“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” – Stephen King, “The Gunslinger”.
The first sentence in what would become an epic sprawling book series created over several decades.
In my middle school years, I discovered an author who would change the course of my life. As the terrible and disturbing years that counted as my adolescence gave way to an awkward period of pubescence, not many things were what you would call “comfort”.
After using “reading material” (and I use that term loosely) to indulge in teenage desires, I soon found that certain genres took me away from the hell of bullying, school, and you know, general Middle School BS. For me, Stephen King and his World’s did that. The first novel I read was “The Green Mile”. I was inspired by Michael Clarke Duncan’s (may he rest in peace) performance as the unfortunate victim of racism and fear. Not only did I feel a connection with Duncan’s character, John Coffey, but once the prose was displayed upon paper, I was forever enchanted by Mr. King and eventually became a “Constant Reader” as he likes to put it. Now, obviously, I could not relate to the character in form of race, but being an outsider was simply a feeling that has never left me, even through to this day.
My second run-in with Mr. King’s work was a bit different. After finishing “The Green Mile” on vacation in Colorado, I was brought along to a used bookstore in which I discovered the first three volumes of Mr. King’s dark fantasy series: The Dark Tower. The odd tale of a “Authurian-Like” figure going on a journey through time, multiple dimensions, and the supernatural grabbed me and enveloped my feelings and thoughts. It took me almost another decade before I was able to finish the series (King began the series formally in 1982 and it was finished in 2004), but every step of Roland, The Gunslinger’s journey was my own as well. I know many a person that feels the same way.
Then in 2012, Warner Brothers and Ron Howard announced they wanted to take on a huge project with a hybrid film/television version of The Dark Tower series. HBO, one of the sister companies of WB would air the show and WB would distribute the film. This ambitious announcement was also met with an announcement that Javier Bardem:
that ever creeped) was originally set to play Roland, but that fell through and Russell Crowe was given the option for the role. That also fell through and everyone’s favorite weirdo actor, Matthew McConaughey was offered a role in the film, which many thought of him portraying The Gunslinger Roland as a given.
Well, WB backed out, and four years later, we’re staring down the sandalwood grip pistols of a joint Sony/Media Rights Capital/Columbia Pictures amalgamation filming right now! That’s right, the start of The Dark Tower film is happening as you read this. Directed by a relative unknown, Nikolaj Arcel, who’s most notable credit comes from writing the screenplay of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This is an odd and bold move, but clearly Sony trusts this man and with Stephen King providing the bones, there is a lot that can go south, but let’s choose to ignore until the film is finished and we’re strapped in for a unique ride.
With all of that, the actual news of this story is, yesterday, we were given the first images of Roland himself, portrayed by Idris Elba, an actor whom Stephen King himself called “One of the Best Actors” Working Today. High praise from such a legend. So without further ado, see our “hero” for the first time:
All of these images come curtosey of Twitter (Mr. Elba’s I do believe) and if you’re familiar with the books or now intrigued by them, Idris Elba looks glorious as Roland, The Gunslinger. Now you cannot have a protagonist without an antagonist. This character first comes in the form of “The Man in Black” as mentioned above. And while he didn’t get the lead role in the film, none other than Matthew McConaughey himself was cast opposite Idris Elba.
I realize this post doesn’t give much for the non-reader, but please understand that there is a massive following for these books and I encourage you, if you enjoy dark fantasy, science fiction, and any novel Stephen King has ever written, The Dark Tower is for you. And as one of the main protagonists says: “Go then, there are other worlds than these.” -Jake Chambers, “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King.