While Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are currently promoting their upcoming films — Star Trek Beyond and Kubo And The Two Strings, respectively — they’re also in the middle of production of the big-screen adaptation of Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower, which tells the mythical tale of a Gunslinger. The series spans eight novels and mixes genres ranging from westerns, mystery, horror, and much more.
Elba and McConaughey have shared their thoughts with EW for their cover story on what looks to be a very exciting adaptation of one of King’s best novels, and the magazine has debuted the first look at the actors in the film. Now, we’re turning our attention to what Elba had to say to the magazine, which includes his excitement about playing Roland, addressing the controversy surrounding the character’s race, and his thoughts about the mystical themes. Check out what he had to say here below, along with the first look at Elba in the film. (Click here for coverage on McConaughey.)
So for those who are not caught up yet, Idris Elba plays Roland Deschain otherwise known as The Gunslinger. Think “a frontier version of a medieval knight who is thirsting for revenge and haunted by visions of a tower that is surrounded by a field of dusky pink roses.” But the meaning of these roses has yet to be revealed to him.
Elba tells EW that his character “has forgotten the face of his father.” He added, “That’s a sense of, ‘You’ve forgotten your purpose.’” At the start of the film, Roland is driven by rage, but deep down he is something else. “He’s a protector.” Providing a more detailed description of Roland, the actor had this to say:
“There’s a mystical element to him,” Elba says during his break between scenes. “He’s about 200 years old. He’s been around for a long time, and has a deep-rooted connection with the [supernatural] nature of the film. Roland’s completely tuned into that. When you meet him, he’s very much a stoic man, doesn’t want to talk. But when you get to know him, he really knows quite a bit about the world and his world’s history.”
Now readers will immediately recognize that there is a huge change to the character. Roland has been depicted, at least on the cover art of the novels and comic books, as Caucasian. But as you can see, with Elba cast, the character is now black. With the #OscarSoWhite controversy and the entertainment industry fighting to be more progressive, Elba offered this answer in response to all of that:
“It’s better just to treat it like no big deal,” Elba answers. “There should be no difference. The character that was written in Stephen’s imagination, it could be any color. It just happens to be me and, you know? In the artwork, it just so happens to be a white guy, but I don’t think that makes any difference. … I think what’s great about it, if I want to say anything about it, is that it is a sign of the times in terms of a colorless society. People go, ‘A good actor is a good actor,’ you know?”
I think that is the best way to approach it, too.
Getting to something more exciting, the actor told the magazine how excited he was to get the job:
“A white guy in a sense, but, also just that you could make a version of this film that appealed to a slightly more action-hero type character and I don’t do those films. I haven’t done many actions films. I like to bring a little depth and bring a real character. And what’s been fun is, Nik’s really up for that. So we do takes that are a little bit more commercial, if you like, and we do takes that are f—ing deep, like we’re making an independent film. It’s an iconic character. I want to get it right.”
You can read the full interview over at EW.
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel, and starring Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Fran Kranz, Jackie Earle Haley, Abbey Lee, and Kathryn Wiggins, The Dark Tower opens in theaters on February 17, 2017.