In March, 2012, while I was writing The Dark Tower Companion, I spoke with Akiva Goldsman about his plans to adapt the Dark Tower series with Ron Howard. Clearly things have changed significantly in the past five years, but his thoughts at the time show where he was coming from and might indicate where the adaptations could be headed. As we anticipate this week’s release of The Dark Tower, enjoy this excerpt from that interview.
(Interview conducted by Bev Vincent)
BEV VINCENT: What’s your history with the Dark Tower series?
AKIVA GOLDSMAN: I was in Boston when The Gunslinger came out. There was a specialty bookstore where I got that first edition. Just fell in love, as everybody who’s a fan of the series has. Then I read them as they came out.
The Dark Tower…is unique in that it is trans-genre, which is extraordinary and remarkable. For me, it’s just wildly inviting and always has been. Stephen seems to have an ability to replicate or access what I think of as the child’s imagination in all of us. There’s an intuitive correctness to the worlds that he paints.
When [Damon Lindelof] and J.J. decided that [a motion picture adaptation] was not something they were going to end up undertaking, I grabbed hold of the idea and called Ron [Howard]. I had been pitching Ron the Dark Tower in various forms since we were making A Beautiful Mind together. I think he confessed, too, to some envy when J.J. and Damon and Stephen had agreed to do it. So when it became free, Ron and I started conspiring to figure out how it could be ours.
I started rereading the books and realized that it is tricky. The access points are harder if you’re not familiar with the mythology. At the same time, the tone of The Gunslinger is not necessarily the tone of the rest of the books. Wolves of the Calla is action-adventure Western, Wizard and Glass is almost Romeo and Juliet, but The Gunslinger is surrealist. It’s literary musing and is probably the least muscular when it comes to plot, which is typically required for access to a movie. I was wrestling with the order of the material, and I thought, What if you come in around the third book. At which point, Ron looked at me and said, “Why don’t we mix it up? Why don’t we start with the third book, and then we can go backward, but let’s do it on TV.” And so began this construct of movie-TV-movie-TV, etc., which is our fantasy. Whether it comes to pass, who knows? It was born of trying to find an access point for the uninitiated while also being inclusive of all the material that the initiates want and love.
Do you have the whole thing mapped out?
We have the whole thing mapped out in the grossest possible sense, and I have a script for the first movie, which I’m currently revising, and a script for the pilot of what would be an interstitial component, which is actually material that in literary continuity would predate the third book. It’s really material from the first two books.
Do you go all the way back to Mejis?
We go all the way back and we go all the way forward. Without tipping too much, our Roland begins this turn of the wheel with the Horn of Eld. It is the next iteration of the cyclical journey, which affords us the opportunity to maintain fidelity to what Stephen has done and also to what Stephen has spoken of in his own introductions to the more recent editions, which is a little bit of retcon work—some retroactive continuity in order to stitch backward that which came later. One thing we did try to do was play with the idea of what it would be like to be Jake and to be alive—just as Stephen was dealing with a contemporary New York when he was writing, we moved that into today. That makes for a lot of fun. As the books have gone on, we’ve discovered—through Callahan or other characters—very interesting things about New York, which we can now bring back into the beginning of the narrative.
Are you including material from the Marvel comics?
The original plan was to go with the first movie, then do interstitial material, six or seven episodes that were flashbacks to the material of the first two books. Then two episodes that were flashbacks to Roland and the young gang, which would be precursors to Wizard and Glass. Then go do Wolves of the Calla as a stand-alone feature. Then do Wizard and Glass as a season. Then do—let’s just call it The Dark Tower. Close out the series as a stand-alone feature. Then go back and continue on post–Wizard and Glass into the Marvel material.
What’s interesting about Dark Tower is that the material can be organized—and sort of does naturally organize itself—in a way that is scale-specific. There are things that feel movielike. Then there are things—if you think about Eddie and his brother, that stuff almost feels like it wants to be gritty television. It speaks to both platforms in a way that we found unique.
To read the rest of the interview, or my interviews with Stephen King and Ron Howard about the Dark Tower project, check out The Dark Tower Companion, available in trade paperback and eBook, at booksellers everywhere. Also available, my first book, The Road to the Dark Tower.