The Dark Tower casts Gunslinger and Villain

March 5, 2016

in Casting

Idris Elba (DFID Ebola Conference)

Over the last few months there’s been various unofficial announcements for who will take on the roles of the Gunslinger and the Man in Black in the Dark Tower movies. It’s been interesting to follow the media, especially the controversy around the choice for that lead role, but finally we’ve received an official announcement. On March 1, 2016, Stephen King himself tweeted:

It’s official: The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed. #DarkTowerMovie @McConaughey @IdrisElba

So there you have it, our two main protagonist are cast: Idris Elba will take on the role of Roland Deschain, and Matthew McConaughey will be his nemesis, the Man in Black.

Controversy: A Black Gunslinger

Since Idris (The Wire, LutherMandela: Long Walk to Freedom) was first put forward for the role of Gunslinger back in December, there’s been a great deal of discussion on the fact that Roland has never once been imagined, either in print or in the readers minds, as being Black. In creating his Gunslingers, Stephen King was influenced by Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, and the Arthurian legends, so this is certainly taking things in another direction.

I’ll confess I was a little confused by this decision when I first heard about it, but then I figured, “hey, this is Hollywood, they do weird things”. Once you get used to the idea you realize it has no great impact on the storyline.

It will certainly be interesting to see how they handle castings for other characters from the line of Arthur Eld – I hope it doesn’t become too wishy-washy.

The Man in Black fled across the desert…

…and his name was Matthew McConaughey.

McConaughey’s involvement has been all but official since last November. Although he was originally in the running for both this and the Gunslinger role, he was quoted as saying that he’d be more interested in playing the villain, and so it comes as no surprise that he will be taking on the role of Randall Flagg (the most common alias for Walter Padick, aka, the Man in Black).

Other Casting News

Rumors have been running amok these last few weeks, and now Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road, Gods of Egypt) has also been put forward for a major role in the franchise. The details on this are pretty slim for the moment but Deadline, who broke the story, had this to say (paraphrasing), “she’s sexy, dangerous, has fake human skin, and cold snake-like eyes. She doesn’t come in until the seventh book, but will be starring in the first film.“. The character name given by Deadline was Tirana, but this is not an actual name from the books. So, who is Tirana?

Final Thoughts

Nikolaj Arcel as director, Idris Elba as the Gunslinger, and Matthew McConaughey as Randall Flagg. That’s a pretty solid line-up, but we’re still to hear anything on who will play Jake Chambers.

Neither has there been any mention that production has actually started, and with Sony previously being noted as wanting to have a January 2017 release, they’ll need to get their skates on.

Winter releases are traditional times for movies with darker themes, so it’s understandable why Sony have said January, but that’s now just 10 months away. Sure, this first movie will likely be the simplest to make, but that’s still a pretty short time to get it done in — if we expect shooting to take 3 months, and post-production to take 6 months, then that stil gives them some room to play around with. Well, as they say, time will tell…

UPDATE: various sources around the internet are reporting that the release date has been pushed back to February 17, 2017.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Bango Skank March 6, 2016 at 2:32 am

A black Roland Deschain. Next up for Nikolaj Arcel… Danny Devito as the Terminator!

Idris Elba is a very good actor, but this does not give me much hope for a faithful telling of this incredible tale.

catalino March 6, 2016 at 7:35 am

BIG mistake that will really damage the story, just like when they used Tyler Perry as Alex Cross…Ive read the gunslinger books 4 times, I believe that Clint Eastwood’s son would be a better choice due to the blue eyes. It would be like putting Brittney Spears to play Detta. I for one will not pay to see it if you use Idris Elba as Roland…

Roland Deschain March 6, 2016 at 7:42 am

first thing is i dont care about roland being black but it fucks up the som things because susannah dean is black witch is pretty odd in Rolands world and the fact she calls him white motherfucker and there is more

second ten months for making a movie like this dosent sound good at all and they mention that most of it will be in modern day that dosent sound good either.

overall i relly hope that it dosent suck but i have serious doubts that it will be good

White Honky March 7, 2016 at 9:55 am

How the hell is this going to work with Susannah (Odetta, Detta)?? The entire Drawing of the Three shes calling Roland and Eddie Honky’s? Are they gonna make her white and then have her use the N word?? This is ridiculous!! I have no problem with a black actor, but NOT as ROLAND!! This is the biggest mistake they could’ve made!!

