They broach the fact that this version – which stars Idris Elba (Prometheus) as gunslinger Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) as the chaos minded Man in Black – will differ in several ways from the books. "Akiva Goldsman first pitched it to me while we were making A Beautiful Mind (2001) and the rights weren't available," recalls Howard. "J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) was working on it at first and then Akiva told me J.J. was involved in so many projects he let it go. We started talking about what it could be. I read all the novels and we broke them down. He presented this idea to Stephen King, and this is insider material you might not get, but it was about introducing the Horn of Eld into the very first story. He knew it would allow us to use elements of the novels in a new combination that would give us the latitude to be true to the essence of the novels, but also re-balance and refocus the narrative in a cinematic way.
"That was the jumping off point that began this process. We simplified the story line, made it less expensive as a result, but we still utilized a lot of those important structural adjustments that Akiva and I had devised going back years ago. One of the things we did was put together a team of Dark Tower researchers, devotees of the books. We wanted to restructure the novels to be most cinematic and Stephen King agreed completely and understood the journey we were on immediately and supported it. We used this group to inspire our thinking and stay in the universe of Dark Tower."
It has taken years for the pair to realise their ambitions, with Nikolaj Arcel (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) now busy making the movie. "We've definitely been working on it at least ten years, but we found the perfect way to make it," says Grazer. "It's economical, and forced us to focus on the scenes that were the heartbeat of the story. It's still a big landscape, but the scenes are more bulls eye than maybe it was back then."
In that time, they have gone through various versions, including some that were nearly made with other casting choices. "We came close to making it with Javier Bardem (Skyfall) at one point. I've always felt that the essence of Roland was not necessarily the carbon copy of Clint Eastwood, even though that was what they used as the model on a lot of the book covers. The existential Western hero, played by Clint in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966), and Hang 'Em High (1968) and those Sergio Leone Westerns, that was what inspired young Stephen King to begin with," says Howard. "But I never felt it was necessarily a look as much as an essence. So did Stephen. In this iteration, when we began thinking about candidates, Idris just felt like a really exciting and dynamic possibility. Idris brings this crucial combination of coiled danger, quiet charisma, undercurrents of complexity and nobility, and a kind of timeless cool. These are the elemental qualities of Roland, in my mind, and I think Idris carries it incredibly well. Then there is McConaughey. I had always thought he would be a tremendous Walter."
And what of the much talked about TV part of the plan, which would fill in more of the story between future movies? "We're developing the television part, now," admits Howard. "We don't know what platform it will be on at this point, but we're developing the content in hopes for more movies that will cover the epic and the characters involved." For more from the pair, head over to the Deadline interview here.
The first film, simply called The Dark Tower, will be out here on 17 February next year.