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Idris Elba confirmed to play The Gunslinger in The Dark Tower movie

In November, an unconfirmed report identified Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey as a potential leading man in the upcoming big-screen adaptation of The Dark Tower. What wasn’t known was whether he’d play the hero or villain from Stephen King’s celebrated saga.

A new report has shed some light on that mystery: Luther star Idris Elba has been confirmed to play Roland Deschain, the gunslinging protagonist of King’s story.

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Deadline reported that Elba was the leading contender for the role of Roland Deschain in early December, and now The Inquisitr has confirmed that Elba will indeed take on the role. The news leaves many to surmise that Elba may star opposite McConaughey as the enigmatic villain, The Man in Black, though the Interstellar actor has yet to officially sign on to the project.

The studio’s list of potential leading men reportedly came down to Elba and Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men actor Javier Bardem. Elba was the subject of some Academy Award buzz for his role in the Netflix-produced drama Beasts of No Nation, but was snubbed at the nominations this year in what detractors have called the “lily-white Oscars,” for the lack of diversity in major nominations. The choice of Elba as black man in the lead role has led to yet more racially charged commentary, since the original character in The Dark Tower series was Caucasian.

However, screenplay writer and producer Akiva Goldman came out vehemently in favor of Elba following the confirmation, issuing the following statement:

“I think Idris Elba is the greatest possible idea for casting for Roland, and I’m unbelievably proud of it as a collaborator on this enterprise and because I think that he’s a great actor and I couldn’t be more thrilled that he is likely to play a part. I understand that people who are thoughtful about the storytelling and the racial politics of the storytelling might want to understand how that informs that storytelling, and I respect that and I hear that, and those things are not things we didn’t think about or don’t think about.”

Steven King has also expressed his support for Elba in the role, posting the following tweet after the actor initially became rumored to get the role:

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Set to be directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair), The Dark Tower is being developed simultaneously with a television series that will spin out of the events of the film and further explore the magical, Western-influenced world of Roland Deschain. Arcel is reportedly working with Oscar-winning filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen (Election Night) on a rewrite of the original script for the film penned by Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner.

Ron Howard was initially attached to direct The Dark Tower, but later shifted to a producer role after the project encountered delays during early development.

Encompassing eight novels published over the span of 30 years, The Dark Tower saga also spawned an award-winning comic-book prequel series and various other spinoff projects. Over the course of the series, many of the characters and settings from King’s other novels played roles in Roland’s adventure, with the gunslinger interacting with the protagonists of ItSalem’s Lot, and various other stories that King penned. And The Man in Black is himself a recurring antagonist in many of King’s novels, particularly The Stand and Eyes of the Dragon.

The Dark Tower is scheduled to hit theaters January 13, 2017.

Updated 1/19/2016 by Ryan Waniata: Idris Elba has been confirmed in the lead role, while McConaughey has yet to officially sign on.