May 05, 2011 10:57pm PT by Borys Kit, Matthew Belloni
Imagine Denies 'Dark Tower' Trilogy in Turnaround As Questions Mount
The ambitious plan by Universal, Imagine Entertainment and NBC to turn Stephen King’s The Dark Tower opus into a film trilogy with a television supplement has hit a major snag.
Word leaked Thursday that Universal and its new owners at Comcast had serious budget issues with the massive project. Spearheaded by Imagine’s Ron Howard and Brian Grazer as well as writer-producer Akiva Goldsman, Dark Tower was to have been a film trilogy with a TV component in between the movies. Javier Bardem was in negotiations to star in the Howard-directed first movie and the first TV component, with options for the other two movies; in April, Mark Verheiden came aboard to co-write the TV component with Goldsman.
But multiple sources told THR Thursday that the project was in trouble and on the verge of being put in turnaround.
Imagine president Michael Rosenberg, however, vehemently denies that the project has been shelved.
"Dark Tower is not in turnaround," Rosenberg tells THR, adding "there are issues and on-going budget discussions with almost every film in development."
A Universal spokesperson declined to comment.
Two sources close to the project say that Comcast executives have heavily scrutinized the plan, mainly due to budgetary concerns. The sources also say that the final portion of the project has been found creatively lacking.
A final decision is said to be expected soon on whether to move forward, seek additional financing partners or cancel the project entirely. But cast and crew have been told to stop prepping the project.
If Dark Tower does become available to other studios, it won’t be a cheap project to take on. Insiders say that Universal paid $5 million for the rights. That doesn’t include the hefty fees for Howard, Grazer and Goldsman, not to mention Oscar-winner Bardem’s fees for not only the movie but the TV show (he’d be paid more than the average TV star).
Warner Bros. is one potential home for the project. The studio vied for Dark Tower rights last year and is already developing The Stand, King’s post-apocalyptic mega-novel. Insiders say Warners would at least kick the tires on Dark Tower.
Another potential home is Sony, for whom Imagine and Goldman made The Da Vinci Code and its sequel, Angels & Demons.
This isn't the first time a pricey Universal project has been stopped in its tracks by the Comcast regime. At the Mountains of Madness, Guillermo del Toro's $150 million horror project with Tom Cruise attached, was put into turnaround earlier this year.
Sources said that if Universal were to put Dark Tower into turnaround, it would incur a $10 million penalty.
Kim Masters contributed to this report.