Back in September of 2010, a gigantic piece of news came along: director Ron Howard, his Imagine Entertainment partner, Brian Grazer, and writer Akiva Goldsman were developing an absolutely astonishing three–film, two–season TV series combo package based on Stephen King‘s seven–book series, The Dark Tower.
The announcement was unheard of, and Howard and his team had a deal in place with Universal Pictures and NBC Universal that would give him the freedom to film most of it together, much like Peter Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings…meaning the studio had to have the ultimate confidence in the project. The plan was for Goldsman to write the first film’s script and the first season of the TV show, with Howard directing. The first movie was to be followed by the first season of the TV series—which would fill in many of the story details and bridge the first and second movies—and then the second movie would be followed by a prequel season of the TV series before the final film hit. They even had Javier Bardem attached to star in the movies and first season of the show.
Back when the news was first reported, I personally said “it almost seems made up; like there’s no possible way the whole plan will come together as they want it to.” And as much as I hoped to be wrong, it looks like those of us who were excited to see this epic Dark Tower venture come to life will have to wait. It’s being reported that Universal has unexpectedly decided not to greenlight the movies and show, leaving Howard and company to find a new home.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because Universal just pulled the same thing on Guillermo del Toro and his much–anticipated At the Mountains of Madness. Like Howard, del Toro put in months of work on scripts and scouting and various other preparations. He even found a way to stay within the budget that Universal had set for his R–rated adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft work. But when it came down to go time, Universal stunned him with a major denial, leaving him to also try and find another home for the project while he moves on to another monster movie for the time being, Pacific Rim.
Many suspected that the huge acquisition of NBC Universal from General Electric by Comcast led to the del Toro decision, with the new owners perhaps duct taping their wallet closed to save money. And if so, we’d also have to assume that it was a money–saving tactic that led to this decision as well, but apparently that’s not the case, either.
It was estimated that del Toro’s movie would cost around $150 million—an incredible cost and risk for an R–rated horror flick—but James Cameron was also involved as a producer to ease worrying minds. It’s unknown how much The Dark Tower would have cost, but surely it would have been an insane amount. But the catch here, is that Universal IS still moving forward with two other projects that fans won’t be as excited for: one being Peter Berg’s strange Battleship movie with an alien twist; the other being the Keanu Reeves–starring 47 Ronin. It’s not exactly known how much those two cost, but according to Deadline, who broke the Dark Tower news, they could be running around $200 million each WITH huge marketing costs tagged on at the end much like Green Lantern.
So if you ran a movie studio and had to pick two movies to make out of four choices including del Toro’s Madness, Howard’s Dark Tower, Battleship, and 47 Ronin, which two would you pick?
I think it’s safe to assume which two we all want to see more, but perhaps Universal knows something we don’t. Maybe they’re avoiding two massive flops and running with two mega–hits in the making, and maybe two other studios will scoop these rejected projects up and show Universal how bad their decision–making has been as of late. Only time will tell.
What do you think? Good moves or bad moves?