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The Dark Tower Movie Is a Somewhat-Sequel to the Books, Will Not Feature Susannah or Eddie

Roland's ka-tet might be a little smaller than we thought.

The Dark Tower (2017) Idris Elba June 18, 2016 - Cape Town, South Africa Photograph by Marco Grob

The Dark Tower book series is, in many ways, a love letter from Stephen King to cinema, but it might also be the work of his that will be the most difficult to faithfully adapt for the screen. (Which is saying a lot, when you remember Maximum Overdrive is a movie that exists.)

The series comprises eight books and one novellaif you don’t count some of the characters’ appearances in other, non-Dark Tower King titles. It takes place in various different worlds and times; pays homage to everything from Star Wars to westerns to the King Arthur mythos to Harry Potter to Bruce Springsteen; and incorporates real-world historic events and living people alongside various eldritch horrors. The Dark Tower tries to be all-encompassing, and succeeds far more than it fails, but I have no idea where someone looking to adapt the series for a movie would even begin.

Thankfully, I’m not the one who has to figure it out! That challenge belongs to Nikolaj Arcel, who revealed to Entertainment Weekly as part of their extensive Dark Tower coverage today that the movie will side-step some of the challenges of directing Kings’ books by focusing on the first novel (The Gunslinger) while also functioning as a sequel to the book series in some respects. (Spoilers for The Dark Tower books to follow under the blocked-out text.) 

Arcel explained, “The hardcore fans of The Dark Tower series will know that this is actually a sequel to the books in a way. It has a lot of the same elements, a lot of the same characters, but it is a different journey.”

The fact that the movie will focus so much on the events of the first book means that Eddie and Susannah, two of the most significant characters from the books, won’t make an appearance. The pair don’t show up until book two, so given the movie is trying to contain itself to the events of The Gunslinger, I can understand why Arcel is leaving them out of the film (although EW does say that “an allusion to them may be in the cards”).

However, if the film makes enough money for a sequel, Susannah and Eddie will definitely play a role. Arcel says “They’re certainly out there. I think the entire story deserves to be told and should be told. I would certainly be disappointed in myself or my collaborators if we didn’t bring them in. They’re such a huge part of the story.”

Stephen King, who says he approved of the decision to leave Eddie and Susannah out of this adaptation, also contributed to the script. The author told EW,

“I feel more wrapped up in this one because the books took so long to write and the fan base is so dedicated. They sent me a number of different drafts and it came into focus, let’s put it that way. I’m 100 percent behind it — which doesn’t mean it necessarily will work, just that it’s a good way to try and to get into these stories […] I took a pen and cut Roland’s dialogue to the bone. The less he says the better off, and why not? Idris Elba can act with his face. He’s terrific at it. He projects that sense of combined menace and security. [Roland] is the Western hero, the strong, silent type: ‘Yep,’ ‘Nope,’ and ‘Draw.’”

If The Dark Tower movie does get a sequel, I sincerely hope there will be lots of women and people of color helping to adapt Susannah’s character from the books to the screen. Susannah is a mentally ill, disabled Black woman who becomes one of the most important players in the series. There’s a lot I love about her character—for one thing, aside from Fury Road, there’s not a lot of other representation out there for amputees in genre action stories like this one—but the way she’s depicted in the books sometimes felt lacking in nuance, to say the least.

You can check out a bunch of other exciting The Dark Tower news over on EW today, including a cover story featuring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, McConaughey’s thoughts on playing The Man in Black (there he is below, getting his evil on), and Idris Elba talking about becoming the gunslinger.

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