The Dark Tower Series Casting Call (Ka-Tet of 19)

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

With those 12 words, my life changed. I have been a passionate follower of The Dark Tower series since I was in junior high, when I wrote Stephen King a letter telling him that the books made me believe in magic, describing my grim little hometown in East Texas, offering him Taco Bell coupons for some damn reason and insisting he just HAD to try the drink Orbitz.

It was the 90s.

A year later, he sent me the publisher’s copy of the newly published Wizard and Glass, inscribed “Dear [Marla], There’s still plenty of magic in the world. Your letter proves it. From a fellow Orbitz junkie, Stephen King. 2/3/98.”

In the following book, Wolves of the Calla, he wrote that Pere Callahan took on a range of odd jobs, including “mucking out horse stalls in Lufkin, Texas.” Yep, that’s the small town I’d described to Mr. King. HE WROTE. MY TOWN. INTO THE SERIES.

I have a small 19 tattooed on my right wrist. I just typed all of the above quotes from memory. I’ve read these books countless times. Believe me when I say: this shit MATTERS to me. So as long as they’ve been discussing an adaptation of The Dark Tower series, I have been terrified. WHAT IF THEY MESS IT UP? How could Hollywood possibly deliver the scope of this breathtaking, sprawling, epic series?

Well, I’ll tell you. Agreeing to develop a movie trilogy and a multi-season television series to be produced simultaneously, thereby revolutionizing entertainment as we know it, is a damned fine start. I’m not sure about Ron Howard–I mean, seriously? Ron Howard? But the man has big plans and this monumental multi-platform format shows a tremendous amount of respect for the source material. I’m just gonna say it. For now…I am THRILLED. Thrilled! However, I reserve the right, if at any point I read news that I find alarming, to revert immediately back to anxious and resentful.

So! Here are my long-touted cast picks! Some of these are new, but most I’ve been emphatically insisting upon for years.


Roland Deschain/Roland of Gilead/The Gunslinger:

Roland is the last surviving gunslinger in a world that has moved on. He’s a hard-assed old romantic who is singularly consumed with his quest to reach the Dark Tower.

viggo mortensen

Viggo Mortensen: Okay, this is the only one that matters. For me, there is no substitute. I’ve SEEN Viggo in the role for so many years, and I can’t imagine another actor capturing Roland’s rugged brand of poetry. That doesn’t mean another actor couldn’t portray the role, and who knows if Viggo would even want to tackle another epic franchise. He could fear fantasy typecasting after LOTR, but Cronenberg’s always around to offer him a fund of richly diverse characters. And man oh man, would he be perfect.

eddie dean

Eddie Dean:

Eddie’s my FAVORITE. He’s the character in the series whose journey is the most resonant and painful. A wise-cracking ex-junkie with a stout heart, he loses some of his embittered edge upon falling in love with Susannah.

james mcavoy

James McAvoy: He’s got the right look and intensity, and he’s an incredibly talented actor. But Eddie reveals a charming goofball inside himself once he relinquishes his demons, and I don’t know if Jimmy Mac can sell goofy. Probably he could.


Shia LaBeouf: Stay with me here. He’s definitely got the goofy thing down, and he’s the only actor I’m considering who actually has Eddie’s hazel eyes. Although he tends to play squeaky clean in movies, he’s actually a grumpy little rebel with a substance abuse problem. But does he have real acting chops? If so, I’ve yet to see them.

joseph gordon-levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Now what young, handsome, dark-haired actor out there can play goofy and intense with equal talent and charm? Well how about Mr. I Went From Third Rock From the Sun to Brick JGL! He would be so, so, so great in this role. And I’m madly in love with Eddie, so it works out that I’m already madly in love with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It helps with the suspension of disbelief. Just go with me on this one.


Detta Walker/Odetta Holmes/Susannah Dean:

Susannah is the strong, flippant, courageous love of Eddie. She’s missing both of her legs and harboring some SERIOUS demons. As in, a whole bucketful of personalities rumbling around in her pretty head. This character will require a tremendous amount of talent and subtlety. Normally I’d argue for an actress who actually needs a wheelchair to be cast in the role, but as Susannah experiences several significant dream sequences wherein she has the use of her legs, that wouldn’t work.

gina torres

Gina Torres: The moment I saw Gina Torres in the pilot of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, I thought, “That’s Susannah.” She’s got the look, the strength, the talent, the attitude. And she looks good holding a gun! Unfortunately, she’s probably a bit too old now, although Susannah is older than Eddie (in years, not just when you take into account that they are from different times). I can’t help but picture her still, although I can’t really see her paired with any of the above actors.

zoe saldana

Zoe Saldana: A LOT of people are pulling for Saldana to take this role, and I get it. I do. She looks right, she’s a bad-ass, and girlfriend can RAISE AN EYEBROW. But can we get some love for other actresses of color out there? Seriously, I love Zoe Saldana, but she’s been in three huge franchises already. It’s time to spread the love. Still, she’d be great.

naomie harris

Naomie Harris: I think Harris could be wonderful in this role. She’s proven she can kick ass (in 28 Days Later), and she uses a very earthy inflection in the Pirates sequels that could translate as Detta. Also she’s an absolute knock-out without looking too delicate, which is key for Susannah.

