Total Pageviews

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

EDIT: Much has happened since I wrote this post. The Dark Tower movie has moved forward, and Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey will indeed be playing Roland and Walter. Now, from all that I've been able to gather from this project, this really will be The Dark Tower in name only, and I don't just mean casting the wrong actors in the central roles. It seems that the producers behind this project don't feel the books are worth respect and I firmly believe the film will bomb, just like The Golden Compass and the original The Lord of the Rings film. This means that it will be quickly forgotten other than as a punchline and a few years down the road, someone can try again and this time, do it right.

I still think Daniel Knauf is the man to bring this to life, and now I think he's even more appropriate, because I have re-thought this and I think this will work as a TV series.

One of the reasons I wanted it to be a movie series was that it was the lynchpin of the SKCU. That said, many if not most of my adaptations thus far have been theatrical films, and this series can act as its Agents of SHIELD. Besides, this story becomes so layered that really a TV series is best anyway. As with The Stand, I want NetFlix to handle it.

The events of this book will be the first season. This means I was a bit prescient including off-page characters like Vannay and Farson in the cast list. In a TV series like this, they're definitely going to appear on screen.


We've arrived, folks. The second of three beams holding up this blog, and the most important.

Well, one seventh of this beam. But the keystone. Buckle up, everybody, this is going to be a very long post.

I have a lot of feelings about The Dark Tower, strong ones. Stephen King calls the series his "magnum opus", and I feel that's fair, because it's surely the biggest thing he ever attempted. It was so big it almost defeated him. Indeed, some argue that it actually did.

King started writing what would become this first volume of the series in 1970, when he found a sheaf of green paper in a library, and for reasons he wasn't even sure of at the time, wrote the following line:

"The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed."

Thus began a mosaic novel that it would take him over twelve years to complete.

This story first gained life when its first part, simply called The Gunslinger, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in October of 1978. By November of 1981, all five parts of the story had been published by that mag, and in 1982 they were collected in this single volume. Having never read the magazine versions (having been not even one year old when the first one was published), I have no idea if they were revised at all when they were first collected, so I don't know if what I just finished was how this story initially read, but it's all we have for the time being.

From that initial volume, the series was born. I can safely say it's like nothing else I've ever read. I don't necessarily mean "better" than anything else, just very, very different. It's a dark fantasy western with a pinch of horror, science fiction and science fantasy, and thrown together in a mish-mash that includes "portal fantasy" and breaks just about every "fantasy rule" one can break...and yet, it works. At least, a majority of readers feel it does. More on that later.

One odd thing about this series is how sporadic its publication was. The first volume was published in 1982, but we didn't get the second until 1987. The third came in 1991, the shortest wait between volumes we'd have until the early 2000's. The fourth came in 1997. King then finished the series off with three final volumes, written together, published between 2003 and 2004. Almost a decade later he was inspired to write another volume, one that chronologically takes place between the fourth and fifth volumes. Eight volumes over 30 years. 34 years if we're going by the actual first Gunslinger story's publication date.

This played havoc with my chosen reading order, as you can well imagine. I'm a big reader of fantasy, which is about 99% serialized, and normally I read all the volumes of a given series in order, one right after the other. That's how I've read The Dark Tower every other time I've read it. But this time I wasn't reading just one series; I was reading the entire output of said series author, and, this was important, by order of original publication date. This meant reading the first volume, then putting this series on hold to read the stuff published between it and the second volume, then who knows how many weeks later resuming this series, then putting it on hold again, etc.

I toyed briefly with the idea of just breaking my pattern and reading them all at once, then doing one large blog post about the series overall. What stopped me were several ideas. First of all, the volumes of this series were each written at a different point in King's career, giving us a little microcosm of his development as a writer. This idea intrigued me. I also realized that by sticking to publication date, I actually was reading the series, one after the other. I'll explain what I mean by giving you more of an idea what the series is about. I do feel like I should give a spoiler warning, because I'm given to understand that even some devoted King fans have yet to read this thing, some even refusing to do so because they "don't like fantasy" or something.

The Dark Tower takes place (mostly) in a pseudo-post-apocalyptic world that clearly has some things in common with ours and yet also clearly does not. It focuses on Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger of Gilead, as he treks his way across his world that has "moved on", searching for a mysterious tower that haunts his dreams. What that tower represents is, quite literally, all of reality that might exist on any plain. It is the nexus of all worlds that exist or might exist. Our own included. And something has gone wrong.

