the movie being greenlit. That only happens when a studio covets the date and wants other studios to steer clear of it.

      None of that guarantees it being a hit, of course. It would be entering a market that had (presumably) just gotten hit pretty hard by "Star Wars: Rogue One," so people's ticket-money might be all spent by then.

  14. For anyone who's interested Hans Lilja and Lou Sytsma now have the latest podcast up, and they discuss the very topic of this entry post:

    Thought everyone ought to know.


    1. I don't want to listen to it yet because I'm not caught up on Haven! I might try to just skip to the Dark Tower segment.

      Thanks, Chris!

  15. Well, it looks like Akiva Goldman has weighed in on this whole debate for the tie-breaker.

    His opinions can all be summed up in this link from Lilja's Library:

    For my own two cents, the only thing I could have to say about the "appearances" of the actors would have only to do with the thematic dynamics between the characters as King originally wrote them.

    In making his main heroine a conflicted African-American Civil Rights worker, it's obvious enough that King is trying to tackle the question of both race relations, and the promise and fallout of the Sixties as a whole. There are other themes inherent in the material as well, yet the question of race is one he keeps coming back to through all the books.

    I would go further and make the claim that in some ways it is these very thematic elements (racial or otherwise) that pack most good stories with a real punch. It's what keeps most audiences (or at least the dedicated) coming back for a revisit.

    However, it also seems obvious that Goldman fundamentally doesn't believe such themes can have importance to a story. It may even be that he's not alone in this, and that his attitude is expressive of the modern Hollywood mindset in general. In some ways, there's a lot to applaud in that. To be even more fair, it is possible that such questions could matter only to a dedicated handful, rather than the audience at large.

    Still, for all that, I admit I don't see how any genuine entertainment can be had without keeping in mind the original theme that gave the Tower books their impact in the first place. Which is a long way of saying I'm starting to think this won't be a good adaptation.


    1. It's such a complicated topic that it almost feels like anything else I can say about it would be insufficient, if not actively counterproductive.

      I'll settle for saying that I agree with all your points, and that I can see both the good and the bad about issues of this nature.

      I still don't think it's going to happen, though.

  16. This isn't much of an update, but it's worth a mention: Stephen King has gone on the record saying the he believes the Dark Tower movie will happen with Elba and McConaughey. (

    However, I saw a news article elsewhere that made me raise an eyebrow skeptically:

    Within, it mentions Elba being up for a role in the adaptation of "The Mountain Between Us," which is expected to begin filming early this summer.

    Why is this notable within a "Dark Tower" context? Well, that's easy: if Elba takes a role that films this summer, it would mean that "The Dark Tower" would almost certainly not be able to make its alleged January 2017 release date. Maybe Sony will end up delaying "The Dark Tower," of course; but the fact that Elba is seemingly looking at other projects indicates that there may be some serious indecision going on behind the scenes on "The Dark Tower."

  17. In other King-movie news, word broke this week that Samuel L. Jackson was strongly considering taking the role of Charles Jacobs in Josh Boone's film adaptation of "Revival."

    I've seen a few commenters on various websites comparing this to the Elba-as-Roland story, and shaking their heads in disgust that another white role has gone (potentially) to a black actor.

    As this post makes clear, I'm opposed to Roland getting a racial makeover. This is because I think Roland's whiteness is important to the story.

    However, Jacobs' race makes virtually no difference. Therefore, I'm very excited about the prospect of Jackson taking on that role. He's an actor I love to watch work, and if he's given a big, meaty role like Jacobs is sure to be, he will knock it out of the park. I can even imagine a scenario in which the movie is (A) great, (B) a big hit, and (C) critically praised to such an extent that Jackson lands an Oscar nomination.

    Jackson -- one of the world's all-time biggest movie stars -- has never won an Oscar. It'd be cool if this movie ended up being a classic and got him that gold statue.

    That's all pie-in-the-sky thinking, of course, but when one of my favorite actors gets cast in a role I already cared about, that's bound to happen.

  18. Well, I'm a little surprised, but it looks like this thing is actually happening:

    And I have to say that while the Dark Tower fan in me is still unimpressed by the direction it's headed, the movie fan side of me would give enthusiastic thumbs-upses to a sci-fi/fantasy/horror/Western starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey.

    So bring it on, I guess. I hope it's awesome!