jake chambers

Jake Chambers:

Jake is an 11-year-old lost in Roland’s world, yet he quickly discovers that he fits in Mid-World far better than he did the Upper East Side. He’s clever, kind, spirited and incredibly loyal to Roland, Eddie and Susannah. He’s sometimes depicted as having blonde hair and sometimes brown, but I always picture him as above. The best bet is some unknown kid actor who can stay young-looking for the next 7 years or so, but in the interest of being comprehensive, I’ll fantasy-cast a few actors who could work if filming started *today*.

nicholas elia

Nicholas Elia: 13-year-old Elia played the young Speed in Speed Racer and he played a cool, metal-loving Dean-esque kid in a few eps of Supernatural. He’s charming, adorable and has the requisite perma-youthful face.

alex ferris

Alex Ferris: Ferris is also 13 with a proper solemnly youthful visage. He’s played young Doomsday on Smallville, young Sam on Supernatural and young Henry on Harper’s Island. The kid obviously has a gravitas that contrasts nicely with his chubby cheeks, a perfect combination for the wise-beyond-his-years Jake.



The ubiquitous loyal companion, indispensable for any good quest story. Oy is a billy-bumbler, a combination of a badger, weasel and dog with a curly tail, who can repeat short words and syllables. Also, HE IS AMAZING.

zelda 2

My dog Zelda: Her middle name is Oy! She has a curly tail! She’s loyal and brave! We can dye her with stripes, I don’t mind. She’d make a very good Hollywood dog.

I have so many other characters I want to cast: Pere Callahan! John Cullum! Susan! Cuthbert! Alain! Sheemie! Those guys will have to wait for my second installment, though. In the meantime,  gunslingers: what do we think? Who are your picks?

Update! Round 2 is up: the allies of the ka-tet!

Update! Round 3 is up: the enemies of the Tower!

Update! Check out my casting call for the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand, too!

41 Responses to “The Dark Tower Series Casting Call (Ka-Tet of 19)”


    marla, i think you should DEFINITELY write another letter to mr. king detailing yr pics. because he’s listened to you in the past! why wouldn’t he listen to you again, esp. given the fact that every casting choice you’ve made is BEYOND PERFECT?

    seriously, if viggo doesn’t get roland, i will GO LOBSTROSITY ON RON HOWARD’S ASS.

  2. I’m so glad you approve, my dear!! Especially of the Zelda pick, obvs.

  3. Eldred Jonas = Sam Elliott (obvious choice is obvious, though)

    Sheemie: Tim Blake Nelson

    Crimson King: Jim Broadbent or Geoffrey Rush

    Susan = Mélanie Laurent

    I think they need an unknown for Jake, really.

  4. As I was scrolling down, I was thinking to myself “surely, she’s thought of JGL…” and then there he was. Perfect. Oh, and Zelda too, of course.

  5. Most of this is awesome, and I agree with your picks wholeheartedly. You definitely know what you’re talking about. However, Shia LaBeouf is a pretty crappy actor. He has already made two childhood memories turn noxious, and I intend to keep the number at two.

  6. Seth Sullins Says:

    Excellent read and wonderful casting suggestions! I’ve been an avid fan for decades and totally relate to your thrills and anxieties. I must say that Viggo is not a bad choice, but I see him as too old, too short, and too broad. Yet, I doubt any mortal man could completely fill those worn boots of the last gunslinger. I can’t wait to see more of your thoughts!

  7. Viggo is the only person on my list for Roland casting. But I wonder if he’s even interested? I can’t even imagine anyone else in this role.

    James McAvoy is a great idea for Eddie. Not too excited about Shia or Joseph Gordon Levitt. They look like babies to me. I know Eddie is supposed to be young, but they look super young.

    Both Zoe Saldana and Naomi Harris were on my list for Detta/Susannah. I think there’s a quality that Saldana could bring to the role that would be so unique. And check out Harris’s performance in a BBC tv movie called Small Island to get a sense of her range. I just cannot see Gina Torres in the role no matter how hard I try. I think she’s beautiful and I loved her in Firefly, but I don’t see her paired with a younger actor playing Eddie.

    I agree with others that Jake has to be an unknown actor. They’d be crazy to cast a 12 or 13 year old who would be just about to start looking too old for the part or on the verge of a voice change. I vote for an unknown 10 or 11 year old kid who doesn’t look like a groomed child actor. The best would be some kid picked from a random open casting call who doesn’t have an agent.

  8. Uncle Mustache Says:

    Nice picks. I think that Viggo definitely needs to play Roland. I mean, who else could do it? Clint Eastwood is too old—maybe 40 years ago. Trying to find a virtually unknown actor who’s in this age range will prove to be challenging for sure. I think Gina Torres is a great idea. She is basically Susannah. She’s got the attitude and the sweet side. Zoe could do it but I think she might have a hard time pulling out the super-bitch-face card that Detta, etc. does sometimes. I like the kid from SupNatch but I think lil’ Doomsday would work a little better. He’s got the look for sure and he was good in Smallville. Otherwise I think definitely an unknown.