This first volume is pretty sparing in letting us know much more than that, as it mostly focuses on the Gunslinger himself pursuing a mysterious "man in black" who might have some answers about his quest. However, many references are made to the idea that "time's funny here" and "something has happened to time". This world having "moved on" means a lot more than just how desolate and degraded it is. The fabric of its reality might literally be falling apart.

In later volumes, we will see that in fact, all of King's fiction, to varying degrees, are connected to this one by virtue of taking place in one of the many realities connected to the Tower. Several of these works directly reference the Dark Tower story line, while other books that seemingly have no connection are brought into the Tower's world. In fact, sometimes, characters and events from King's other works have to be read first in order to make sense when they show up in The Dark Tower.

After realizing that I was going to have to read the books intermixed with King's other fiction, I then began to wonder how I should pursue this course of action. Should I read the first volume as though it was a collection of novellas, or as a single volume? I decided on the second option there, telling myself that the magazine supplements were akin to an author releasing chapters of their books online before releasing the whole thing. But then, should I wait until I'd read the entire series and do a long blog post about the whole thing? Could I wait that long? Should I ask my readers to do so? It didn't make much sense. After all, if this does become a series of movies, each one has its own casting process, and each one will introduce new characters.

A final hurdle to get over is this: The Dark Tower is an amazing series, but it's also very frustrating. This mostly stems from the fact that when King started writing this, he had no idea where he was going with it. This isn't a bad thing; the same was true of JRR Tolkien when he started working on The Lord of the Rings. King has detailed to us how he felt like he was letting his fingers do the work and that it almost felt like he was just a vessel the story was telling itself through. This even becomes a plot point in later volumes, but that's a subject for a future post. The fact is, when he started this series, he wrote with abandon with no real eye to future volumes. He also likely wrote it while flying high, considering that it was at this point in his life when his substance abuse issues and alcoholism were pretty much ruling him.

People have talked about the "dreamlike" quality of this first volume. I can see what they're talking about. A good 90% of this novel feels like it takes place within someone's dream, and I'm not certain I can really describe why. It's pretty internally consistent, at least with itself, but still, it feels...otherworldly. And I dig it. I only wish King could have remembered the sort of plot he set up, because later volumes ignored much of what he set down in print here.

King himself realized that, and in the early 2000's, while he was writing the final volumes, he released a "revised and expanded throughout" edition of this book, and in preparation for making this blog post, I read both. I've read them both before, but until recently kinda felt like the original version was now meaningless. I had started to feel differently of late, mainly because I kinda dislike it when an author isn't consistent with his own story. I felt like there shouldn't have been a need to come back and re-write the first book, and I still wonder what the story would have been like if King had crafted a more focused narrative and kept the future volumes consistent with the first.

Reading these two versions of this book back to back, several things struck me. First, the original version still has a lot of merit, and if you're a serious Constant Reader I definitely recommend reading it, but ultimately that takes nothing away from the revised version, which, contrary to my memory, and popular belief, is not only just as good but seemingly all the better because this time King knew where he was going with it. In spite of myself, I couldn't help thinking that "this was how the original version should have been", all while still being annoyed that a second version was needed. It was like, while reading the original version I was thinking "man, it's a shame he didn't keep this tone and information" but while reading the second version, I thought "Okay, this is the first book in what the series this turned into." I enjoyed them both, but very differently.

There's a kind of "Dark Tower Multiple Personality Disorder" that I have noted in the past (though not here) where the original first volume is one personality, the second, third and in part fourth books are another and the final three are yet a third. There might be even a fourth with the eighth volume (which I haven't read; I'll get to that in a moment). That first book had that dreamlike, alien feel, which was almost completely missing from the second and third books, while the fourth grounded Roland's world, or at least, the version of the world he'd grown up in, into a purely physical realm not unlike umpteen other second-world fantasy settings. It might be coincidental, or it might not, that the fourth volume was the first Dark Tower story King wrote after going stone cold sober.

But shortly after writing the fourth book, King was involved in a horrible accident (he was struck by a car while walking) that nearly ended his life. He has said since then that the accident really got him focused on his own mortality, and was one of the motivations to finish what he had started. Another was getting a letter from a fan stricken with terminal cancer who really wanted to know how The Dark Tower series was going to turn out before they died.

So, King got busy and churned out the remaining volumes. And they were a whole new breed of strange. Not necessarily in a good way. More on that once we get there.

