Ron Howard’s Dark Tower Project Looks Very Wobbly

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Actore Ron Howard attends the Vanity Fair Party at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival at the State Supreme Courthouse on April 27, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ron Howard; Photo: Stephen Lovekin

When EW reported last night that Ron Howard is eyeing Rush, Working Title's biopic about Formula One racer Nicky Lauda (a project previously tied to Paul Greengrass), his rep told the site that it would have no effect on his plans to helm a massive movie and TV adaptation of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. We hear, however, that the outlook for Tower is looking increasingly — and appropriately — dark. And the word that Howard is going to be freed up from this epic project seems to be spreading through town, as other studios are bringing him projects.

We hear that Fox talked to him about a new adaptation of Frankenstein, one written by John Landis's son Max, told from Igor's point of view. (Finally, a Frankenstein movie that focuses on the real monster of the tale: scoliosis.) Though we hear it never went as far as an offer, the fact that studios are approaching him is an indication that they're betting that his schedule will be freed up; nobody would bring James Cameron anything now, for example, knowing full well he'll be tied up with Avatar 2. And Deadline is now reporting that Howard just signed on to direct an adaptation of the Spy vs. Spy comic strip.

To many Hollywood observers, the Dark Tower project always seemed more like an eye-catching press release than anything that had an actual shot of being made. Gambling hundreds of millions of dollars on three movies and two seasons of a TV series would seem like folly in the best of economic climates, and this is not one. And considering that Universal killed Guillermo del Toro's $150 million adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, they were clearly not in the spendiest of moods. Plus, there's also the fact that they'd be committing to a series that many find uneven. (Next year King will release another installment, The Wind Through the Keyhole, that he says will plug up the plot holes he left unfilled between the fourth and fifth book in the series.) As one agent put it to us, “Is there one great movie there? Sure. Are there two bad movies after it? Sure. That’s the problem."