Universal Passes on The Dark Tower
07.19.11 by Ryan
At times, director Ron Howard's plan to adapt Stephen King's massive The Dark Tower series seemed too ambitious to work. Turns out, it was.
Deadline reports that, after having issues with the budget that ultimately delayed the adaptation's start date, Universal Pictures has decided to pass on the project. The plan for The Dark Tower was to adapt the novel series — which consists of seven novels (soon to be eight) and a short story — into a trilogy of movies, with two TV series to air in-between to help bridge the movies. Howard's A Beautiful Mind screenwriter Akiva Goldsman wrote the script for the first movie and TV series, but, according to the report, Universal would only commit to the first movie and not the series. This wasn't good enough for Howard and producer Brian Grazer, whose Imagine Entertainment production company will retain the Dark Tower rights.
Both Deadline and EW think that Warner Bros. is the most likely suitor for the project, as the studio is looking to fill the gap that the Harry Potter franchise is leaving. It remains to be seen, however, whether Warners will find Dark Tower to be "too costly [and] too big a risk" like Universal, which has made a habit lately of tuning down high-profile projects with big budgets. The studio behind hits like this year's Fast Five and Hop also released box office bombs like Your Highness and The Dilemma (coincidentally, directed by Howard) and last year's Green Zone and The Wolfman, both of which had a budget of $100 million or more and performed poorly at the box office (that hasn't stopped Universal from developing yet another attempt at rebooting the Wolfman property).
Universal's reticence with big-budgeted risks is becoming customary, with the studio recently rejecting the $150-million-budgeted, R-rated adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, despite the presence of director Guillermo del Toro, producer James Cameron, and actor Tom Cruise in the lead role. Considering that, according to EW's report, Howard wanted $200 million for the first Dark Tower movie and TV series, Universal's track record makes their decision less surprising.
King, for one, isn't worried at all, telling EW that Universal's rejection isn't a concern for the prolific author, who still sees a bright future for his character of alternate universe gunslinger Roland Deschain.
I’m sorry Universal passed, but not really surprised. As a rule, they’ve been about smaller and less risky pix; maybe they feel it would be better to stick with those fast and furious racing boys. I bear them no ill will, and trust Ron Howard to get Roland and his friends before the camera somewhere else. He’s very committed to the project.
For those interested in the big-budgeted movies Universal did decide to make, 2012 will see the release of director Peter Berg's Battleship (May 18), an adaptation of the Milton-Bradley board game, and 47 Ronin (November 21), which stars Keanu Reeves as one of 47 18th-century samurai looking to avenge their master's death. Both movies reportedly have budgets over $200 million.
Universal had planned a May 17, 2013, release for the first Dark Tower movie, a week before the studio debuts Fast and the Furious 6 (working title).