The result is a series that fans both love and hate. I can't speak for all readers, but the general feeling I've gotten from other King fans is that they love the first three books, opinion is sharply divided on the fourth, while the last three are mostly awful. (I know I keep referring to this series as if it only has seven volumes, but so help me, I can't see the final volume as anything but an extended coda.) Of course, if you get ten Constant Readers together in the same room and ask them each their opinion of the Dark Tower books, you're likely to get twenty or thirty different answers. And that's just the ones that have read it. I have already mentioned the contingent of King fans who prefer him to stick to just horror or straight drama, and dislike it when he writes books set in secondary worlds. Along with this one, they're also not keen on The Talisman or The Eyes of the Dragon. I have run into several King fans who have read most of what he's written, but not this, or if they have they gave up after (or during) the first volume.

I don't think it's up for debate that the series definitely went off on weird tangents and definitely had some weak points. Some hate the way it ended, others love it, and this is probably as good a time as any to mention that I was so disappointed by the way the series ended that I kinda gave up reading King for a long time. The final three volumes of this series are the only ones I have not read at least twice (and volume 8 is the only one I've simply never read). What I'm saying is that there is room for an adaptation to clear some things up, streamline them, alter them where needed and make a coherent narrative that the series, at least in some places, lacked. Especially we now have an opportunity to clean up those final volumes.

And with that, it's time to mention that Hollywood currently has plans in the works to adapt this series into a movie. There's been plans forever, to the point where I'm not even sure how long the rights have been bought or how long plans have actually been in effect. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are at the head of these plans to adapt. There was a plan in place for a bit for Howard himself to direct a series of films that would interact with an accompanying TV series, with a script by Akiva "Bat Credit Card" Goldsman. I thought the idea had some merit (aside from the involvement of Howard and Goldsman, both men with a decidedly hit-or-miss record, mostly miss in Goldsman's case) but I wasn't a fan of the alternating structure they were going with. I also didn't care much for the man they chose to be Roland (more on that later).

After deals that didn't go through with HBO and various other TV homes, it looks like the project is destined to be a single movie, with the option for sequels if the first one does well. We've got a director; a fellow named Nikolaj Ayrcel, who's never directed in English before. The screenplay is being revised by Ayrcel himself and a man named Anders Thomas Jensen. I'm not familiar with his work, either. We even have a release date; supposedly we'll be seeing this thing in less than a year.

Simply put, I'll believe it when I see it. Howard has already said that the project isn't really as greenlit as it might seem, and I personally have a hard time believing that this thing will be completely finished and ready to be released in less than a year, especially since the project doesn't seem to have a completed script nor any confirmed actors, though there are hot rumors. At this point, if you don't know the rumors, I'm going to suggest you google them and let's not talk about it here.

There are signs that this is a troubled production. The continued delay in anything solid is one aspect, the switching of directors and potential stars are another. From what I know of it, I actually hope this particular effort doesn't pan out. And as there are signs that it won't, I'm going to make this post with the assumption that this movie is about to get canned.

I sincerely hope that Daniel Knauf is reading this. If you are, buy the rights the moment you hear they're up for grabs. You are the man to write this script. Team up with director Tarsem Singh, who knows his visuals, and we've got an amazing pairing.

While we're talking about it, I should mention that I also struggled mightily with the question: should this be a series of movies or a TV series? If I was adapting just this series by itself, I would say TV all the way. But as the lynchpin of the SKCU? I think we need a movie series. This first book could be translated to film with relative ease, and I think the second and third could as well. The fourth is tricky, and the final books need to be cleaned up anyway. We shall cross each bridge when we come to it.

EDIT: I've changed my mind, as I said above. This is now going to be a TV series. This is the first season. All the actors below will appear in the opening credits of any episode they are in (which in some cases will be just one).

And now we come to the million-dollar question: who should play Roland Deschain himself?

This is one of the most hotly debated topics among King fans bar none. Everyone feels very strongly about it, and while the image of Roland is one that nearly all Constant Readers agree on, no one seems to agree on which actor would be right for the part.

I think it used to be a case of wanting it all. No actor was good enough for Roland because no actor is Roland, none of them are real gunslingers, none of them have spent twenty years chasing the Man in Black across a desert. I kept hearing people dissing other people's choices, saying things like "he looks like somebody's dad. Roland shouldn't look like somebody's dad." Whatever the fuck that means.

We really saw how different people's ideas were when Javier Bardem apparently actually got cast for Howard's film version. I was against this casting decision, and still am, but some were for it. I also wasn't impressed with other actors who were apparently in talks at one point or other: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Viggo Mortensen, Daniel Craig. It kinda felt like they were touring popular actors du jour.

