UPDATE 5/28/20: The Dark Tower writer and executive producer Glen Mazzara has dropped some new details on what the show would have been if Amazon hadn't passed on the pilot. On the Kingcast podcast, which dropped on Wednesday, Mazzara revealed that the series would have started by showing the novel's famous opening of "The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed," but then would have followed the Wizard & Glass story of how Roland lost everyone and everything he loved before finally reaching the main Dark Tower saga of Roland's journey with Eddie and Susannah and Jake and Oy sometime around Season 3.
"In this version he's chasing Marten because Marten was with Gabrielle, and he's vowed his revenge... So he chases Marten across the desert and ended up in Hambry. He meets Susan. In the pilot, it's the Feast of the Kissing Moon and she's being presented to the mayor, and she meets Roland on the road. Roland goes into Traveler's Rest. He has the scene [with] Sheemie and Roland get[ting] into a classic western stand-off," Mazzara explained in the podcast. "The ka-tet catches up, and we have Cuthbert use the slingshot and he takes out one of the Big Coffin Hunters. They go into the square and as they're arguing, Roland explaining he's there to find and kill Marten, Susan grabs him and they dance. They actually dance to a Flogging Molly tune, which I love. The Big Coffin Hunters come in and are chasing him through the square, but Roland sees Marten, so everything all collides in the end."
It was a very ambitious plan, and Mazzara is disappointed he didn't get to see it through. But he believes someone else will eventually tackle the story with the dedication (and the budget) it deserves.
Previously 1/16/20: Amazon has now decided against going forward with an adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower. The streaming service reportedly declined to pick up the pilot, from executive producer Glen Mazzara, due to concerns that it wasn't on par with some of its other sweeping fantasy adaptations, like The Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time. Deadline first reported the news of The Dark Tower's cancellation on Jan. 15, and Mazzara confirmed the news in a subsequent Twitter thread.
The Dark Tower cycle is Stephen King's magnum opus, an eight-book epic fantasy Western about gunslinger Roland Deschain's quest to save the multiverse from destruction. It was adapted into a movie in 2017 starring Idris Elba as Roland and Matthew McConaughey as Roland's nemesis the Man in Black, and around that time it was announced there was a companion prequel TV series in the works as well. Then the movie was unsuccessful both financially and with fans, and the TV series seemed dead in the water.
Before Amazon's cancellation, the TV series was very close to being realized, albeit in a different form than originally planned. The Dark Tower is too rich a text with too devoted a fanbase to be thwarted by a failed movie, especially during this current Stephen King adaptation renaissance (see also It, Pet Sematary).
Below is everything we knew about The Dark Tower before it was cancelled by Amazon.
It was in pilot stage for Amazon. Amazon — which is trying to become the home of epic fantasy TV — ordered a pilot for the series, per Deadline. It was in production in Croatia and was produced by Media Rights Capital, the independent studio behind shows like House of Cards and Ozark, as well as the Dark Tower movie. It was executive produced by Mazzara, who previously was the showrunner on The Walking Dead's acclaimed second and third seasons. The movie was rated PG-13, but the presence of Mazzara and the streaming home indicates a darker, more faithful take on the material.
It had its Roland and its Man in Black. The gunslinger Roland Deschain was to be played by Sam Strike, a young British actor who previously was a cast member on the long-running British soap EastEnders and more recently starred on the sci-fi horror series Nightflyers. And though his role was not confirmed, Deadline reported that Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen — best known for Vikings and BlacKkKlansman — would play the Man in Black, who has many different aliases, and in this story would go by Marten Broadcloak, which is what he was called in Gilead when Roland was young.
A Game of Thrones guy was onboard. In an interview with the Mirror, Jerome Flynn — aka Game of Thrones' swashbuckling sellsword Bronn — let slip that he'd be part of The Dark Tower adaptation in an as-yet-undisclosed role. "I've always said I'd like to play a cowboy — and now one has come along," he said. "I'm excited for that." He could've been Roland's father Steven! He could also have been someone else, but we think he'd be a good Steven.
As was a Walking Dead guy. Michael Rooker, who played hard-edged survivor Merle Dixon on early seasons of The Walking Dead, reunited with Mazzara for this project, according to the actor's personal website. His role is currently undisclosed, but Birth.Movies.Death reasonably speculated that he'd be playing bandit and failed gunslinger Eldred Jonas.
It would tell Roland's origin story. The first book in the Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, started somewhere in the middle of Roland's story, while the fourth book, Wizard and Glass, and eighth book, The Wind Through the Keyhole, flashed back and filled in his early life. The plan for the series had always been to tell the story of young Roland, and was originally described as an adaptation of Wizard and Glass, a tale about teenage Roland and his friends traveling to a place called Mejis and experiencing great beauty and tragedy. And from Deadline's description of what the series would be — an "origin story" of how Roland "first became a gunslinger and got his guns, his first conflict with the Man in Black, his first love, and his first mission as a gunslinger" — it sounds like the Wizard and Glass plan was still in place. No word yet on whether the series would use the pilot script written by the movie's director, Nikolaj Arcel, and co-writer, Anders Thomas Jensen.
Idris Elba was out. The original vision for the show was that it would be connected to the movie, with Elba and Tom Taylor reprising their roles in a frame narrative as Roland tells a story from his youth to his ka-tet (destiny-bound travel companions). But Deadline described the series as "independent from the movie," and the casting of Sam Strike showed that they were taking the character in a different direction. And since the movie didn't work out, it was definitely a better approach to start fresh.
But billy-bumblers were in. When Mazzara was announced as the showrunner back in 2017, he promised that the series would have billy-bumblers, which are raccoon-like creatures that are native to Roland's home, Mid-World. Billy-bumblers didn't make it into the movie, so by giving them a shout-out Mazzara was signaling to fans that his take would be more faithful to the books they love.
It was supposed to come in 2020. According to Rooker's website, The Dark Tower Season 1 was supposed to consist of 13 episodes and premiere in 2020, before Amazon decided not to pick it up..
The Dark Tower movie is streaming on Showtime.