EXCLUSIVESony Pictures and Media Rights Capital may just have found their lead gunslinger for The Dark Tower, the Stephen King novel series set in a world woven with magic and revolving around the gunslinger Roland Deschain. I’m told that Idris Elba has emerged as the front-runner to play Deschain. He would square off against Matthew McConaughey, who’s in talks to play the villainous Man in Black. Nikolaj Arcel is directing.

CA: Premiere Of Paramounts' Remake Of "The Manchurian Candidate" - ArrivalsThere is no deal yet, and nobody would comment for the story. But this would give Elba that long-awaited star vehicle that has seemed inevitable, coming after all of the speculative questions over whether the 007 franchise would install an actor of color into the iconic James Bond role after Elba was mentioned as a strong possibility to replace Daniel Craig. King wrote the Deschain character as white — at least that is how he is depicted in the book cover illustrations — but in Elba they get a top actor who has shown in the BBC series Luther and other works that he is a movie star with swagger.

He is currently in the Oscar mix for his performance in Beasts Of No Nation, the Cary Joji Fukunaga-directed first feature for Netflix for which Elba today got a SAG Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. All this makes him a fresh choice to play Deschain. The recent discussions narrowed down to Elba and Javier Bardem (who circled a previous version of the project), and really, either guy brightens up what is shaping up to be a most intriguing iteration of a franchise that had many false starts at Universal and then at Warner Bros, before MRC and Imagine and Weed Road brought it to Tom Rothman at Sony Pictures.

McConaughey came into the picture recently, and the project really got a boost when they hired Arcel, the Danish helmer of the Oscar-nominated A Royal Affair and also the co-writer of the Swedish film 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, has been working with fellow Danish filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen 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.

Sony will distribute what is planned to be the first in a series of Dark Tower 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 DEC062284_hi_DARK_TOWER_GUNSLINGER_BORNThe 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 — Bardem and Russell Crowe flirted with the role in past iterations — and the young protege.

Elba is repped by WME, The Artists Partnership and Headshell Management.