We know that Roland's look was inspired by Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name, so quite a few fans think Roland looks just like ol' Clint. I'm not among them. Eastwood was the inspiration, not the basis for cloning. The books are somewhat sparing in describing what Roland actually looks like, or at least, the earlier ones are. Later we learn several things about Roland's appearance:

  • He has piercing blue eyes; "Bombadier's eyes", they're repeatedly called
  • He is very tall, somewhere around 6'6"
  • He speaks in a flat, inflectionless voice, probably a light baritone
  • He is broad-shouldered but lean
  • His face is hard, lined and drawn, his skin sun-browned and weather-beaten
  • He's not attractive, or at least not in the classic sense, and more than one character calls him "ugly"
  • He's very old, and at least by the fifth book is starting to look it
I should also mention that the book describes him as white, and this colors his interactions with a black Civil Rights activist he ends up traveling with from the second book onward. I personally think he should stay white, because my end goal is to have the actor more or less become Roland to us, the way that Viggo Mortensen became Aragorn, Daniel Radcliffe became Harry Potter or Hugh Jackman became Wolverine.

A big name star, which the studio seems intent on getting, seems the wrong choice here. I'd rather not have a big name that has non-readers coming with pre-packaged expectations.

Many fans, and I'm among them, do not want to see a re-interpretation of this role that fits the actor chosen. I'd rather the actor be the kind who can remold himself to fit the part. I want Roland's first onscreen appearance to be so close to how he's written that it's as if he walked off the page and onto the screen. Now, I understand that there's a shortage of nearly seven-foot-tall actors that meet all the other criteria, so I'm willing to bend on certain things. He doesn't have to be super-tall, and make-up and contacts can take care of the weather-beaten skin and give him his Bombadier blue eyes (though I still strongly prefer an actor who already is blue-eyed).

I also would strongly prefer that the actor be over 6 feet tall, have relatively darker hair (and tanned skin), and be somewhere between 40 and 50 years old. If he's closer to 40, he should have a "lived-in face" that makes him look older. If he's closer to 50 he should still look strong and hale.

I have made peace with the idea that he'll probably not be too terribly ugly. The earlier books don't even really make a big deal out of his "ugly" looks. In fact, it's mostly his fellow traveler Eddie who calls him ugly, but in a later volume, once King is introduced as a character, Eddie notes that the two men look so much alike that they could closely related. King isn't hideous, but I doubt he competed in many beauty pageants. I strongly doubt that Roland look like King in the movie, and I doubt he'll look like Clint, either. Nor should he. He should evoke Eastwood, not look just like him.

Then there's the question, how does Roland sound? Because he's based off Eastwood, there are plenty who think Roland talks like a cowboy, with an American southern accent. I can't see that at all. The books talk about how his accent seems to be kinda not really there at all, like he comes from everywhere and nowhere. The dialect of New Canaan and the surrounding lands definitely sounds more like various English accents, or even Irish. I think it wouldn't be a bad thing if Gilead scenes used Received Pronunciation, the residents of Tull speak like Irishmen, and Roland himself have a sort of no-accent accent, if such a thing is possible.

EDIT: Initially I had a number of choices up for Roland so that my readers could pick their favorite. The winner is below, and he was my first choice anyway. As this is now going to be a TV series, it fits even better as Kirkwood mostly does television.

Langley Kirkwood.
Kirkwood isn't very well-known, despite a fairly lengthy resume. He's a British actor who, despite being rather handsome, mainly takes supporting roles. Americans might know him best from TV series like Dominion (where he plays Jeep), Banshee (Douglas Stowe), Black Sails (Bryson), The Bible (older David), and as Judge Lex in the movie Dredd.

He's six feet tall but always manages to look taller, and he's 42 years old and has a face that could be made much older with ease. He's also got the blue eyes.

His voice is a light baritone, but I've heard him deepen it. He's played a wide range of accents, including generic American, so he wouldn't turn Roland into a Brit.

His handsomeness threw me at first; I wanted to say no based on that. But like I said, I've made peace with the idea that he won't be ugly, plus with those prominent frown lines, Kirkwood can make himself look hard and fierce, and that's really more important than ugly.

No, he doesn't look like Stephen King. None of my choices do. If I was shooting for an actor who looked like a harder, badass Stephen King, I know exactly who I would pick. But I don't think he has what it takes to play Roland. Maybe he can play a King-like writer character later.

Other Roles
Believe it or not, there are other characters in this book.

This next role is one I've talked about before. I'm going to expand upon it now, and really, honestly, if you're an avoider of spoilers and yet read this far, please read no further until you've read the entire series. See, part of the narrative in this book takes place during Roland's boyhood, where we witness the events that made him a Gunslinger. These vignettes into his past are interspersed with his hunt for the Man in Black in the concurrent present.

