EXCLUSIVE: Nikolaj Arcel is the choice to direct The Dark Tower, the Stephen King novel series set in a world woven with magic and revolving around the gunslinger Roland Deschain. I’ve heard talks will begin shortly toward a deal that will have him overseeing a rewrite and directing the film. Sony Pictures Entertainment signed on earlier this year to co-finance the franchise with Media Rights Capital — it gives new topper Tom Rothman a strong franchise play — and now it looks like they’re near to naming the helmer who’ll bring this massively ambitious project to life.

Sony will distribute what is planned to be the first in a series of movies. A complementary TV series is also being developed by MRC. Producing are Weed Road’s Akiva Goldsman and Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Erica Huggins. King is also a producer. That quartet has been involved in this franchise since the beginning, and MRC kept it going when it was between studios.

Arcel co-scripted the Swedish version of the Stieg Larsson novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and then directed the well-received A Royal Affair, which featured breakout performances by Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander and was Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Film. He is separately attached to direct an adaptation of Don Winslow’s seminal bestselling novel The Power Of The Dog, and to a DreamWorks and Working Title adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier novel Rebecca.

Arcel, when he was getting going in Denmark, taught himself to speak and read English in order to consume Stephen King’s books in the writer’s native tongue. DEC062284_hi_DARK_TOWER_GUNSLINGER_BORNArcel is a huge fan of The Dark Tower and knows the series well. That impressed the studio, and he showed with Dragon Tattoo that he could go dark, which is important in this series. Arcel most recently turned in a script on a Robert F. Kennedy pic that Matt Damon will star in for Warner Bros. 

The Dark Tower has been through many twists and turns — it first surfaced at Universal and then Warner Bros — but they’ve got a lean mean script that is primarily based on the first book in the series, The Gunslinger, establishing the relationship between Roland and young protege Jake Chambers. The latest draft of the script is co-written by Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner, re-conceived by them from an earlier version that was pricey. Pinkner is exec producer.

Next step will be to tap a star to play the gunslinger. Numerous stars have flirted with that role, including Javier Bardem and Russell Crowe. It will be nice to see King — who options his works for $1 with short leashes, but a long one here — finally get a movie on what is his answer to Tolkien’s Middle Earth novels.

Arcel is repped by United Agents and WME.