Robert March 7, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Wrong in so many ways.
The books were great but i don’t hold out much hope for the film with Idris Elba as Roland? Stupid is as stupid does.

Enrique March 8, 2016 at 12:39 am

Not that my opinion matters, but I’m disappointed by the casting. I could think of several actors who I think would fit better. For Roland: James Purefoy, Viggo M., or perhaps Shia L. as a young Roland).

I’m glad Matthew M. opted for the role of Flagg, although I’m a bit curious about how it would turn out if Viggo was cast as the villain. Others who I think could be a fit: Steve Buscemi, Sam Elliott.

Patrick March 8, 2016 at 1:30 pm

I don’t think this is a big deal. Idris Elba would not have been my first choice. I would have chosen a white actor. But Idris looks pretty gritty. I can totally see him as the gunslinger. And the whole thing with Susannah, she wasn’t pissed because Roland was white, she’s pissed cuz he pulled her into his world. And she really didn’t want to be there. Plus, you know, the whole split personality thing makes you kind of crazy. So you can still play off that anger towards Roland – white or black.
As long as they both embrace the awesomeness that is this story, it will be fantastic. And don’t forget Ron Howard is involved too. And he’s kind of pretty good as a director.

bryce March 9, 2016 at 2:53 pm

This is a really bad idea. I like Idris as an actor but he’s no roland. This totally changes the story. Been waiting for years for this movie. Don’t think i can watch it now.

Kathy March 10, 2016 at 7:38 pm

Now I love Idris Elba, but he is completely WRONG to play Roland. It will cause a need to change so much, it won’t be based on the books anymore. The best person, in my opinion, is Timothy Olyphant. Someone earlier posted that Clint Eastwood’s son would be good. I don’t know what he looks like, but if it’s anything like his father, that would work too. My biggest issue is Roland’s blue eyes. They play such a prominent role in the story and I don’t think Idris can pull that off. Also, someone else drew attention to Detta referring to Roland and Eddie as Honkeys. Doesn’t work if Roland isn’t white. I hope, in the end, they decide to do a better job at following the books.

Todd Riley March 10, 2016 at 11:46 pm

I’m glad the story is coming to the big screen. I can’t help but wonder if Roland was a black man in the books and a white actor was selected for the movies can you imagine how wrong that would be in today’s world? Having said that, I’m excited to finally see the Gunslinger come to the big screen. My loyalty is with Stephen King and his story. I’m happy for him and the fans who just want to see this movie happen.

Danne March 11, 2016 at 12:19 pm

Hmmmm. Tirana as a “major” character. She was first introduced around page 367 of Song of Susannah as a fat can-toi in a silver lame dress attending the vampire’s dinner in the Dixie Pig. She disappears very early in the next book. More digressions. I’m excited about Matthew, coming around to Idris, but this bit about Abby Lee is just ridiculous.

Aloenam March 13, 2016 at 3:48 am

There are most certainly more qualified candidates for the role of Roland. I’m a little disappointed the studio didn’t try harder to find the better fit.

Having Idris will change elements of the story and relationships between our fellow Ka-mates but all it really means is that they wont be using the racist angle to develop these characters as the books did. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if they gloss over the drawing of the 3 rather quickly, just to get the gang together, and move on with the Dark Tower story it’s self. It would/will be very unfortunate but casting Idris makes more sense to me if you have already decided to write out certain elements of the tale.

I’m not overjoyed by this whatsoever. Although if they digitally alter his eyes to make them the blue, cold ice burgs that Roland had in the book. It would make this unimportant fan feel a little better about the whole thing.

Stephen March 14, 2016 at 7:05 am

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid choice for black actor to play Roland!!!
The world has moved & poducers with S. King forgot faces of their fathers!!!
It’s better to stop making this movie now not to make great mistake…

Andy March 15, 2016 at 8:15 pm

I’m just glad it’s happening. All of you that say you “can’t watch it” if Roland is black, give me a break. You can’t seriously think it matters that much to the story. Good. Stay home, more room in the theater for me.

Capt Bizarro March 16, 2016 at 11:16 pm

No. It still sucks.