Marten, later to be styled "Marten Broadcloak" was an enchanter who worked for Roland's father, a senior Gunslinger (Gilead's political structure is pretty loose in this book). Off in other lands, a revolution is going on, apparently against the Gunslingers themselves, and Marten is later revealed to have secretly been a part of it, or perhaps, secretly its leader. His goal is to remove Roland's father Steven, in the permanent sort of way, and he begins to realize as Roland ages that in fact the young man might become a problem. By this time, Marten has seduced Roland's mother Gabrielle, or possibly just raped her into submission, and he decides to get rid of Roland by letting him know what he's done to Roland's mother.

His goal is simple, yet complicated. Roland will naturally be very angry and want to kill Marten. So, he will undergo the challenge of manhood too early, fail, and either die or be sent into exile. This is the rite that makes the Gunslinger; call out his teacher Cort and defeat him in single combat. The youngest student to ever win was Steven Deschain himself, at 16. Roland himself is 14. Roland is sure to lose.

There's one big problem, though. He doesn't. He passes the test and becomes a Gunslinger, and Marten, realizing he's now living on borrowed time, high-tails it to the revolution and that's the last Roland ever has seen of him.

The entire time, during the first version of this story, we're led to believe that Marten is the Man in Black. When he finally catches up with him, he eventually reveals that he is not Marten, but another man from Roland's past; a young priest who joined the court of Gilead after Marten left. This man's name was Walter. Walter is in fact the Man in Black, and Marten was little more than his patsy.

This is a very intriguing idea, and the only complaint I have is that Walter is never mentioned before the Big Reveal, and I could have stood some sort of foreshadowing there. In the second version, however, everything changes.

The Man in Black's name is revealed to be "Walter O'Dim" early on in the book. Roland later talks about "two men" he knew that looked enough alike to have been twins, but he never saw them together. Walter later explicitly reveals that he and Marten are the same man. Furthermore, he had another alias; John Farson, the "Good Man" who was the revolution's leader. I was thrown by that, because official canon is that John Farson was just another of Walter's patsies, not Walter himself. But while I don't remember the original version saying this, the revised version clearly has a line "Marten Broadcloak, also known as John Farson, the Good Man."

In later books, we learn that Walter is also the Walkin Dude, Randall Flagg, the villain from The Stand, as I already said in my post on that book. We learn that he walks worlds like we walk streets, and that he has numerous personas he takes on, many using the initials "RF" but not all. Now, I want to stress, I think Walter also being Flagg is cool, and I wouldn't want to change that for the world. But it kinda bugs me that Marten ended up being Walter after all, especially when King initially set up the much more interesting twist. I also can't swallow John Farson and Marten being the same person, and I think honestly, that was some sort of misprint since Marvel's Dark Tower comics, with King's blessing on their stories, clearly differentiate between Marten/Walter and Farson.

So, in the movie, I think we'll keep to that; Farson is his own man while Marten and Walter are two sides of the same coin. Lee Pace, who I had playing Flagg in The Stand, will play both roles, and I think as Marten he should probably have a different hair color, and probably a flamboyant hair style, as well. I also think it would be neat, and beneficial toward viewers being slow to catch on to the similarities, to have his face bear some wizardly tattoos. As Walter in the past (he'll need to be seen there) he'll have a shaved head and pallid skin, while the Man in Black will look relatively normal.
Then there's the boy Jake. I'm going to break my own rule here and...gasp!...cast a preteen role! Jake is described as looking around 8 or 9 in the original version and more like 10 or 11 in the revised version. The reason I'm breaking this rule is for several reasons: one, they're looking to make this thing now; two, there is no way Jake will remain a preteen through the entire series (unless they keep re-casting him, which would suck); and three...Jake is almost as iconic a character as Roland himself. He's gotta be cast. I'll go one step further and say that Jake's actor should also play Bobby Garfield in Low Men in Yellow Coats (oh, yes, that's coming), as it's widely believed the two boys are "twinners" with each other. I'll save the description of twinners for another post.

