Review: ‘The Dark Tower’ Hasn’t Forgotten The Face Of Its Father, But It Has Forgotten His Voice

Confession time. I’m basically the ideal audience for Nikolaj Arcel’s The Dark Tower. I’d been waiting a long time for any adaptation (or interpretation, or continuation) of Stephen King’s magnum opus to surface, and I have been holding out hope for this one since the first inspired casting announcements came out. I have all the basic knowledge in place to know why I should care about this story. I also have a high tolerance for less than stellar entertainment, as long as there is some hook (seriously, the crap I’ve sat through…), so the possibility that this particular film might not live up to expectations didn’t deter me much. Would there be fancy gunfights? Then that’s enough to put my butt in a seat.

It’s no secret that it’s been a long journey from books to screen, and its very existence may not be a case of anyone cracking the code for how to wrangle so much material into a film, so much as a general sense of «fuck it, let’s just do this thing.»

The film opening this weekend is the result of all that effort. It’s the thing that they did. And it’s fine! It’s not terrible! It’s fast and lean and doesn’t lag for a moment. Considering the source material leans heavily on pop culture pastiche and the film is basically a Stephen King pastiche, I have an urge to compare the forward momentum of the film to that of Blaine the Mono, the train that first appeared in the third Dark Tower book, The Waste Lands. No, he doesn’t make an appearance in the film (or at least not one that I noticed). But like so many parts of the books, he’s an image that sticks. He’s a train rolling toward oblivion, operating with a strange sort of logic all his own. He’s also suicidal.

I know, the image is a stretch. But the thing is, attempting to tackle this King story, out of all his many many stories, is self defeating. The fact that Arcel managed to keep this bad boy on the right track at all is impressive.

To spare you more poorly conceived comparisons, I’m going to break this review down into two parts. First, let’s pretend you have never read a Stephen King book in your life. Then, afterward, I’ll try and drag in some insights for all you readers out there. Cool?

The Dark Tower is the story of a boy named Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who has been having some crazy-ass fucked up dreams. Dreams of a Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), and creepy people with faces that seem to slide off. Dreams of a mysterious abandoned house, and a Gunslinger (Idris Elba). Dreams of a tall Tower, and a bunch of children being strapped to a device that somehow channels their energy into a beam aimed to bring the tower down. If that happens, he sees darkness and fire. The dreams seem to coincide with mysterious earthquakes that are shaking New York City. His mother, step-father, and therapist all think that he just hasn’t gotten over the death of his father, a firefighter (probably all that darkness and fire stuff). So they agree to pack him off for a weekend to an asylum recommended by the school. Because, you know, asylums can fix people over the course of a weekend. NBD.

Too bad the people who show up to collect him have that weird face thing going on. So Jake runs away and manages to find the house from his dreams, stops the house from trying to eat him (natch), and then jumps through a portal into a barren wasteland («Mid-World) to look for the one man he’s seen stand up to the Man In Black: the Gunslinger from his dreams. A man named Roland.

If you hadn’t figured it out yet, Jake isn’t just your average boy from Brooklyn. He is A Very Special Boy. He’s probably The Specialest Boy In The World(s). He’s Harry Potter. Only instead of magic he’s got the Shine, as they say (in The Shining, for example). It’s basically telepathy, or psychic powers, or I dunno, mental woo woo shit. Those kids the Man in Black has been using to try to tear down the Tower aren’t doing the job fast enough because their shine isn’t strong enough. But Jake is the pure, uncut shit. He is just what the Man in Black needs to get the job done.

So Jake is searching for the Gunslinger, who is searching for the Man In Black (who killed Roland’s father, poor dear Dennis Haysbert), who is searching for Jake. Got it?

Jake finds his target first, and after a little light «WHO SENT YOU?!» (complete with some mild dangling off a cliff), Roland lets him tag along — because he realizes that Jake has seen the base where the Man in Black (who is named Walter, by the way) is stationed. And here we get some handy fireside exposition as Roland explains why the Tower matters in the first place. It connects all the worlds (his, Jake’s, and more), and when it takes damage it reverberates across the realities. Hence those earthquakes. Should it fall, it will unleash all the horrible bad icky demon things that are waiting just outside its beams, trying to get in. Which apparently is Walter’s evil end game. Not that Roland cares. He’s not trying to save the Tower, he just wants to kill the Man in Black.