Jeremy March 17, 2016 at 1:00 am

“I think Eastwood’s son would be a better choice due to his blue eyes”
This may be the most idiotic thing I think I’ve heard in a long time. Eye color is the most important thing for you when it comes to casting Roland. Really?

The only minor storyline this effects is Detta’s racist taunts, and not really at all. She’s gonna be just a vicious and crazy calling him an uncle tom as she was spewing out ‘honky mahfahs’. I’m sure we’ll get to hear use her catch phrase in the singular form anyways.

Give me good actors, which Idris and McConaughey are, and stay as true to the story as possible, and I feel satisfaction coming.

Get over skin color, your own honky mahfahness and get on board for seeing a story you’ve dreamed about coming to the big screen becoming a reality.

Shelly March 27, 2016 at 5:40 pm

I’m re-reading the books after a 10 year wait to try and imagine the current choice of cast members for the movie. It clearly states the images of each one in the book so it’s very likely the movie will be as disappointing as VC Andrews flowers in the attic was to me. I’m sure I’ll skip the movie as not to diminish the excitement I felt reading the book. Especially dark tower IV.

Jeannie April 8, 2016 at 10:02 am

clearly, this movie isn’t being made for those of us who put this series of books on the map, so to speak. I am sure it will attract millions of viewers who don’t read books and who don’t care about Hollywood trashing a perfectly wonderful story. I reread all books before the release of the next so I am pretty familiar with the story and characters and simply cannot see Idris Elba as Roland. He is a great actor but this casting completely changes the story. I have waited to see this epic story made into a movie for decades. This is not going to be Stephen King’s Gunslinger. It will be Arcel’s Gunslinger. I am disappointed. Also, Arcel’s comments that those of us who are not happy with his decision to cast Idris Elba are racists is an insult and shows me he is an idiot who doesn’t really understand these books.

George April 11, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Would much rather see this as a TV/Cable series – the movie version is going to get so condensed that we will barley recognize it. With the recent success of 11/22/63 – why would something of this size be cut up for 2-3 hour movies?

IT May 5, 2016 at 8:42 pm

What about Rolands spawn of a creature that goes to kill his “Old White Daddy”?
This isn’t the story at all, this is Akiva writing his own story and using Kings greatest fans to cause attention to the movie. I cant see this happening. Chissit-chassit- something something basket. This is a grave mistake and insulting the fans that LOVE these stories? I don’t get it, Akiva. How am I a racist again? Because we want you to stick to the story that we apparently read, and you, apparently, did not?

Shelley Ross May 11, 2016 at 7:16 am

Clint Eastwoods son should play Roland. He has the look and with his dad’s help he could pull it off. I love all the actors they have considered but they aren’t right for the part of a man that some people fell in love with 30 years ago.

Dana B. Williamson May 13, 2016 at 3:18 pm

This is just a movie based loosely on the book series…I will wait for the Starz or HBO versions!!! I am a real fan of the books!!!

JD May 17, 2016 at 5:22 pm

I’ve read the complete series twice, listened to it twice, evangelized the story to many and have shared the journey with my closest friends. My dog is named Oy.

This casting is an abomination. Sickening.

The entire story line portrays Roland with a “Clint Eastwood” resemblance. Why is it racist to expect the same in casting?

As already mentioned, having a black Roland completely destroys the relationship with Susannah/Detta. Unbelievable.

Making this casting decision is the same as reverse discrimination.

None of the fellow readers of the Dark Tower series that I know will care to watch this, and I STAND with them.

Lauren Griffin May 27, 2016 at 10:02 am

I don’t understand why Hollywood feels that it’s necessary to make drastic changes to the Dark Tower series that we all know and love. Idris Elba is a talented actor but he’s NOT the person to play Roland. The dynamic between Roland and Odetta/Detta/Susannah will have to be completely changed (a major plot point, especially in The Drawing of the Three) and there are also many other instances in the series that wouldn’t make sense if Roland were black. Hell, according to the books, most of the people in Midworld had never even SEEN a black person. I’ve loved the Dark Tower series for decades now and I hate to see it destroyed. There’s absolutely no reason for the story or characters to be changed. I don’t understand why Stephen King isn’t objecting to his masterwork being subjected to all of this. It seems that he would be even more upset than the fans. After all, he’s been “living” with these characters since the seventies and he obviously had a clear picture of them in his head. Roland was described in a very detailed manner (as were Susannah, Eddie, Jake, and others). I suppose it’s possible that he isn’t objecting because he doesn’t want to be perceived as a racist; he’s probably right to be afraid of that since everyone who HAS dared to dislike the choice of Idris Elba to portray Roland has immediately been branded as such. I still expected more from Stephen King, though, especially regarding The Dark Tower.

