A Dark Tower Trilogy AND TV Series?

Now this is a real jaw-dropper. In an age when uncertainty about budgets and success means most filmmakers are pruning projects back to the bare minimum to avoid costs and risks, Ron Howard and producers Brian Grazer and Akiva Goldsman are planning to turn Stephen King’s massive novel series The Dark Tower into a trilogy of movies. Oh, and a TV series that will run between them.

It was reported back in April that Howard, Grazer and the rest were cooking up an idea for a film and follow-on TV series, which was the only way they, through production company Imagine, could adapt the sprawling tale of Roland the gunslinger and his quest to save humanity by reaching the titular structure.

Now Deadline has more details, including the fact that Imagine partner Universal’s film and TV sections have won the deal to host the trilogy and the TV series, beating down Warners (which is where Goldsman has his production company) for the chance. We sort of hope they faced off with an actual gunfight given the material, but we’re pretty sure it was just boring business negotiation.

And here’s the even more intriguing part. The current plan calls for Howard to direct both the first film and at least the entire first season of the series, which he’s comparing to Peter Jackson’s efforts on Lord of the Rings. “What Peter did was a feat, cinematic history,” Howard tells the site. “The approach we’re taking also stands on its own, but it’s driven by the material. I love both, and like what’s going on in TV. With this story, if you dedicated to one medium or another, there’s the horrible risk of cheating material. The scope and scale call for a big screen budget. But if you committed only to films, you’d deny the audience the intimacy and nuance of some of these characters and a lot of cool twists and turns that make for jaw dropping, compelling television.

“We’ve put some real time and deep thought into this, and a lot of conversations and analysis from a business standpoint, to get people to believe in this and take this leap with us. I hope audiences respond to it in a way that compels us to keep going after the first year or two of work. It’s fresh territory for me, as a filmmaker.”

The three filmmakers apparently first considered adapting King’s series when they were working on A Beautiful Mind, but figured he’d never sell. Until, that is, King gave JJ Abrams the rights for $19. But Abrams and his collaborators could never make it work, so when the option became available again, Grazer and Howard jumped on the chance.

Right now, the thinking is to launch the story with a film, then run the first season on television (how many episodes has yet to be decided, and we’re not sure we see Howard making 22 of the blighters), then a sequel film, followed by a second TV season that will chart the younger days of Roland’s life, as chronicled in a prequel comic that King was involved in creating. But it would mean a big name signing on for both the first film and at least two seasons of TV.

Can it work? Is it too ambitious? If anyone can pull it off, it’s these three, but what say you? Good idea? Or will it collapse like a cowboy shot through the noggin?

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