And here is where their journey begins together, through the woods to a weird agrarian steampunk village and straight on to New York again (which is on «Keystone Earth» apparently) as they try and make their way to Walter’s base and his kiddie-powered laser.

The movie has to cover a lot of ground — introducing characters, motivations, multiple realities, and a whole world-shaking mythology. This is an entirely new fantasy journey told in 95 minutes. And to keep the steady pace, it relies heavily on expository dialogue. Like, a lot of it. But it’s mostly coming from Elba and McConaughey, who sell the shit out of it. The Gunslinger is dusty and weary, with sharp eyes and a gravelly voice. He’s a hero that has already fallen, and you can almost feel all the stories in his past just radiating off him like energy. It’s a given that Elba elevates anything he’s in, but that doesn’t mitigate the joy of seeing him take center stage in a Hollywood epic like this. He’s not just stealing a few scenes while being sidelined as an Asgardian gatekeeper or a pilot or yelling at people in giant robots. He’s working a leather duster and some fancy six-shooters like a BOSS. He’s flat-out captivating. And McConaughey has the toughest job of the lot, selling a lot of chunky verbiage while playing a gleefully malevolent wizard. Everything about him is a bit too much (oh god, the dyed black hair and exposed chest!), but he plays Walter as a breezy, unpredictable force that isn’t actually forced. He somehow makes it all look natural and fun, every time he casually tells someone to stop breathing or kill or hate (and they do it). It’s impressive, frankly, because it would be so easy to just Pacino the crap out of that role.

But it’s Jake’s movie more than it is theirs, and that’s the problem. Tom Taylor is great. And by that I mean he manages stand next to those titans on screen and not annoy you like a lot of child stars do. He is brave and scared and bewildered in turn, and I think he’s perfectly cast. It’s just that no matter how good he is, it’s Elba’s Gunslinger who feels like the gravitational center the whole story wants to revolve around. The movie comes alive when the two meet, and it isn’t until that moment that you realize just how by-the-numbers it felt until that point. And in the end, when you walk out of the theater, you’ll realize that the whole movie was an exercise in by-the-numbers storytelling — albeit one that takes a lot of detours to cram in set pieces.

(Like, did they REALLY need to go back to NYC together? Fuck no. But I’m not gonna argue with Idris as Roland as a fish out of water, scaring some nice doctors with his crazy talk and drinking Coca-Cola for the first time. It was enough fun that you almost don’t mind that it’s clearly a detour they intentionally wrote in JUST for those interactions.)

The heavy exposition and the economy of the script rely on the fact that we are all versed in fantasies and hero’s journeys at this point — but having a lot of story and making us care about that story are two different things. The cluttered simplicity doesn’t stop when Elba shows up. There’s just something so much better there to distract you.

If nothing else, there is novelty in seeing a movie attempt that amount of world-building in such a short amount of time, compared to the other bloated 2+ hour epics that are all the rage these days. Credit where it’s due, the fact that it accomplishes so much while still making sense and fitting in some surprises makes it all the more impressive — and frustrating. Just because it’s a pastiche doesn’t mean it needs to rely on the same old tired story beats to move along. King’s story was a pastiche of a lot of elements (Clint Eastwood meets The Lord of the Rings), but it used those elements in new and original ways. Perhaps that’s the thing the filmmakers could have focused on.

Ultimately, I think the movie may be more enjoyable to non-King readers, who will have an easier time taking it for what it is: a relatively competent little fantasy film, carried by a remarkable cast, that doesn’t take up a whole lot of your time. As always, it’s worth it for Idris Elba. For the more serious King fans, there are a lot of enjoyable little moments that only they will pick up on — but they may be more distracted by their own expectations based on the source material.

And that’s where I’ll leave things, as far as the movie itself is concerned. For those of you who want a few more thoughts on how it ties to the books, along with some some heavy plot spoilers regarding that ending, read on.

