If this happens, I think it might be one of the coolest franchise casting choices in recent memory, and I applaud Universal and Ron Howard for thinking outside the box like this.

Word is that Ron Howard has officially offered the lead role to Javier Bardem, whose surprise nomination for "Biutiful" this week must make them feel even better about the choice.  Evidently, he has not said yes yet, but the conversation is happening.  There were rumors in a few other places that had Christian Bale at the front of the list, but right now, it seems like Bardem's got the role in the bag.

What I find intriguing is that he's not just signing on for one movie, but for three movies as well as at least one season of television episodes.  I've written before about how unusual the release plan is, but there's no other way to approach Stephen King's sprawling series.  You have to think big, and this is a truly novel solution to a very real creative problem.

Bardem is an interesting choice precisely because he's not a giant box-office name.  For Imagine and Universal to decide that they are placing the full weight of this franchise on an actor as well-liked as Bardem without some guarantee of box-office… that's the sort of risk I like seeing someone take.

And I think Bardem has the chops to really personify the loneliness and the sacrifice that are such a major part of Roland.  Of course, casting the people around him, including the three companions who accompany him on the trip, is just as important, but I'd say Bardem is a hell of a place to start.

In addition to Bale, Viggo Mortensen was reportedly one of the top picks for the role, but it looks like he's going to end up doing "Snow White and the Huntsman" instead.  At this point, Universal may end up working with both of their top Roland choices, which puts them in a very good position indeed.

We'll have more as "The Dark Tower" draws closer.