Here's that Dark Tower post that I started a few days ago and then never finished because I realized that it was a pointless waste of time. But I figured may as well post what I started.
I've decided to power through Stephen King's Dark Tower series again. The first three books I've read numerous times (the second one I've probably read eight or nine times) but the fourth book rubbed me the wrong way, and after that, I only read the books once. I wasn't incredibly happy with latter half of the series, and even though it picked up a bit in the very end, ultimately I was disappointed. There were points when I felt like King was just rambling and throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks.
Now I feel like enough time has passed that I can take another run at the series and try and experience it as a whole, rather than in little chunks over the course of twenty years. Binge reading, I suppose. Or, in this case, binge listening, as I'm listening to the audiobook versions.
I'm enjoying the audiobooks quite a lot. I was disappointed at first, because when I listened to them back in the eighties and early nineties (as books on cassette) they were read by Stephen King himself. I loved his voice and the way he told the stories; unfortunately, I can't seem to find a digital version of those recordings anywhere. So I'm listening to the more recent editions. In the one I'm on now, The Drawing of the Three, the reader was an actor named Frank Muller, and he had an accent and cadence that's part George Carlin and part Groucho Marx, and I love it. When he did the voice of Eddie Dean, a 22 year old junkie from New York, he did it in such a goofy New York accent that works perfectly. It's not at all how I imagined Eddie Dean's voice in my head, or how King read Eddie on the old cassette tapes, but it's so good. I speak about him in the past tense because I found out that he died tragically in a motorcycle accident. Stephen King, John Grisham and a bunch of other authors held benefits for his family.
Listening to someone perform the voices made me really start to think about who I would cast in a hypothetical Dark Tower movie.
Of course, this is a conversation I've had in my head and with others hundreds of times. Stephen King's epic saga is one of those stories that inspires hours and hours of discussion, and when geeks and nerds start talking about epic stories, inevitably conversations about casting theoretical movies come up.
My choices have changed over the years, and I doubt very much that anyone I thought of even five years ago would come to mind now. At one point I wanted to see Daniel Day Lewis play Roland and Alan Rickman play Walter, the Man in Black. Neither of those choices are right in my head now.
Alright, let's get to it. For now, I'm just going to stick with major characters from the first two books, because those are the two I'm into at this point. Maybe as I go, I'll add to this, or make another post.
Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger.
When I read the books for the first time as a child, I imagined an actor by the name of Everett McGill, who was in Dune, The People Under the Stairs, Twin Peaks and another movie based on a Stephen King story, Silver Bullet. In later years, I imagined everyone from Samuel L. Jackson to Mel Gibson as Roland. When Ron Howard was talking seriously and publicly about making The Dark Tower into a movie and/or a TV series, at various points Benicio Del Toro, Russell Crowe and Javier Bardem were rumored to be in line to play Roland (with Javier Bardem actually announced at one point I believe).
For me, I'm stuck between two actors, so I'll list them both.
The first is Mads Mikkelsen from Hannibal and Casino Royal.
For me, one of the defining characteristics of Roland (and the rest of the people in his world) is a certain level of alien-ness. Even though his world is a distorted and degraded version of our world (which is established almost immediately in the first book) it's so far removed from what we know, that I picture the people looking and sounding just slightly inhuman. Not monstrously so... just kind of off. The bones of the skull set slightly askew, eyes just a little off putting. When I imagine Roland, I picture him unsettling to look at. One of the things that makes Mads interesting to me in this role is his accent. It never really occurred to me, when I was reading the books, to imagine Roland with anything but a gruff, American, Clint Eastwood voice... but when thinking about the logistics of Roland's world, it would stand to reason that he very likely wouldn't have an American accent. Hell, it's a miracle he speaks English (which is something that King addresses in The Drawing of the Three, that Roland's understanding of modern American English is broken at best) so in that light, I find the idea of Mikkelsen's Danish accent incredibly appealing. He's got such an interesting, rich voice, and because it's not an accent I'm used to hearing, I find his voice sometimes soothing and sometimes jarring and uncomfortable. That's perfect for Roland, and he's my first choice.
My second choice is Michael Shannon.
There was something that happens later in the series where, in a fairly obnoxious bit of meta writing and ego-masturbation, a character remarks that Roland looks a bit like Stephen King. That made sense to me and my brain made a bit of an adjustment to accommodate that perspective. Given that King is, himself, a fairly odd looking fellow, it wasn't a huge leap for me to imagine Roland as a tougher, grizzled, more impressive version of King. With that in mind, I think Michael Shannon fits the bill. While he doesn't look remarkably like Stephen King, I'd say he looks more like him than many other actors suited to play Roland. He's got that kind of alien, unsettling look about his face, and is also kind of a tough guy. I think it would work.
Usually when I picture Roland in my mind, I either see him staring stoically (or so intensely that it's unnerving) or yelling. I think Michael Shannon is great at doing both of those things.
While Mads is probably my first choice, just because I find him so interesting to look at, and the accent and voice work so well for me, Michael Shannon is a close second. One thing that kind of puts me off of Shannon a little bit is having seen him play General Zod in Man of Steel. Not because I disliked that movie (I actually thought it wasn't terrible) but because the first time I saw him in a movie was Take Shelter (which was amazing, and was the movie that made me think he should play Roland) and then the second thing was Man of Steel, where he was fairly cartoonish and, while not bad, definitely not Roland. It kind of muddied the waters for me a bit. I never watched Boardwalk Empire, so I didn't see him on that.
One thing I'm struggling with when picturing an actor playing Eddie Dean is that his character is much younger than I remember him being the other times I've read this book. I suppose because it's been long enough that, to me, 22 years old seems very young now. When I was a kid, a 22 year old was just another adult, mostly indistinguishable from other adults. Now a 22 year old is just a baby. So, for me, I have a difficult time thinking in those terms. There's no one that young that I would want to see playing that character. I think that if I were to be in charge of this hypothetical Dark Tower movie, I'd push Eddie's age up just a little. Make him 25 or 26. It's not a huge difference, but I think it would open up the door to a lot more actors.
In this case, I'd go with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
So, earlier, I said that the narrator of The Drawing of the Three reminded me of George Carlin, especially when performing Eddie Dean's lines. Because of that fact, the whole time I've been listening to this book, my brain keeps going to JGL, because for a couple of years now, I've wanted to see Joseph Gordon Levitt play George Carlin in a movie. I just think it would work.
Aaron Paul has publicly expressed an interest in the role, back when the Dark Tower movie/tv series was in development, but I was never really on board with that. Not because I think he's a bad actor or that he'd do a bad job, but just because his character on Breaking Bad, and the relationship that character had with Walter White, was far too close to Eddie Dean and his relationship with The Gunslinger. It's too on the nose, and that doesn't work for me.
Odetta Holmes/Susannah Dean/Detta Walker
The second of "The three." Wheelchair bound and stricken with multiple personality disorder, she is a very intense and interesting character. I remember reading the book the first time and picturing Phylicia Rashād (which should give you an idea of how long ago I read it). Later I imagined Angela Bassett, who (ten or fifteen years ago) would have been absolutely perfect. She probably could still pull it off, though I'd go with someone younger.
I'm tempted to go with Kerry Washington.
I haven't seen her in much, but the one thing I have seen her in was epic, and that was when she hosted Saturday Night Live. It was one of the best episodes I've seen in years, and I remember thinking when I was watching it that her range and instincts were so sharp and fast that she would make a fantastic Susannah Dean.