Still with me? Ok. First, I’m sure you’re aware that there are a lot of fun little King Easter eggs in the film (some, like the ruins of the Pennywise theme park, were pointed out in the trailers). Numbers play a big part in the books, so I was always on the lookout for those, but the one that made me smile was a «1408» sighting (which is the title of one of his short stories, about a creepy hotel room). Book fans may miss Susannah and Eddie, but I missed Oy the billy-bumbler. Or I did, until I saw a very pointed commercial playing on a TV in a hospital room featuring talking raccoons. There are plenty of those sorts of nods and nuggets sprinkled throughout the movie, things that don’t make a difference one way or the other in terms of the plot, but still let you know that someone behind the screen cared enough to include them.

If you’ve read the books, you know that they were never really about Jake at all. They were always about Roland, and that DNA was hard to shake in this reimagining. I get why they chose Jake: common wisdom asserts that we need a character whom the audience can relate to as our window into any strange new fantasy worlds. A nice kid from Brooklyn, or a weird vaguely Arthurian/Spaghetti Western knight from another reality? Safe money is always on Brooklyn. But to sell it, Jake is transformed from an important kid into that Specialest Boy In The World — which I called Harry Potter before, but you knew what I really was talking about. He’s Danny Torrance from The Shining. He’s Jack Sawyer from The Talisman. He is every gifted or important child in any Stephen King story ever. It’s a nice bit of homage in and of itself, really. It’s classic King. But those children were the stars of their own tales, and so this movie had to contort a plot that is literally about how «The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,» into a story that is all about Jake. And to be fair, they found all the necessary elements in King’s writings, waiting to be remixed. Jake was always a bit psychic. The Breakers, those special kids being used to break the beams and tear down the Tower, are a part of the tale. But Jake’s real importance always stemmed from his ties to Roland and his contribution to their ka-tet. Roland is the one who can get to and save the Tower. He may need help along the way. He may need Jake. But the movie replaced all that with Jake being used to break the Tower, and Roland having to save him (and by extension, the Tower).

So here is the big climactic spoiler. Ready? In the end, Roland succeeds in killing Walter and rescuing Jake. Then they go back to NYC, eat a hot dog, and hop into another portal… to somewhere. The fact that Walter dies fits with the ending of The Gunslinger, the first book in the Dark Tower series, before King reissued a corrected version that makes Walter’s death more ambiguous (so that he and Marten Broadcloak could be the same character later on — the man who is also Randall Flagg). The big question I have is whether this film is a one and done thing, or if it will continue into a larger series that will tackle more of the books. If there are more movies, will we find out that Walter didn’t die of his (rather mortal) wounds? Will Marten appear, and be a separate character? The door is open to more films, because the Crimson King, who is truly the adversary in The Dark Tower books and the one orchestrating the Tower’s collapse, is mentioned in passing on graffiti in the film. It isn’t revealed that Walter is working for him, or what his role is — but the fact that his name is there could be more than just another Easter egg if they want it to be.

The issue is how to interpret the idea that the film represents the next and final cycle of Roland’s journey to the Tower. Much has been made of the fact that Roland has the Horn of Eld in his possession this time around, which he didn’t have in the books. Which makes the film a sequel, really — and goes a long way toward waving away any of the changes made between the books and film. So Roland saves Jake rather than letting him die (as he does in The Gunslinger), and Walter perhaps doesn’t have to be Marten. Who knows! It’s hard to tell, because this movie just isn’t really the tale from the books. It pulls elements and remixes them, but the further it goes off-book the harder it is to anticipate the implications.

One thing I will give the film is that, while it may not feel like the Dark Tower that I have in my mind, it does feel like a Stephen King story to an extent. Not just because of Jake’s Special Specialness, but because of the little moments. The house that tries to eat him. The creature from another dimension hiding in the woods, taking the forms of Jake’s and then Roland’s fathers. The Can-toi henchmen. The ballsy outlandishness of the entire plot, where psychics can break a tower that is the lynchpin binding whole worlds. But the Dark Tower series also had a certain amount of poetry to them, and a way of gripping your mind. I can’t keep all the plot threads straight, but there are scenes I remember from the books so vividly I could have lived them. The movie never comes close to that. It has the trappings of King, but not the spirit.

