It’s not a surprise — Deadline broke the story December 9 — but iconic author Stephen King made it official on his Twitter account that Idris Elba has been set to play the gunslinger Roland Deschain. He will square off against Matthew McConaughey, who’ll play the villainous Man in Black. Nikolaj Arcel is directing. Given all the focus on diversity, partly fueled by an inexplicable Oscar snub for Elba’s soaring performance in Beasts of No Nation, it seems worth noting this is now official. King’s tweet:
Back when Deadline first revealed this was in the works, there was much debate among commenters over whether Elba was right to play the protagonist, who in the books is a blue-eyed gunslinger. So this is similar to the time that Angelina Jolie won the lead role in the action hit Salt, after Tom Cruise fell out, or any number of times where gender or color was tossed by the wayside and the best actor chosen, in the minds of the director and producers and studio. The film’s being made by Sony Pictures and Media Rights Capital.
Elba is completely primed to become a major star, after his TV work in the BBC series Luther, going back to his villainous turn in HBO’s The Wire to his transformative performance in Beasts of No Nation, for which he was honored with a Best Supporting Actor award at the Independent Spirit Awards, after he was snubbed for an Oscar nomination.
Elba was in the center of discussions he might replace Daniel Craig as James Bond. Now he has a big role with franchise potential: King’s answer to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings spanned eight volumes, and the intention here is to grow a long-running tale, if audiences spark to the first film. After all the incarnations and false starts on The Dark Tower, it now has two terrific actors with chops and swagger, going mano a mano in the magical world King has created. Producing are Weed Road’s Akiva Goldsman and Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Erica Huggins. King is also a producer.
The 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. The next big role will be the young protege.