Filming on the long-awaited big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series is finally underway, and star Idris Elba — who plays the protagonist Roland, a.k.a. The Gunslinger — is opening up about the pressure of nailing the heroic character.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Elba acknowledged that his casting was a bit of an “alternative” to what fans had in mind for Roland, who’s described as white in the books. But the actor said that his main concern was doing justice to the essence of Roland. “It’s an iconic character,” he told EW. “I want to get it right.”
As for his race as it applies to the casting, the actor told EW, “It’s better just to treat it like no big deal.” He continued:
“There should be no difference. The character that was written in Stephen’s imagination, it could be any color. It just happens to be me and, you know? In the artwork, it just so happens to be a white guy, but I don’t think that makes any difference. … People go, ‘A good actor is a good actor,’ you know?”
Elba’s last point is particularly relevant when it comes to other high-profile roles he’s snagged, like the Norse god Heimdall in Marvel’s Thor films. That character was also white on the page, but Elba’s colorblind casting (which caused a stir similar to the current Dark Tower controversy) brought new life to the Asgardian on the big screen. And despite some insisting that James Bond should remain Caucasian, Elba is always at the top of lists of potential 007 candidates to replace Daniel Craig once he hangs up the keys to the Aston Martin.
In related news, the structure of the Dark Tower films will differ slightly from King’s seven-book series, with EW reporting that director Nikolaj Arcel plans to “remix the novels much the way superhero movies often draw from decades of comics mythology to create a new cinematic origin story.” It’s unclear just how those changes will be felt in this first film — and how that may affect the number of films fans can expect going forward — but it’s an intriguing tweak that’s piqued our interest.
Elba will face off with Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black when The Dark Tower opens on February 17, 2017.