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Chris Cornell’s Daughter Performs a Tribute to Her Late Father and Chester Bennington

Chris Cornell’s daughter, Toni, is paying tribute to her late father the best way she knows how: through song. Nearly three months after his tragic death, the 12-year-old honored the Soundgarden frontman by covering Leonard Cohen’s «Hallelujah» alongside OneRepublic on Good Morning America on Friday. The performance also honored Cornell’s longtime friend and Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, who died three weeks ago. Not only will Toni’s voice give you chills, but it also has a special connection to the late singers. «Chester sang this at Chris’s funeral,» OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder said. «It’s a very special song to us, and I think to most people and especially to Toni [Cornell] as well.» Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

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The Trailer For “First They Killed My Father” Is Here

firsttheykilledmyfather

One week after Angelina Jolie did an interview with Vanity Fair and accidentally set the internet on fire with accusations of traumatizing Cambodian children like some kind of severe-cheekboned Willy Wonka, the trailer for her upcoming Netflix film First They Killed My Father has been released. Some might have waited until the tsunami of bad press surrounding First They Killed My Father died down a little. Or maybe Angelina figured that telling the haters to step to the left was enough damage control. I don’t know! Either way, we’ve got a trailer to watch now.

I haven’t read the memoir that First They Killed My Father is based on, but I’m not entirely ignorant about the subject matter. It’s a story about a little girl who is recruited into a child army (calm down Brad, not your child army) during the Khmer Rouge years in Cambodia. It’s set in the 70s. We know this because there’s a pair of beaded curtains. It looks very serious and I barely have any jokes to make about this trailer. One, because hello – the subject matter isn’t exactly a lighthearted romp. Two, because I got distracted seeing if there were any extras in the background asking each other, “Did she take the money away from you too?

Of course, if you don’t have time to watch the trailer, I’ve screen grabbed the most important parts. Did you know this was a film by Angelina Jolie?

filmbyangelina

But wait, who is Angelina Jolie again?

unbroken

Ah yes, the award winning director of Unbroken. Also By The Sea, but that one must have fallen off the title card. But just in case you’re still not sure about who the star of this movie is…

directedbyangelina

I’m sure that’s only what they could fit in the trailer (you’ve got to save something for the movie, after all). I can’t wait to see CAMERA HELD A COUPLE OF TIMES BY ANGELINA JOLIE and PERSON WHO WORE A HAT ON SET THE MOST – ANGELINA JOLIE.

Pics: YouTube

Dlisted

Like Father, Like Son: All the Ways Prince William and Prince George Are Two Peas in a Pod

If there was ever an expression that applies perfectly to Prince William and Prince George, it’s that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The father and son are so similar that, as well as both having the same childhood blond locks and boisterous disposition, George is also showing an interest in many of his father’s passions (including one that mom Kate Middleton isn’t one hundred percent happy about).

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You Definitely Remember Jorah Mormont’s Father on Game of Thrones

On Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode, titled «Stormborn,» Samwell Tarly gives comfort to the possibly-dying Jorah Mormont by revealing he had known Jorah’s father during his time in the Night’s Watch. If you were left wondering who Jorah’s father is, we’re here to help.

Jorah has come to the Citadel hoping to be cured of his greyscale, but Archmaester Marwyn informs both Jorah and Sam that greyscale this advanced cannot be cured, so Jorah will have to live out his remaining days as an exile with the other Stone Men — but not if Sam has anything to say about it.

Sam is convinced he can cure Jorah, so he sneaks into Jorah’s cell in the middle of the night to attempt the curing treatment — after all, Jorah is dying anyway, so you might as well try, right?

Before Sam treats Jorah, he declares, «My name is Samwell Tarly, sworn brother of the Night’s Watch, training to serve as maester at Castle Black. I knew your father; I was with him when he died. You are not dying today, Ser Jorah.»