I’ve always found it disappointing that so many of King’s tales were excellent in book form but completely AWFUL when made into films (with a few notable exceptions). Sadly, it seems that The Gunslinger and the following films are probably going to fall into the “awful” category (if they even make more than one film).

Tekbit June 28, 2016 at 7:02 pm

I can’t help but be a bit disappointed at the casting of Roland and The Man in Black. I always pictured Roland as a character more like Anson Mount from “Heel on Wheels” and I don’t see how Matt M is going to “Un-pretty” himself up to be the Man in Black. But I waited too long so I will take what I can get as long as the stick to the Original Recipe.

Jerri Steele July 23, 2016 at 11:27 am

A black man as Roland? NO NO NO! I will not be watching it since it will be a farce. What’s wrong with you people. I have read Dark Tower over and over Clint east wood is perfect for the role, period.

megadev July 29, 2016 at 7:36 pm

Yeah, Clint Eastwood is PERFECT for the role… Until he breaks a hip trying to dance the commala.

Miao August 1, 2016 at 12:01 pm

….the entire point of the book series was to take the archetypes of the various characters and portray them as human versions of that archetype. As in fallible, real people version of those archetypes.

Replacing them with other types of characters will damage the dynamic of them. Next they’ll have Odetta Holmes as a white woman and Eddie Dean as an Asian.

There is such a thing as taking the politically correct stance too far.

4Q2bud August 5, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Idris Elba ? No f**king way. What about the drawings in the book? Roland is white.

Christopher Elliott August 23, 2016 at 5:54 pm

I’ll wait for the cable premiere. I am not going to pay for a movie that will not be accurate.

Graham August 27, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Such a shame that such a fundamental and cultural Marxist casting choice, will lose a fortune at the box office and destroy ‘what could have been’ an amazing franchise.
As a Brit myself, and follower of cheap and nasty Detective series, I can say with total certainty, Elba will never ‘hold up’ or convince in this type of role. Way out of his depth and ability.

D September 3, 2016 at 12:45 pm

This is like Tom Cruise (5′ 7″ 160lb weasel) being cast to play Jack Reacher (6’5″ 250lb brute). Love that character. The movie sucked. For some characters image is just that important. Roland is one of those.
I’ve read and reread the Dark Tower books for 28 years. Wizard and Glass is my favorite novel. SKs fans had to wait a loooong time in between books. Very disappointed.

D September 3, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Just saw pictures of Roland in New York with Jake. Anyone remember that scene in the first book? No? That’s because it never happened. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuccckkkkk!

Mike S October 25, 2016 at 1:25 am

The Dark Tower series is what made me a Stephen King fan. I always thought it could be a great movie series and look forward to seeing the first movie. I just hope it is not delayed too much as I am having my own fight with cancer and it looks like I might not win this one but I am pretty sure I will still be around in February 2017.

AB December 27, 2016 at 6:46 am

Any deviation from the books would be an insult. Roland was portrayed as a white man all throughout the series. It has nothing to do with being racist. It has everything to do with keeping true to the storyline. I was extremely disappointed in the casting. This has nothing to do with the quality of the actors. Fans of the Dark Tower Series developed a very intimate relationship with the characters. We deserve to experience that same intimacy on the big screen. Another person mentioned exactly what I was thinking… I will look forward to a cable series. Could you imagine…. Game of Thrones quality for the Dark Tower Series!!!!

B See February 23, 2017 at 7:32 am

Actually, It has a huge impact on the story. How exactly, Will you deal with Odetta? Roland Being Black Would create a Kindred spirit between them, thus voiding any progress towards susanna, as The whole process Of her becomming Susanna DEAN happened because of the bond formed with Eddie, Which is considerably less likely to happen if Detta/Odetta does not have an Aversion to Roland. Admittedly, Nowhere in the text does it expressly state he is NOT black, but it does Specifically state he IS white.

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