But Jake is a badass little boy, and I've already seen a kid that I think will do Jake total justice. His name is Isaak Pressley, and he's eleven years old.
Roland's parents are not large roles, but they're major characters and they will be appearing again. Steven Deschain is being played by one of my potential Roland choices that I later decided was just un-Roland enough that he shouldn't be in contention. That would be Ray Stevenson. Gabrielle Deschain is an even smaller role, but I figured Claire Forlani's sad eyes when I read the scene where Marten reveals his dominance over her.
Ray Stevenson

Claire Forlani
One of the first antagonists Roland encounters in story is Sylvia Pittston, a "preacher" who holds most of the town of Tull under her sway. She talks like an old tent revival preacher but has been seduced the Man in Black, and he's left a demonic child inside of her. The book describes her as very large, but sensual and seductive. I kept thinking of larger actresses who could pull that off, and there are a few, but I think the actress who could really capture the essence of who Sylvia is would be none other than Helena Bonham Carter. She's put on some weight recently, and if she isn't as big as Sylvia, it really doesn't hurt the story at all. EDIT: As this is now going to be a TV series, I have replaced Bonham Carter, the only performer I chose who probably wouldn't want to do TV with Cynthia Ettinger from Carnivale. She's also physically heavier than we think of Carter being, and she's very able to play evil.
Roland's teacher, Cortland "Cort" Andrus, is described as huge, scarred, completely bald and with a broad belly that looks like fat but is actually spring steel. The first time I read this book, many moons ago, I couldn't help but picture him as Michael Clarke Duncan. Duncan is no longer with us, sad to say, but I like the idea of Gilead being a racially mixed society. And, really, Cort's skin color is never even remarked upon at all. So I chose a modern-day Michael Clarke Duncan, Nonso Anozie.
Probably the only person in Tull who can be said to be truly friendly to Roland is the bartender, Alice, aka Allie. Allie is an aging former beauty with a scarred face and an insatiable sexual appetite. But she's played as kinda pathetic. She put me in mind of the character Trixie from Deadwood, and honestly, I saw no reason she couldn't be played by the same actress, Paula Malcomson. She's the right age, the right look, we know she's willing to go naked, and she even has an Irish accent.
Now let's talk about the other "child" characters from the book. As I said, we flash back to Roland's past several times throughout. We meet Roland first as an 11-year-old, then as a 14-year-old, and the events of this book feed into the events of the fourth volume of this series. In this instance, I'm okay with pulling a Game of Thrones and aging the kids up. First, I think it would be hard to take the 11-year-old actors seriously, second, I don't want to have one set of actors for the youngest kids and another set for the teens, and third, if we're doing the fourth book, we'll need actors viewers are familiar with, and if you've read that book, you know there are scenes that will require older actors.

By the way, apropos of nothing, hey Dark Tower comic readers? You know the character Aileen Ritter, the one you can't stand? She's canon. King invented her, and she is part of his memories from the past. Not a large enough part of them to need an actress to play her, but she is mentioned. Just thought I'd point that out.

Roland himself will be played by Edmond, Skandar Keyes, who is 25 but looks ten years younger. In fact, all the actors I chose are baby-faced twenty-somethings (well, nearly all).
Then there's Cuthbert Allgood, Roland's best friend, who laughs a lot but is ultimately the most emotionally volatile. I pictured him as Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who can do just about anything.
I decided Roland's third friend, Alain Johns, who has only a very small part in this first book but is one of the central characters in the fourth, should have his role beefed up here. He's quiet and introspective, usually the peace maker when Roland's and Cuthbert's tempers get the better of them. He'll be played by Aramis Knight.
I also decided to go ahead and cast Susan, Roland's long-lost love, both because Roland dreams about her and because a demon takes her form. She'll be the female lead when they get around to filming the fourth (which I think should be filmed simultaneously with this one, then released later). Susan's last name is Delgado, and the village she comes from is based loosely on Mexico, but she's blonde. I decided that Nicola Peltz was probably the most exotic-looking blonde in the correct age group.
One role that's relatively small, and probably not all that necessary, but that I want to keep, is that of Brown, the homesteader Roland meets at the start of the story, and tells his tale to. Brown is rather mysterious himself. I really like the scenes between he and Roland. He's described as relatively young (which makes me think "not old") and red-headed. I picture him as Paul McGann, who just happens to be another of my Roland rejects.
The following roles are not large, but they're important, and memorable.