Jorah’s father is none other than Jeor Mormont, the 997th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, known affectionately as «The Old Bear.» Early on in season one, Jeor singles Jon out as his steward, which Sam rightly points out is because Jeor is grooming Jon to be commander some day. Seeing Jon as a surrogate son, he eventually gives Jon his Valyrian steel sword, Longclaw.

In season three, while ranging beyond the wall, Jeor and the men of the Night’s Watch who survive the Battle of the Fist of the First Men, including Jon and Sam, seek shelter at Craster’s Keep. Craster is initially an OK host, but eventually the men are tired of being fed bread cut with sawdust while Craster constantly berates them and threatens to toss them out in the cold. They riot and kill Craster (who really has it coming), but Jeor is livid that guests would kill a host in his own home, which is an unspeakable act against the gods in Westeros. The rioters turn on Jeor and kill him, causing total chaos.

Sam and Jon both grieve for Jeor, as they both see him as a fair and intelligent leader. Jon and his direwolf, Ghost, eventually avenge Jeor by killing the two men directly responsible for his murder. And now, Sam is truly paying Jeor tribute by attempting to save his son. Hopefully Sam is successful and Jorah can return to fight alongside Daenerys in her quest for the Iron Throne.

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Game of Thrones: HBO Confirmed Jon Snow’s Father, Even If the Show Hasn’t Yet

If you thought we were waiting until this season of Game of Thrones for official confirmation of Jon Snow’s father, you were wrong. While we found out Lyanna Stark is Jon’s mother in the season six finale, it’s not explicitly stated that Rhaegar Targaryen is his father, though many fans assumed it was the case due to the popular R + L = J theory. Rather than drag out the mystery, HBO straight-up confirmed the theory with an infographic on their Making Game of Thrones blog after the conclusion of seaosn six. Take a look:

So, Jon Snow is definitely a Targaryen. This also clarifies how Dany and Jon are related, in case you were confused. (Which is totally fine, this is crazy confusing.) Now that we know for sure Rhaegar is Jon’s dad, what is Jon’s real name?

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Even Mindy Kaling’s Friends Won’t Know Who The Father Is

Mindy Kaling leaves Little Beach House Malibu restaurant with her parents

We recently learned that Mindy Kaling is pregnant. The circumstances of said pregnancy were vague; all we knew was that it was an “unexpected surprise.” And now, in a move that would no doubt make Kelly Kapoor wish she’d thought of it first, we’re learning that nobody is going to know whose sperm helped make that baby happen.

When I think of an actress who wants to keep the identity of their baby a secret, I think of January Jones. But then I also picture January Jones as being the type who might get a little wine-drunk by the pool, lean in close to a friend and go “Okay, you wanna know a secret?” while offering a curved pinky finger to swear on. But apparently Mindy won’t be that type of friend. A source tells People that Mindy just started sharing the news that she’s pregnant, but that’s all she’s sharing.

“She is not telling anyone, not even close friends, who the father is.”

I hope Mindy takes this secret one step farther and writes “Yeah, nice try” for the father’s name on the birth certificate.

Mindy’s friends might not ever learn who the father is, but I can see some people trying. Like Mindy’s A Wrinkle in Time co-star Oprah would totally take this on as a challenge. Everyone talks to Oprah, right? She’ll invite Mindy over for lunch, where she’ll be greeted at the door by Stedman, who will clip a mic to her shirt collar and give her a quick spritz of hairspray. Then she’ll be led to a softly-lit living room and seated in a comfortable chair across from Oprah in her best “Let’s be honest” cardigan. Don’t do it Mindy, it’s a trap!

