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Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey to Star in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

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“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” So begins The Gunslinger, the first book of Stephen King’s magnum opus Dark Tower series, and so, too, will begin its movie adaptation. Not only is the long awaited adaptation underway, with plans to begin filming in South Africa next month, but its two central characters have been cast, as well: Idris Elba will star as gunslinger Roland Deschain, and Matthew McConaughey will play the mysterious man in black, Entertainment Weekly reported Tuesday morning.

King is staying mum on exactly which parts of the eight-book series, published between 1982 and 2012, the movie will cover, but he confirmed that it will not start at the beginning and that much of it will take place during the present day. Nikolaj Arcel, who co-wrote the script and previously co-wrote the Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, is set to direct.

For the uninitiated, the eight science fiction/fantasy novels, as well as a series of prequel comics, tell the story of a decaying land called Mid-World and a member of a knightly order called the gunslingers (Elba) on a quest to prevent its demise. The solution lies at the titular tower, but a phantom-like menace, the man in black (McConaughey), threatens to get there first and commence his evil reign.

Previous attempts at an adaptation have been made, including by Ron Howard, who is producing, but the ingredients did not come together until now. “When you think about it, I started these stories as a senior in college, sitting in a little sh-tty cabin beside the river in Maine, and finally this thing is actually in pre-production now,” King told EW. “I’m delighted, and I’m a little bit surprised.”

The Dark Tower is slated for release on Jan. 13, 2017.

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Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com