“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed”…
With these words began the epic journey of Stephen King’s magnum opus, ‘The Dark Tower
It has been a long and winding road since the first of seven books was published in 1982. The Gunslinger, written as a stand-alone or possibly to be continued to a bigger story was a relatively simple western yarn, albeit with an otherworldly twist. The book was inspired by a poem by Robert Browning, The Lord of the Rings and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. The ‘slinger himself Roland Deschain was a hero modelled on Clint Eastwood and had many characteristics of Tolkien’s Aragorn character. The Gunslinger is one of King’s classics and although often forgotten, given that it’s outside of his usual generic realm, the book is considered one of his greatest works. The scope and beauty of the novel. The unique landscape, the moral ambuguity, the shocking conclusion and the mythical chase between the gunslinger and the man in black are all reasons why this book stands as one of Kings most legendary contributions to the world of literature.
In 1987, King followed up The Gunslinger with it’s rather more sci-fi tinged sequel The Drawing of the Three. The series progressed from here, expanding it’s world from our dimension, to many other ones, spiritual and otherwise. It entered the world of the post-modern when characters from other King novels became characters in the series and, in Song of Susannah (2004), the sixth book in the series, Roland and his friends travel to Maine to meet and save the life of Stephen King himself. The story finally found its resolution with the publication of the aptly-titled The Dark Tower in 2004, though the stories have lived on in the form of some fantastic graphic novels and comics and King has recently announced a new book set for publication in 2012.
The world created by King in his Dark Tower series is incredibly ambitious, post-modern, maddeningly unapologetic and always unpredictable. Because of the story’s non-linear format, it’s massive scope, unusual use of language and its less than crowd-pleasing ending (no spoilers here, you’ll have to read for yourselves) the inevitable film adaptation has frightened off many a filmmaker. In November 2010, Ron Howard announced that he, along with producer Brian Grazer and writer Akiva Goldsman were manning up to tackle the project. But they warned that this will not be just any project. It will consist of at least three epic films, accompanied by television mini-series in between. This sparked debate amongst us members of the ka-tet as to whether this team was the right team or not. Of course the first and best way for them to prove themselves is in the casting. Popular suggestions were Viggo Mortensen, best known for playing the character of Aragorn in ‘The Lord of the Rings’, Josh Holloway, who played Sawyer on ‘Lost’, Hugh Jackman and Guy Pearce. More recently Christian Bale was rumoured but this wasn’t a particularly popular choice with fans.
It has been confirmed that Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem has been officially cast to play Roland. It makes sense in many ways. He is ruggedly masculine and tough as nails as displayed in his Oscar-winning turn in No Country For Old Men but has a deeply intelligent kindness in his manner (see his Oscar nominated role in The Sea Inside). Roland must embody the kind of old-fashioned masculinity rarely found in cinema these days but he must also be able to show a deeply spiritual, romantic and passionate side that seeps out slowly (very slowly!) over time. The Roland we think we know from the first book evolves as the series progresses, completing the classic heroic character arc over time.
So can Javier Bardem fill the boots of Roland Deschain? Would you have preferred one of the other actors? Or would you have waited until we eventually found the right portal in Mid-World that could transport us to a dimension where Clint Eastwood was still young enough to play him? Or should ‘The Dark Tower’ series be left alone altogether?
- Charlene Lydon