Pic: Wenn.com

Dlisted

Mindy Kaling Is Pregnant and The Father Is Mr. None Of Your Damn Business

Tropical Storm Don is not a bigly deal. Don’t fret. — (Celebitchy)

I never would have thought of him to play the role of Freddie Mercury in the Queen biopic (which is now totally back on!), but yeah, now that he’s been cast, I can totally see it! — (Dlisted)

Does Starbucks’ Pink Drink make lactating mothers produce more milk? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But it tastes real good! — (Life Hacker)

So this is an excellent segue! Because, seriously, I’m *positive* she drinks those Pink Drinks, I can literally picture one in her hand at this very moment — ok, so anyway, MINDY KALING IS PREGNANT! I KNOW! I don’t really remember being super jazzed about any other celebrity being pregnant, but I kind of really am excited for Mindy, like she’s a personal friend or something. It’s weird. — (Lainey)

Ok, and then to continue with the Pink Drink (which, I swear to god, I’m not being paid by Starbucks to pimp, I’m apparently just really craving one right now) theme, RiRi is wearing a dress that is basically a dress version of the Pink Drink. What I’m saying is, she looks DELICIOUS! — (GFY)

There has been much written about the premiere episode of the 7th season of Game of Thrones, but GoT expert of experts, Joanna Robinson has the Easter eggs and callbacks that you might have missed. — (VF)



I’ve decided that I want to be CELINE when I grow up. Or just any time I leave a building. — (LG)

Buying a house and moving are well known stressful times. Ellesfena discovered that MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin mysteries are an antidote to stress. Agatha, a middle aged woman, has moved from London to the Cotswolds for a more peaceful life. "Unfortunately, chaos and murder seems to follow her." The books aren’t great, but they are, "great fun and pleasantly mindless." What are your stress reliever books? (Cannonball Read 9)

A spectator at the Wimbledon doubles match called out a serve suggestion and Kim Clijsters and Renee Stubbs suggested that maybe he should just go ahead and play then . . . and he did! Chris Quinn, the spectator, was a fantastic sport, and it looks like everyone enjoyed the hell out of themselves. I certainly did!

Pajiba

Paris Jackson Honors Her Late Father Michael With a Sweet New Tattoo

Image Source: Getty / Leon Bennett

It has been eight years since Michael Jackson’s death, and his beloved daughter Paris marked the anniversary of his passing on June 25 with a new tattoo. The 19-year-old model got the word «Applehead» on her left foot — it was a term of endearment that she, her brothers, and those close to Michael would call him — and shared a photo of the ink on Instagram with a touching message: «With every step I take, you lift my foot and guide me forward.»

with every step i take, you lift my foot and guide me forward. love you 🍏

A post shared by Paris-Michael K. Jackson (@parisjackson) on

Paris was just 11 years old when her father died, and she has said that the incident «left her scarred.» In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar in March, Paris opened up about being the apple of her father’s eye: «Growing up, I was treated as the favorite because I was the only girl. I was the princess; I was perfect in my dad’s eyes.»

POPSUGAR Celebrity

How the Dramatic Ups and Downs of Fame Have Made Michael Phelps a Better Father

Who is Michael Phelps, exactly? In the pool, he’s the world’s most decorated Olympian. At home, he’s a dedicated father and husband to his son, Boomer, and wife, Nicole Johnson. On social media, he’s building a lasting, impactful brand. He’s also a philanthropist, a great white shark racer, an Under Armour muse, and, truthfully, a million other things. Now, after spending nearly two decades in the spotlight and picking up more gold medals than most athletes would know what to do with, the legendary swimmer finally has a chance to embrace every side of himself.

The first item on his to-do list? Watching Game of Thrones. Second? Save the water. All of it. All of the water.

Michael will now go from making his mark on the world one stroke at a time to saving the planet one drop at a time. For anyone else, the task might be too daunting, too massive to even comprehend. But this is Michael Phelps — a name that is, at this point, practically synonymous with water — and by partnering with Colgate’s Save Water campaign, #everydropcounts, the laser-like focus that helped him take home medal after medal will now be put toward protecting the earth’s most important resource. If anyone can make a difference, it’s him. POPSUGAR recently sat down with Michael to discuss everything from why the Save Water campaign is so important to him to the new perspective he’s gleaned from living life in the public eye. He might be retiring from swimming, but the world hasn’t seen the last from him. Far from it.

POPSUGAR: Of all the campaigns that you could have signed up for — and I’m sure you get offers all the time — why was the Save Water initiative so important to you?

