Universal pulls plug on Stephen King's "The Dark Tower"

Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:10pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (TheWrap) - "The Dark Tower" sleeps with fishes.

Universal's ambitious adaptation of Stephen King's fantasy series has been canceled, TheWrap has confirmed.

The first film was slated to begin production this summer, but shooting was delayed last spring with the studio announcing that it needed to make the project more cost-effective.

That temporary delay became permanent this week, and now deprives Universal of a film series that it had hoped to make a linchpin for its film slate for years to come.

The studio declined to comment.

All told, the project was supposed to involve three movies and a television series.

The scope of the production and King's bona fides attracted big talent. Ron Howard was expected to direct and produce the first movie; Akiva Goldsman was lined up to produce and write and Brian Grazer was also on board as a producer. Javier Bardem was supposed to star.

Yet after being announced with great fanfare last fall, "The Dark Tower" ran up against a very different corporate culture after Comcast took over the studio in January.

More than ex-corporate parent G.E., Comcast leans toward the frugal, and the very expensive "Dark Tower" clearly left the people who control the purse strings uncomfortable.

Following Comcast's acquisition, Universal has shown a willingness to make cuts. In March, the studio scrapped plans to make Guillermo del Toro's $150 million adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "Mountains of Madness." Gone it seems, are the days when risky adult dramas such as "Public Enemies" could get $100 million budgets because of the caliber of the talent involved.

But in cutting "The Dark Tower" from its schedule, Universal does run the risk of alienating one of its most loyal and profitable partners, Imagine Entertainment. Howard and Grazer's production company has earned millions of dollars in profits for the studio with hits such as "American Gangster" and "A Beautiful Mind."

On Monday, Universal apparently decided that the risk was so great that "The Dark Tower" wouldn't join that list.

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