Last week, while we were all basking in the presence of Marvel and gearing up to further bask in the presence of Star Wars, an interesting bit of news slipped under the radar. Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul has been approached to star as Eddie Dean in the film series adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. If you don’t know who Eddie Dean is, we’ll get to that (no, it’s not the sausage guy). If you don’t know what The Dark Tower is, it’s only the greatest fantasy series after J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. But to just call it a fantasy series is a disservice. It’s a blend of fantasy, science-fiction, horror, and western all spun into a meta-narrative about the nature of stories in a way that only King could conceive. The series is also supported by a prequel comic-book series that explores many of the central characters pasts. I already named The Dark Tower as my #1 movie that was never made, but now the project is back on track! The simplest overview is that the series follows Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, and his group of followers (his Ka-Tet) as they weave through alternate worlds on their journey to the Dark Tower, a spire which holds together the multiverse and allows those who reach it to, well…you really should just read it.
Ron Howard is set to helm with a reworked script by Akiva Goldsman. I’m not entirely confident about this directorial decision as of yet, mostly because of the poor adaptation of The Da Vinci Code and Goldsman’s writing usually circles between poor and bland. But big-budget films being what they are, someone else will probably end up with the majority of the screenwriting credit. The series will be a mixed-media experiment unlike any other, with the seven book series alternating between filmic and television adaptations. Given how much narrative is in the series and how much backstory there is for the central character, Roland, I wouldn’t be surprised if the TV show tackles his youth and the films focus on his main quest. Sony Pictures will likely be looking for actors willing to sign on for a multi-film deal with the possibility of television appearances. So with all of that in mind, I’m here to lead the way and present to you a comprehensive look at the best possible cast that could ever grace the waste lands of Mid-World.
Michael Shannon as Roland Deschain
The central character of The Dark Tower is also the most difficult to cast. Roland is stoic, driven to a fault, and his entire path is one filled with tragedy. While he’s the hero, his uncompromising nature also makes him occasionally cruel and selfish. He’s a man with a lot of blood on his hands but one still comprised of goodness. A few years back, Javier Bardem was set to lead as Roland (which I was completely behind), but when the project stalled he was replaced by Russell Crowe (which I was not behind). I think both are out of the running, so who can provide the multi-faceted performance of a man with not one but many worlds on his back? I’d go with Michael Shannon, who can carve emotions into his face as if it were made out of stone. He’s got experience playing the strong, silent types filled with inner turmoil but also men who live and die by the power of their words. Shannon’s also got a fair amount of oddness in him, which will be perfect when traipsing through King’s worlds.
Aaron Paul as Eddie Dean
The first to join Roland’s ka-tet, Eddie begins the series as a drug addict before getting clean with Roland’s help. Eddie frequently provides most of the series’ humor through his pop culture references and remarks on the strangeness of the situations they all find themselves in, but he’s anything but comic relief. In many ways, he’s the voice of the reader but with too much personality and history to be considered an everyman. There are obvious reasons why Aaron Paul would be perfect for the role, but those worried about typecasting for the actor shouldn’t fear. Eddie may begin his journey as an addict, but once he comes clean, most of the character’s inner darkness is purged. Eddie isn’t Jesse Pinkman, and I have no doubt that Paul would stay true to that. Fingers crossed these early discussions go through and he’s officially cast.
Rutina Wesley as Susannah Dean
Plucked from 1964, Susannah begins the series suffering from a split personality disorder, one mannerable and prudish and the other violent and vindictive. Through the course of the series, these personalities balance themselves out into an individual who is kind, but also the deadliest member of the ka-tet, second to Roland. Susannah also lost her legs in a childhood accident, leaving her wheelchair bound. Susannah needs an actress with screen presence and True Blood’s Rutina Wesley can easily handle the character’s drastic personality shifts before settling into someone likeable. It’s easy to see Wesley as a threat but also someone who can play romance opposite Paul’s Eddie.
Ty Simpkins as Jake Chambers
The youngest member of the ka-tet, 11-year-old Jake becomes like a son to Roland over the course of the series. He’s quiet and introspective and has the unique gift (or curse) of remembering his life in two timelines. Jake is perhaps the most selfless and truly good character in the series. The film will probably age him up some, so I’d go with Iron Man 3 and Jurassic World’s Ty Simpkins. If he can hold his own against Robert Downey Jr., he can certainly make his mark in an ensemble.
Andy Serkis as Oy
Oy is a billy-bumbler, a creature that’s a mix between a badger, raccoon, and dog, with the limited ability to speak and echo sounds. He serves as Jake’s companion through the novels. Oy could easily be fully computer-generated but I say give him some personality and let Andy Serkis do motion capture, because Andy Serkis can do anything.
Joaquin Phoenix as The Man in Black
Roland’s central antagonist through the series is the demonic-magician, Randall Flagg. Flagg is also the central antagonist in Stephen King’s The Stand. He appears in a number of King’s novels, usually with his name forming the initials R.F. If Warner Bros. hadn’t been foolish and passed on The Dark Tower, we could have had a Stephen King cinematic universe with the same actor playing Flagg in The Stand, talking over in The Dark Tower as well. Flagg is slippery, charismatic, and downright evil. He’s everything you’d imagine the devil to be. Described as looking ageless, there’s a variety of actors who could play Flagg, but my pick would be Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix could easily match Michael Shannon’s madness and prove to be the perfect foil.
James Spader as Blaine the Mono
Blaine is an evil train driven to madness, bent on suicide, and fixated with riddles. Yeah, read that sentence again. That’s just how mental and awesome The Dark Tower is. Blaine is all arrogance and a cracked mental state, and after seeing Age of Ultron last weekend, I’m convinced James Spader is the man to voice the character. Blaine is arguably the most terrifying villain in the series, and if you watched Season 8 of The Office, you’ll know that Spader can pull off unhinged and terrifying.
Tony Todd as The Crimson King
The Crimson King is the ultimate evil in the series, a mad dictator responsible for the dire state of Mid-World and one bent on the annihilation of the universe. His appearance is the torso and head of a man placed on the lower body of a spider, so yeah, he’s pretty grotesque. The Crimson King would also likely play some role in the TV series and be given more of a backstory than the kind of unknowable evil he is in the novels. In terms of casting, I’d go with the always imposing Tony Todd.
–“Hile! To me, gunslingers! To me!”