'The Dark Tower' on Hold Due to Budget Concerns

Friday, 06 May 2011 12:07 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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'The Dark Tower' on Hold Due to Budget Concerns

Director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer, and writer Akiva Goldsman recently locked down Javier Bardem to play the gunslinger Roland Deschain in The Dark Tower, their hugely ambitious adaptation of the Stephen King novel series that will encompass a trilogy of films and pair of limited-run television series, but it appears that Universal Studios has gotten cold feet.  Dripping flop sweat over the fantasy project's necessarily huge budget, the studio has temporarily put the kibosh on preproduction and may abandon the endeavor, allowing Howard and Co. to shop it to other studios.

Last night, The Hollywood Reporter ran an article breaking the news, then promptly removed said article, which reported that the overlords at Universal's owner company Comcast, "have scrutinized the plan and have tentatively decided to put the project into turnaround, mainly due to budgetary concerns."  The budget isn't the only thing motivating their trepidation, however, as, "the final portion of the project has been found creatively lacking."  Presumably, this means the final film is unsatifactory.

Additionally, Deadline has word that preproduction is on indefinite hold, with the staff on hiatus and Howard, Goldsman, and Grazer haggling with the studio over how to proceed.  Even if the process resumes at Universal, the planned September start date is apparently no longer a possibility.  The studio and Imagine Entertainment, Grazer and Howard's production company, are vociferously denying all this, but both industry publications claim to have reliable sources.

Over the next few days, the studio will decide whether to proceed, seek financing partners, or abandon the project.  If The Dark Tower goes into turnaround, several other studios could opt to pick up the project at what would surely be a hefty price tag, considering its scope and the talent involved.  Warner Bros attempted to purchase the rights to the King novels last year, and they've developing The Stand, an adaptation of the author's huge apocalyptic novel.  Sony, which partnered with Imagine and Goldsman for The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons could also conceivably throw its hat into the ring.

Another ambitious Universal project that never got a green light was At the Mountains of Madness, Guillermo del Toro's take on the novella by HP Lovecraft.  Del Toro's dream project would have been an R-rated, $150 million 3D phantasmagoric horror film produced by James Cameron and starring Tom Cruise.  Having been repeatedly burned on risky big budget films, though, Universal opted not to go ahead with that film

We'll have to wait and see what happens with The Dark Tower, but it seems that, from here on out, Universal might be sticking with dependable properties like Fast Five, which became the year's first big hit last weekend.

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