A mega- cross-platform project that’s been in limbo for the last almost 2 years now, is apparently no longer on life support, and has been revived.
As some of you may have already heard, Universal Pictures initially planned to turn Stephen King’s mammoth novel series The Dark Tower into a feature film trilogy, as well as a network TV series, with Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Akiva Goldsman to direct (Howard), produce (Grazer) and write (Goldsman) respectively.
However, Universal later dropped the project over budget concerns, and since then, word on the street is that Warner Bros has picked up where Universal left off, with the 3-headed monster (Howard, Graze, Goldsman) still very much spearheading the thing.
Skip to earlier this week, when it was revealed that Goldsman will soon be delivering an ammended draft of the script to Warners, which addresses the budget issues, and if the studio is OK with what he delivers, the project may be good to go.
And adding to excitement that the project is getting closer to becoming a reality is word that Russell Crowe will be replacing Javier Bardem, who had long been attached to play the lead role of gunslinger Roland Deschain – which shouldn’t be a big surprise since Crowe, Howard and Grazer have worked together at least twice in the past.
But the one character we are most interested in, in all this, who also happens to be one of the key characters in the sprawling epic work, and who also happens to be black is Susannah Dean, the paraplegic with multiple personalities.
The Dark Tower series, which King himself considers his magnum opus, is a cross-genre work, including elements of science fiction, fantasy, horror and western, with 8 novels in the series, published between 1982 and 2012 (the 8th book, titled The Wind Through the Keyhole, was published in April this year).
But here’s a plot summary:
In the story, Roland Deschain is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers and the last of the line of “Arthur Eld”, his world’s analogue of King Arthur. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West but is also magical. Many of the magical aspects have vanished from Mid-World, but traces remain as do relics from a technologically advanced society. Roland’s quest is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to be the nexus of all universes. Roland’s world is said to have “moved on”, and it appears to be coming apart at the seams. Mighty nations have been torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish without a trace and time does not flow in an orderly fashion. Even the sun sometimes rises in the north and sets in the east. As the series opens, Roland’s motives, goals and age are unclear, though later installments shed light on these mysteries. Along his journey to the Dark Tower, Roland meets a great number of both friends and enemies. For most of the way he is accompanied by a group of people who together with him form the Ka-tet of the Nineteen and Ninety-nine, consisting of Jake Chambers, Eddie and Susannah Dean, and Oy.
And so the question, as the title of this post states is, who should play Susannah Dean?
The character is described as a African-American woman from the 1960s dealing with multiple personalities – a calm version of herself named “Odetta” and a ferocious beast known as “Detta.” She’s also wheelchair-bound.
Wikipedia’s much more thorough description, starts like this:
Odetta Holmes is the only child of Dan and Alice Holmes, a wealthy black couple, living in New York City. At the age of five, the serial killer Jack Mort dropped a brick from a high balcony on Odetta’s head, placing her in a coma. Out of this traumatizing incident, Odetta’s damaged mind created a completely separate, second personality named Detta Walker. The disparity between Odetta’s two personalities approaches the level of polar opposites. Odetta is a morally righteous intellectual with a significant level of education and class who participates in civil-rights protests. Detta is a violent, base individual ruled by sexual desire and fueled by hatred towards the white people Odetta passively resists. The two personalities are completely unaware of each other’s existence.
Sounds seriously intense based on that description alone!
I didn’t read any write-ups that said how old she’s supposed to be, but, based on the images I saw of the character on other sites, and comparisons other blogs are making to actresses who should play her, she’s obviously young, anywhere from 25 to 35, I’d say.
So, with all of that, once again, who should play the part? Keep in mind that there will be a trilogy of films, as well as 2 seasons of a TV series on HBO; so we could be talking about 2 different actresses here – one for the 3 films, and another for the TV series. Unless the plan is the use the same actors for both, which I wouldn’t expect.
Stephen King did confirm that he indeed had Angela Bassett in mind as he was writing the character, in a 2010 interview with Entertainment Weekly, stating, when asked for his casting choices of the key roles: “haven’t got as far as casting in my thoughts, but when I write about Susannah Dean, I always kind of see Angela Bassett in my mind’s eye. Mostly I just want good people in those parts.“
Angela is now probably not young enough to play the part; but keep in mind a couple of things: the Susannah Dean character was introduced in the second novel of the 7-book series, which was published in 1987, when Angela would have been in her late 20s. However, Susannah Dean appears from the second novel until the 7th, which was published in 2004, some 17 years later. So, somewhere in there, Bassett started to influence the way he wrote the character.
Anyway, all that to say, whomever is cast in the role will probably have to have Angela’s qualities – an obvious mental and physical toughness, smarts, with a complimentary sensuality.
I should also note that, as recently as early last year, it was rumored that, in addition to Viggo Mortensen and Javier Bardem, whose names were being tossed around for the coveted lead Roland Deschain role, Naomie Harris was reportedly being considered for the female lead.
This could be a career-making/launching type of role for whomever is cast in either version (film or TV) – especially if they are relatively unknown actresses. The actress selected for the big screen version will be guaranteed 3 films (which could be a good or bad thing); and the actress chosen for the TV series will possibly have a long-term paid job, if the series is successful enough, and runs over several seasons.
I have yet to read the collection of books, but I’m going to eventually; the to-read pile is stacked high right now. So I’d especially like to hear from those who have, on the book series, the characters, how well it’ll translate to the screen etc.
After I’m through reading them all, I’ll post up one of my “Book To Film” pieces on it.