Hax, the cook in the palace Roland is raised in, turns out to be a traitor working for John Farson. He's described as being incredibly fat, and his racial make-up is actually mentioned: "a quarter black, a quarter yellow, a quarter from the South Islands,...and a quarter gods-knew-what". Sounds like a perfect role for Hawaii Five-0's Taylor Willy.
Sheb, the piano player at the honky-tonk in Tull, almost didn't get cast by me, but he did for two reasons; he shows up again in the fourth book, and because he's described as a "little man" with a piano-player's stoop. There's an actor known for also being a piano player who is also very short (short enough he's been mistaken for a dwarf), and I think he'd do very well here. His name is Paul Williams.
Then there's Nort. When the Gunslinger arrives in Tull, Nort greets him in the High Speech, which is strange because Nort's just an old drug addict. It turns out that the Man in Black raised Nort from the dead before Roland's arrival. This role would be fine for Stephen King himself to play, and for those concerned about the real King showing up later in the story...I strongly doubt that's actually going to happen. Plus, King's way too old now to play his mid-50's self.
And now, I'm going to include two roles who don't actually appear in this volume. In fact, I'm not sure they ever appear on page at all, other than Roland's references to them. But the movies will be an opportunity to flesh both roles out, at least somewhat. The first is John Farson, the Good Man, who leads the revolution that ultimately brings down Gilead. As I said earlier, I don't believe he's really Marten, or Walter, but he definitely is being used by them. The comic series based on these books fleshes him out a great deal, and he's...well, he's a human monster. So I wanted an actor known for playing creepy bad guys. I went with Michael Wincott.
Finally, there's Abel Vannay, known as Vannay the Wise. While Cort is Roland's battle teacher, Vannay is his teacher of everything else. I figured giving him one or two scenes would be a nice nod to the character, and I picture him as Ian McNiece.
And thus we conclude the first chapter of The Dark Tower. And now I request patience again, because it will be a bit before I get to part two, The Drawing of the Three. I know you'd all like to see my ideas for Eddie and Susannah, but I apologize, you're gonna have to wait.

As I said in my last post, I don't know what my next full blog post is going to cover, but I'll be a little less mysterious: right now I'm reading Different Seasons, and as any Constant Reader knows, this book contains four novellas, three of which have already been turned into movies. Two of those movies are already classics, and I see no need to remake them. The third is too recent to worry about a remake, nor am I sure we really need one. As for the last one, the rights evidently have been sold and there have been umpteen attempts to make a movie of it, none of which have panned out. If what I suspect about it is true, I'll be doing my next post on that story. Otherwise it will likely be a remake of Christine.

Stay tuned.


  1. Christ! That first photo of Kirkwood may as well have been drawn by Michael Whelan. I've never seen Kirkwood in anything, nor even heard of him; but you've already got me about halfway convinced.

    Lee Pace for the man in black -- I'm all the way convinced. I'd also probably accept him as Roland, or as Roland's dad.

    Ray Stevenson and Claire Forlani -- good picks

    Helena Bonham-Carter -- Was Rebel Wilson not available? ;) Carter would be good for this.

    Nonso Anonzie -- Hmm. Is he capable of playing that tough? I've only seemed him in "Game of Thrones," and while he was physically imposing, he came off as a pussy. Cort can't be a pussy. Cort need to seem like he'd kill you without even blinking an eye.

    I've read the Dark Tower comics, and I love Aileen! In fact, she's one of the few things in those comics that I do love.

    Paul McGann as Brown -- sold.

    Paul Williams as Sheb -- HAH! That's great! I can see it, too. I'd be tempted to go with William Sanderson, who played a saloon pianist in "Lonesome Dove."

    Michael Wincott is a great pick for Farson, and it feels to me like you'd almost HAVE to include him. But that seems to imply a need to beef up the backstory in a manner similar to what they do in the comics, and you already know my feelings on the comics.

    Great post, Josh!

    And by the way, there definitely ARE differences between the original magazine appearances and the first collected edition. I don't know what they are exactly, and I assume they are mostly unimportant (certainly not the wholesale changes made for the revised '03 edition). I got copies of the original magazines last year (or maybe in 2014), and one of my long-term plans is to a thorough side-by-side-by-side comparison of the three texts.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Bryant. This one's been long in the making, just as my cast for The Stand was. Roland is such a hard role to cast! Your reaction to Kirkwood sorta solidifies him in my head. It's probably never gonna happen, unless of course the film doesn't end up getting made and Howard and Grazer dump the rights (which I hope they will).

      Anozie typically plays tough guys. His role on Game of Thrones is actually kind of against type. I don't know if you've read the books that series is based on, but that character in the books is not a giant black man but a small, older white man who is (not so) implicitly homosexual. Check out Anozie in The Last Legion, The Bible or Ender's Game. Pretty tough guy in all of those. I didn't, however, tell you my alternate for Cort; Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbage.

      My understanding is that Aileen is a bit of a base breaker. Some love her, but some REALLY hate her. I haven't read beyond the first story there, so I don't have an opinion, but I had forgotten that Aileen is in fact canonical.

