Idris Elba's casting as The Dark Tower's Gunslinger marked a slight departure from the source material; in Stephen King's novels Roland Deschain is white with blue eyes. Not like it matters an ounce. Elba's got the charm, swagger and acting chops to do King's hero justice, something obvious even from the early set photos (opens in new tab) showing the actor decked out in Roland's Mid-World attire. He truly looks the part.
“It’s better just to treat it like no big deal,” Elba tells EW (opens in new tab) about the decision to change Roland's race. “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. … I think what’s great about it, if I want to say anything about it, is that it is a sign of the times in terms of a colorless society. People go, ‘A good actor is a good actor,’ you know?”
In a year that's seen the Oscars come under intense scrutiny for whitewashing, this is a massive step forward. And who can argue that he's not perfect as the Gunslinger? He looks totally badass, ready to tear apart Matthew McConaughey's villainous Man in Black.
Fans praised Elba's casting, with King also giving him the thumbs-up when the announcement was made. “I was thrilled. I was thrilled to get this job,” Elba says. “I was thrilled because, you know, it’s an alternative to what you could say, what Roland is described as.”
When asked if he was referring to Roland's on-page description as a white guy Elba adds: “A white guy in a sense, but, also just that you could make a version of this film that appealed to a slightly more action-hero type character and I don’t do those films. I haven’t done many action films. I like to bring a little depth and bring a real character."
He makes a fair point. Casting directors could easily have swung for a more obvious 'action lead' choice to star. Early in development Javier Bardem, Russell Crowe, Viggo Mortensen and Liam Neeson were all considered for the part. But after seeing Elba in his full Gunslinger attire, it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role.
Directed by Nikolaj Arcel, and starring Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, Jackie Earle Haley, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Katheryn Winnick and Tom Taylor, The Dark Tower opens on February 17, 2017.
Images: EW, Sony