It’s all happening. Yes, really. Once thought to be too ambitious and sprawling for a big screen adaptation, The Dark Tower is finally hitting theaters next February, with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey in the dueling roles of the heroic Gunslinger and the villainous Man in Black. New photos of the actors have debuted, along with more details on the characters they play in the long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s epic book series — which is going to be making some pretty big changes on its journey from page to screen.

The Dark Tower has taken over EW’s July Comic-Con issue, and while there’s plenty more to come (including some thoughts from King himself), for now you can enjoy the first official photos of Elba and McConaughey in the upcoming film. First up is Elba, who plays Roland Deschain, a Gunslinger on a valiant mission to reach the titular tower before sinister forces can use it to destroy the universe and its many worlds:

EW / Sony

As Elba tells EW, we meet Roland when he’s a bit adrift, or as fans of King’s books might recognize, he’s “forgotten the face of his father.” The actor describes his protagonist as a “protector,” who is on a mission to stop McConaughey from reaching the tower. At the same time, the Man in Black is chasing after a young boy with a powerful ability who can help him destroy the tower. That boy is Jake Chambers, of course, and that power is “The Shine” — yep, the very same as featured in The Shining.

Jake does have heightened abilities later in The Dark Tower books, so it’s not a major divergence or anything. And as a particularly intriguing teaser photo hinted not long ago, director Nikolaj Arcel may have found a fantastic way to justify some of these changes. Hopefully EW’s forthcoming chats with Arcel and King will confirm our suspicions about their approach to adapting the beloved story.

Moving on, we have McConaughey as Walter, aka The Man in Black. Here he’s shown walking around The Dixie Pig, the seedy hangout of sinister forces like Low Men and Taheen:

EW / Sony

The actor was also up for the role of Randall Flagg in the similarly long-developing adaptation of The Stand at Warner Bros. — as fans know, Randall and Walter are one and the same, able to travel through the various worlds that are held together by the tower. Unfortunately — unless WB and Sony strike a deal — McConaughey won’t be able to travel between franchises.

The actor had a lot to say about the Man in Black, comparing Roland’s arch-nemesis to the Devil and offering up some Black Sabbath lyrics to explain his vibe. Walter’s mission is to destroy the tower, which basically serves as the glue holding various dimensions together — including our Earth, as we know it. The Dixie Pig is in our world, which is where Water and the Low Men kidnap people with special abilities (like telekinesis and The Shine) and use them as “breakers,” forcing them to chip away at the tower’s beams.

King’s first Dark Tower novel, The Gunslinger, memorably opens with “The Man in Black fled across the desert and The Gunslinger followed.” Despite their differences, McConaughey says Walter has the utmost respect for his heroic pursuer:

He’s really the only true adversary I have. I expose hypocrisies, and he’s the closest to pure there is. It’s his persistent, resilience to be good and altruistic. He’s very precious to me. I almost don’t want to see him go.

You can see the two actors together below on the cover of the latest edition of EW:


There will be much more to come over the next day or so, including more photos and an explanation of some of the big differences between the book and the film, which should be very interesting for all you King fans (myself included).

The Dark Tower hits theaters on February 17, 2017.