Michael Phelps: I mean, if you look at me, basically my whole entire life I’ve been around water. So when you look at a stat like, «If you leave the faucet running for two minutes while you brush your teeth you waste four gallons of water,» to me that’s mind-blowing. There are so many people that don’t even have access to clean water, and people leave their faucets running. For me it was something that fit with things that I believe in. If you look at all the sponsors that I work with, all the companies that I’m a part of, that’s the only thing that I want. I don’t want something that’s forced. Especially now being a father, trying to teach your kids the right thing to do. . . it was just the perfect fit for me and for my family. It’s been fun, being able to just get everybody involved in something that could help change our world. Especially trying to reach our younger generation, like 4 years old to 14 years old, trying to get them really aware of conserving water, because every tiny drop counts.

PS: That love of water and helping people is also tied into the Michael Phelps Foundation and your water safety program. What has been the most meaningful interaction with some of the children you’ve helped through that program?

MP: I’ve been able to get to know a bunch of little kids through the foundation. A little boy from Tennessee [who] lost his father, he goes to the Boys & Girls Club, and his mom didn’t want him to go in the water. She was afraid, so he went through one year of trying to learn how to swim, didn’t make it. Second year, he came back, didn’t learn. Third year, he came back, finally learned. And ever since that, he was able to go through those steps and through the foundation’s process, he was able to learn to swim, be more responsible, better behaved, everything came together. With the foundation, it’s not only learning how to swim. It’s tools that you’re able to use throughout your whole entire life. It’s going to help you grow and make better decisions, be active, be healthy, and also be water-safe. It’s things that kids can take on literally for the rest of their lives and learn and grow from those experiences.

PS: Do you plan on expanding its reach?

MP: We’re in the process of adding a mental health side of it. One of the things that I went through that I hated was the eight basic emotions, or six basic emotions. Why am I upset, why am I angry . . . all of these different things and basically being able to realize why you’re feeling that way and just recognizing it. That’s a huge thing that allows you to grow as an individual. I can wake up on an overcast day on the East Coast and feel depressed because I don’t see the sun. So I recognize that, and then have to find other ways to not feel that way, which would then cause me to go into a spiral. It’s been really cool to watch kids never give up. That’s the reason why I’m here today, because I went through big ups and really really big downs, but those are what made me who I am today, and I’m really proud of it.

PS: After working with both the Save Water campaign and also your foundation, what are a few things you’ve learned that you’d like to pass down to Boomer?

MP: Obviously for water safety, you want to learn just to be comfortable in the water; that’s the main goal. I think the second that you start freaking out and feeling uncomfortable, it’s not going to go well. He’s in the water a lot. I just posted on his Instagram actually, before you got here, having pool time with him. So, he loves being in the water. He’s happy, splashing all over the place. If he swims, great, that’s his choice. If he doesn’t, I’m not going to push it. Also, just being able to teach the small things, like don’t leave the water running, turn off the faucet, the shower. . . . I’ve almost started saying «brush your teeth in the shower»; you’re knocking out two birds with one stone. There are so many little tricks that we use to try to conserve as much water as we can. I think those are some of the things that we’ll pass along to Boomer. We’ll probably learn more along the way as well.

«There are so many little tricks that we use to try to conserve as much water as we can. I think those are some of the things that we’ll pass along to Boomer.»

PS: Have you and your wife, Nicole, found yourselves especially surprised by anything as you tackle parenthood together?

MP: For me, I run out of patience here and there. You don’t really know what you’re doing. I ask Nicole, «What do I do?» and she’s like, «I don’t know.» I think it’s just going through the process together, doing things day by day that are going to help Boomer grow up into hopefully a very nice young man. It’s both of us. Every day is different and every day brings something more exciting, like being able to see his personality come out more and more. When I FaceTime him on the road he wants to grab it! He’s always licking the phone, so it’s all these little things that are just so special to see. He’s in the process of learning to walk; he’s taken a couple of steps already. I figure by the time I get home at the end of the week he’ll probably be walking.

PS: That’s so exciting!

MP: Yeah, it’s a big turn. I’ll just be running around the house chasing him all the time.

PS: What’s something that you like to do for father-son bonding time?

