Spanish actor Javier Bardem has been offered the pivotal role of the gunslinger Roland Deschain in the upcoming movie version of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series. Director Ron Howard plans to condense the seven novels into three feature-length films. Universal Pictures and NBC also plan a television series to accompany the films, although it’s not yet known if Bardem will portray Roland on television as well.
Born in 1969, the actor has been in films since childhood in his native Spain. He didn’t receive international acclaim until his nomination for an Academy award for 2000’s Before Night Falls in which he played Cuban novelist and dissident Reinaldo Arenas. In 2007, he won an Academy award for his role in the film adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel No Country for Old Men. His most recent Oscar for his starring role in the Spanish-language film Biutiful in 2010.
It almost seems to be the actor’s ka to play the role. He’s no stranger either to film adaptations of literature or to the arid western landscape that predominates throughout King’s novels. His craggy, slightly asymmetrical good looks are right for the part, although the actor’s brown eyes are quite different from the piercing blue ones that King has set in Roland Deschain’s weathered face. He has the physical presence that the part requires.
More important, the award-winning actor has proven his ability to carry a movie on the strength of his own talent. The character of Roland Deschain is as central to King’s tale as the Dark Tower itself is to Roland’s quest. Without a believable Gunslinger, The Dark Tower movies could not stand; the Spanish star has the talent to be the axis around which the story turns.
As talented as he is, Bardem was not the only actor considered for the role. Reports that Christian Bale and Viggo Mortensen were strong contenders for director Howard’s attention have abounded. While Lord of the Rings trilogy star Mortensen certainly has the physique and experience portraying a leader of a “fellowship,” he may simply have missed being ideal for the role by a few years. Bale, on the other hand, looks too young.
At 41 years old, Bardem seems to have the right combination of talent, appearance, and age. Both Howard and King are working together to produce films that match King’s vision as closely as possible; if Roland’s creator feels that he’s found his Gunslinger, it’s hard to argue otherwise.