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Stephen King started working on his sprawlingly The Dark Tower series 46 years ago. When he was a senior in college. That’s as long time shaping these characters and the storyline and, after several failed attempts to get his magnum opus on to the big screen, Sony Pictures have finally come through, confirming a release date of February 17, 2017.

Indeed, these are exciting times for fans of the books, who will see Roland “The Gunslinger” Deschain brought to life by Idris Elba, while Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey will play The Man in Black and Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican got the chance to talk to both King and Arcel about the upcoming movie adaptation.

Speaking of his work finally being brought to life cinematically, King said: “I’m excited, it’s been a long trip from the books to the film. If you think about it, I started these books as a senior in college and it’s been a long trip. I’m delighted and a little bit surprised.

The director Arcel, who is known for his 2012 film A Royal Affair, elucidated on his vision for the adaptation: “In my view, the novel is a mix between sci-fi and modern-day fantasy. What I think King does best and it’s something I’m trying to stay true to is mixing the mundane with the fantastical – that’s been a part of the entire vision of the film.

“A lot of it takes place in our world, in modern day world,” Arcel added, “which is also very much a part of that journey, because when you think about it, it does sort of veer between Mid World and modern day Earth, so we’re also doing that.”

The Dark Tower

King confirmed earlier reports that the movie would start exactly as the books did, with the iconic opening line of ‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.’

“The movie will start the way the books start. You know, ‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,’ so it nails it right into place for people. It’s been established the way, I’ve been pretty insistent about it and I think everyone’s on board with it.

However, while fans may be pleased at the opening line, King admitted that there may be some misgivings stemming from the film’s storyline taking place somewhere during the middle of the books (he did not specify which book exactly).

“It starts in the middle of the story, instead of at the beginning, which may upset some of the fans a little bit, but they’ll get behind it because it is the story.”

The movies may start with the series’ third book The Wastelands, as the fourth, Wizard and Glass, is a much more unlikely starting place owing to it being predominantly a flashback.

King also opened up about Ron Howard’s proposed TV series adaptation: “Ron wanted the TV series to go all the way back to [Roland’s earliest days], so that the TV series and the movies would run in tandem,” King explained. “So, it’s like Game of Thrones, but one-up on that, and I think there were a lot of people who had trouble with the concept at first because it’s tough to get show people to actually try something new, which is one of the reasons they’re so bent out of shape about Netflix.

“I think a lot of people in Hollywood are really, really leery about that synergy between what’s on On Demand, TV, and the movies. So, there was some push back for that, but little by little people started to get on board with the idea.”

First look at Elba as Roland Deschain
First look at Elba as Roland Deschain

“They’re still holding on to this idea that they could do a TV series,” King clarified, insisting that, “All of this is dependent on the idea that this first picture will be a smashing success, and it will become a kind of tentpole.”

Arcel and King both also addressed questions regarding the controversial casting of Elba as The Gunslinger, with some fans voicing disquiet over the casting of a black character, as he is illustrated through the books as a white man. However, to King and Arcel, they don’t see that as much of a problem because Elba is an excellent actor who has the ability to bring the character to life.

“Idris is someone who I’ve loved since watching The Wire,” Arcel said. “I’ve been following his career for a long time, and when we started talking, for me, it just clicked. I just felt like, ‘Wow, he’s such a formidable man.’”

“The books were published over a long span of time,” King added. “Roland, in the books, there’s a lot of talk about his blue eyes, and what makes that even more of an issue for the fans is that all those books were illustrated. Roland is there in all those pictures as a white guy. So, for them, it’s going to take a little bit of an adjustment.

“But to me, the character is still the character. It’s almost like a Sergio Leone character, like the man with no name, and he can be white or black, makes no difference to me. I think it opens all sorts of exciting possibilities for the backstory. I like it.”

Finally, Arcel briefly discussed McConaughey’s Man in Black: “We have a lot of layers to him,” he explained. “He’s not just this one-note villain. I think we’re very true to the novels, in the sense of who Walter is, how he speaks, how he moves, how he’s thinking about the world.”

Listen to the entire podcast below (which is definitely worth your time).