Universal Pictures has put pre-production staff on hiatus as they discuss ways to bring down the budget of the ambitious adaptation of the Stephen King novel series The Dark Tower. Talks are ongoing between studio brass, director Ron Howard and his Imagine Entertainment, and writer/producer Akiva Goldsman about how they will proceed. The plan was to make three movies that would star Javier Bardem, with TV miniseries in between each film. The plan was as ambitious as New Line’s gamble on The Lord of the Rings years ago.

One thing for sure, even though staffers have been told there’s a chance they will return, the plan to start production in September is scratched. If Universal decides the proposition is too rich for its blood — it recently halted At the Mountains of Madness because it was an R-rated $150 million film — then the next move would be to bring it to Warner Bros, where Goldsman’s Weed Road has its deal. Word that Universal would put the project in turnaround began circulating last night, but both the studio and Imagine denied it. They’re still denying it. We’ve held our tongue until now, when staffers have been told to stop working.