      I'm curious to know what you thought of my aging up young Roland and Cuthbert, and all that. I was ready to catch some flack for that one. Or how about King himself as Nort?

    2. I think you have to age up the ka-tet. I honestly don't see a way around it, and it wouldn't bother me at all.

      King as Nort is a cool idea, but I suspect he'd be unable to actually portray the part realistically. It would be cool for him to be in the movie somewhere, though.

  2. I just kinda skimmed this one, in the interest of avoiding spoilers, mostly out of curiosity who you'd have play Roland. I haven't read the series, not out of a lack of interest, but because I'm not quite ready for a 4,000-page commitment. On pure looks, I am really intrigued by Martini, and put off by Moyer. Nothing against him, just against him in this role, especially with him pushing 50.

    I'm sure you've survived perfectly fine without my comments for the past week and a half, but I'm currently reading The Running Man and wanted to finish before seeing your picks for that, and will likely be able to do that quickly. I like this blog enough that I'm modifying some of my reading plans to increase the number of posts I can have an educated opinion about as you move your way down the list and to be able to compare and contrast. Hopefully I'll have most of my picks done before you get to them, but I'm having to be selective on which ones to try to get to. I may even try to get to It soon. How long do you anticipate it will take to get through the whole King bibliography? You're going at a pretty solid pace, but it's really hard to judge how long it will be until you get to a particular novel or story. I don't know if you've ever estimated that, but if you have, I'm certainly engaged in this blog, and would be interested to know whether I have over a year before you get to the Bill Hodges trilogy. Anyway, good stuff.

    1. Pushing 50 is not a bad thing for Roland, as I said. Most of my choices were the same age. I do encourage you to read this series, but at the same time I can understand the reluctance. For that matter, there are many Constant Readers who are NOT fans of this series. I can sorta understand that. It's an acquired taste, honestly. I'd say that your best bet would be to read the first two back to back (they're short) and if you just can't go on, don't. But I have a feeling by that time you'll want to.

      Let me apologize for how long I've taken to reply. I lost my job recently and I'm on the hunt. I think it's great that you were taking the time to read The Running Man, it's a great story. I do appreciate very much your contributions to this blog, and I won't lie; I was very pleased to see you'd commented again.

      I have challenged myself to finish the entirety of King's output by year's end. It's possible that I can do it, but then, I have yet to get to several of his real doorstoppers like It and The Tommyknockers. I am just over halfway through Different Seasons right now, and quite frankly I had a hard time with the second story of that collection, Apt Pupil. I had to force myself to hammer through that one. I'm reading The Body now.

      Different books will, naturally, take a different amount of time, but so far, with the really long books, I have tried to devote every spare second of free time I have to reading it.

      I hope it's less than a year before I get to the Bill Hodges trilogy, but I can't promise that. I'm currently reading as fast as I can while also looking for work and caring for my family.

      Anyway, it was really great to hear from you!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Bro, no apology is needed. Three days to reply to a comment on a blog really isn't that bad. As much as I enjoy it here, I'm more glad that you have other fulfilling things in life that need your time. I'm very sorry about your job. What line of work are you in and what part of the country do you live in? I may or may not have useful connections. Regardless, I hope you find something to your liking that takes care of your cash flow needs.

      I found Apt Pupil to be one of the most unpleasant stories I've read by any author. It certainly makes some compelling points about evil, but I'm not sure we need a faithful Hollywood adaptation. Cats in the oven? Random shooting spree to put an end to it all? No thanks. I probably wouldn't be a Constant Reader if that were standard King fare.

    4. Thanks. I hope to find new work soon. I'm an IT service desk analyst, which I've been doing for 14 years and...I don't know how that happened. I never planned on it, but it's where I ended up.

      Apt Pupil's biggest problem is also the real draw of the story. As you said, it's about the insidious nature of evil, but it's just so...unpleasant. I know, expecting pleasantness from King is barking up the wrong tree, but still...

      I actually have a lot to say about it, and I think I'll save it for a full post.

  3. I am a newer reader to the series but every time I pictured Roland it was Hugh Laurie from House that I pictured. He has the ability to play the part and the look that I pictured with the dull blue eyes and wrinkly long face. Im not sure how I feel about the casting right now.

    1. I was an early supporter of Laurie in the role. In fact, just after finishing the books, I figured he was the best man for the job. Nowadays, with him about to turn 57, I think he's a tad too old. Remember there are seven books in this series, and at least four or five potential movies (assuming they streamline and clean up the storyline). That's a potential ten years before it's all done, and at that point he'll be pushing 70.