EXCLUSIVE: While it seems the Comic Con movie panels largely exist to hype sequels and line extensions, there are a couple of attempts at Con-worthy new franchise creations to ponder. Luc Besson flew in from Paris to unveil the visuals to his ambitious $180 million film Valerian, based on the French comic book series (I’ll have more on Besson in Sunday column with Peter Bart). Separately, Sony Pictures and Media Rights Capital just closed the deal with Nikolaj Arcel to direct The Dark Tower, Stephen King’s long-gestating novel series set in a world woven with magic and revolving around the gunslinger Roland Deschain.
Deadline broke the story last month that the studio was courting Arcel, the Danish helmer of the Oscar-nominated film A Royal Affair, and also the co-writer of the Swedish version of the Stieg Larsson novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Arcel, who just turned in a script for a Robert F. Kennedy film that Matt Damon will star in for Warner Bros, will go right to work, and he has enlisted fellow Danish filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen to work together on a rewrite of the script, the last draft of which was written by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner. Jensen is a prolific writer-director, who won the Oscar for his short film Election Night. As I wrote last month, the project is a high priority at Sony and gives new studio head Tom Rothman a strong franchise play.
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 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 after Universal and then Warner Bros developed it and then dropped out. Pinkner is en exec producer.
First installment of The Dark Tower focuses on the first book in the series, The Gunslinger, establishing the relationship between Roland and young protege Jake Chambers. After a quick pass at the script, they will start casting the gunslinger (Javier Bardem and Russell Crowe flirted with the role in past iterations), and the young protege.
Arcel is repped by United Agents and WME, and WME reps Jensen.