    I’m so excited about this!

  9. Jimmy Mac can play goofy! Jimmy Mac is goofy! AND HOT! (though I would go with JGL too)

    Damnit, I’m going to have to read these books, aren’t I?

  10. Another reason for Zoe – no, not Saldana; THE Zoe, ie, Gina T – is so the “Blue Harvest”-style codename while filming can be “Torres and Glass”.

  11. Me, I’m thinking Russell Crowe as old Roland, Shia LaBoeuf as young Roland.

  12. Thanks for the suggestions, Tom! Round 2 is up, everyone!

  13. kirk russel has to have a shot at the roland role- bang on with Naomie Harris – susannah- these books rock!

  14. […] the entire series on my own blog, because I’m a crazy person! I cast the main ka-tet here, their allies and the Mejis kids here, and the baddies of the series here. Like It, Stumble It, […]

  15. What about Nathan Gamble for Jake? He proved in ‘The Mist’ that he is capable of portraying a young and innocent boy thrust suddenly into a life-threatening supernatural scenario, and he’s totally convincing (and very likeable) in the role. He’s the right age, and he also has blonde hair (which Jake is described as having in the book). I find it hard to picture Jake as anyone else.

  16. Ooh, that’s a great suggestion! He was really good in The Dark Knight, too.

  17. mmmfilmmorger Says:

    I think you gotta go younger than 13 for Jake…he’ll go thru puberty and be 6 feet tall before filming is over. I say go young (8/9) but a proven kid with a track record. He can age & still be young. Riley Thomas Stewart, Ty Simpkins, Preston Bailey, Charles Henry Wyson….

  18. all great recs!

  19. girl, get out of my head!!! i’ve been reading the casting sites offerings, but yours is the one i had in mind!! it has to be viggo, baby! and gina torres? thank you!!!

  20. So glad you like them!

  21. steven38 Says:

    Now the New York Times is claiming that Idris Elba will play Walter o’Dim, along with Javier Bardem as Roland. Any thoughts?

  22. Both terrific actors, which is definitely more important than “looking the part.”

  23. Susan Delgado = Claire Dane…with grey eyes and braids!

  24. Look, normally I’d say the more roles for Black actors in SFantasy, the better (Heimdall, Ged of Roke), but when the character is a particularly nasty and manipulative villain, there could be a problem (c/f the “Objects in Space” ep of “Firefly” where a Black bounty hunter – with the same name as a Confederate general(!) – threatens to rape Kaylee). Having a dark-skinned Marten Broadcloak seduce Gabrielle Deschain plays into a whole host of stereotypes that King’s daughter-in-law [*] would deconstruct mercilessly.

    [* SK’s daughter Naomi, a Unitarian minister, is married to Black theologian Thandeka. I would love to hear her take on Odetta…]

    Oh, and assuming King himself still appears in the later episodes/ films: Brandon Routh. With his Clark Kent glasses and expression.

    I would have once voted for Claire Danes but now – Emilia Clarke as Susan. In fact, hire George RR Martin to script the series, and give him free rein to re-imagine it as he sees fit.

  25. Ashory08 Says:

    My pick for Susannah: Thandie Newton. C’mon…

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  27. Do you know if casting calls are still open for other roles in the movie? I’m interested in some auditions.

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  30. Senor Queso Says:

    I think james macavoy could play young roland really well.

  31. give this a shot, Eddie Dean has to BE young, Jay Baruchel he’s had some experience, could do it as long as he’s not whiny

  32. I always pictured Terry O’Quin as Steven Deschain

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  34. NO. I only want to see someone who plays Roland give the role the respect it deserves! Michael Fassbender as Roland, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Eddie, Zoe Saldana as Susannah, for bad guys, Javier Bardem as Randall Flagg Tom Wlaschiha-game of thrones assasin as the man in black (1st book, the sorcerer)

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  36. Fernando Says:

    I’m a big fan of the X-files and I was watching the other day an interview to the cast of the serie, and when ROBERT PATRICK came in I thught Roland!. I don’t know how I haven’t(and anyone else) thought about it before. He is perfect for the rol. He is tall, big, blue eyes, strong tabacco-smoker voice, he looks like a gunslinger(a little like clint eastwood). He is 52 years old now, the right age for Roland because he doesn’t look old but wise, and he is an amazing actor, with more experience than Mortensen, Jackman, Bardem, etc. Now I can’t think of anyone else for the rol, he is Roland. I didn’t actually want this amazing book turning into a movie, but with Robert as the gunslinger it sounds amazing. I would like to know please what you all think about it

  37. Hmmm…. Robert Patrick. Now that’s a good suggestion. Known to have form at topping homicidal robots…

    BTW, if you like “Dark Tower” you’ll also like “The Half-Made World” by Felix Gilman.

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  40. actors capable of the layers needed to portray our beloved characters, not just their humanity and essence, but delivered with ruthless intelligence and charisma.

    michael fassbender – roland
    ezra miller – eddie dean
    yaya dacosta – susannah
    javier bardem – marten

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