MP: It’s funny, when we were watching hockey, watching the NBA Finals, he’ll just come, sit, and pay attention to the TV. He’s really in tune to sports, which is fun. He’s really chill with me. He’s super, super chill. He’ll just lay back on the couch, hide underneath pillows. . . . He always has little tricks; he’s never sitting still. I’m not always home, and Nicole and Boomer don’t travel with me. I like to be able to chill with him and just relax. He has this little car he likes to ride around in. I push him around in this car. Anything that moves, he loves. He likes going fast. We just put him in the couple little cars that he has, and we just fly around the house.

PS: If he ever expressed interest in wanting to go down a similar path like you did, becoming a professional athlete, would that be something you’d encourage? Despite your ups and downs in the spotlight?

MP: I mean, growing up as a kid, my mom never really pushed me into doing something. It was kind of whatever I wanted to do, and that was what made me continue and have the longevity that I had in my career. I went through ups and downs in the pool when I loved it and when I hated it, so if he wants to be an athlete of some sort, great. If he doesn’t, OK. The more you push a kid, in my opinion, they go the other direction, so I won’t push him to do that. In a perfect world, I’d love him to be a really good golfer and have the chance to go to The Masters or something.

PS: Have you had him watch golf, too?

MP: He hasn’t really gotten into it yet. He has his little Fisher-Price golf set, but he basically just hits us with it. [laughs] He’s still learning, but hopefully he likes it, and I’ll just wait for the day when one day he gets into it, and he can beat me. It probably wouldn’t be that hard.

PS: Coming off of the Olympics last year, you’ve presumably had a break from intense training in the pool. Are you enjoying it? Or are you itching to get back out there?

MP: In the pool?

PS: Competing.

MP: No. No desire. I think it was a fun career, it was everything I dreamed of, and now it’s just turning the page to something else. I had so many goals in the pool, and the hardest thing has been walking around every day, being out of the water. It’s a weird transition, a challenging one at times. But I was able to be so successful because I had really really big goals and high expectations for myself. There are so many things that I still want to do. My foundation, growing my brand . . . the list is endless. I’m honestly busier now than I was when I was swimming. It’s kind of weird, but I feel like more of an adult because I have to do stuff every day. Whether it’s checking emails or making phone calls or doing this and that, it’s fun for me. It’s the start of a new chapter. At times, it is frustrating, but I know it’s not going to be easy to accomplish the goals that I want.

PS: Now that you don’t have to worry about competing, is there anything you can really enjoy that you didn’t have time to do when you were training?

MP: I’m pretty lazy. My wife always says, «you’re the laziest, most successful Olympian I’ve ever seen.» How does that make sense? [laughs] Honestly, if I have downtime, I’m really, really good at not doing anything. We’re excited to get back into Game of Thrones and a couple other shows that are coming up. We’ve been going to a lot of movies. It’s relaxing. We spent so much time on the road just traveling, so if we get a chance to go to dinner, see a movie, a friend or a nanny will watch Boomer and it’s the best. My wife left this morning, and last night we went out and celebrated our one-year anniversary, which was yesterday. Being able to go out, just have dinner, and kind of relax . . . we’ve known each other for 10 years this July, so being able to celebrate one year was really special.

PS: Watching TV and going out to dinner doesn’t sound so bad. Other than Game of Thrones, are you a big TV watcher?

MP: There are so many sick shows out there. I really loved Westworld. Westworld blew my mind; I was absolutely loving it. I’ve started listening to more books on tape, and the one book that I’ve listened to, over travel, probably four times in the last three months, has been The Power of Now. I’ve just been trying to think differently and really just trying to live in the moment. I’m trying to measure what time is, because time is so important in so many different ways. You can’t really measure time. I guess we have hours and days, but there’s so many other ways that we can measure time. I’ve been trying to challenge myself more outside of the pool, and I’m excited about moving forward. The next chapter of my life is going to be so enjoyable and so fun. There are going to be struggles, I’m going to have hard times, but I’m someone who never gives up until I get to my goal. The things that I have and the things that I’m doing, I have a lot of lofty goals and it’s going to take help from a lot of people I’ve surrounded myself with and just a lot of hard work.

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