While the countdown continues towards The Dark Tower hitting theaters in just a few short days, a new report sheds some light on the behind-the-scenes friction between the studio and director Nikolaj Arcel. Sony Pictures brings Stephen King’s widely beloved story of The Gunslinger (Idris Elba) and The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) to the big screen for the first time with The Dark Tower, which has been tracking around the $20 million range, although it certainly could debut much higher this weekend, with potential sequels and a Dark Tower TV series waiting in the wings as well. As it turns out, though, the studio at one point had considered replacing the filmmaker, after getting a glimpse at the director’s early cut for the movie.
Variety reports that the post-production process of The Dark Tower was “plagued with problems and clashing visions.” After Nikolaj Arcel, who was brought on to direct in 2015 and is best known for directing the Oscar-nominated A Royal Affair, brought in an early cut of the movie that reportedly “alarmed” both Sony Pictures president Tom Rothman and Media Rights Capital’s (MRC) Modi Wiczyk, who co-financed the adaptation with Sony, the executives reportedly considered bringing in another filmmaker to re-cut the movie. Both Rothman and Wiczyk denied any major problems in post-production, stating that their involvement in post-production only amounted to giving the director notes, but other sources claimed that Tom Rothman himself often spent hours in the editing bay, offering his suggestions.
The studio also reportedly held blind screenings of the movie back in October, long before the visual effects work was completed, which, “confirmed fears that the picture was a mess.” The film tested quite poorly, with audiences stating they couldn’t understand the mythology behind the story of The Gunslinger trying to stop The Man in Black from destroying The Dark Tower. One source claimed that the studio ultimately didn’t bring a new director aboard because it would be too costly, but studio executives were reportedly involved quite heavily, with producer Ron Howard reportedly advising on the music and writer-producer Akiva Goldsman helping to “wrangle the film into shape.” Variety did also speak to Nikolaj Arcel himself, though, who insisted that he was not “sidelined.
“On a film with two studios and powerful producers, obviously there is much passionate creative debate on how to work certain ideas or beats. But I felt supported throughout, and they all looked to me for answers. If someone had jumped into my editing room and taken over, I would have left instantly.”
While he has a number of directing and writing credits to his name, including writing the script for the original Swedish adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, some insiders claimed that the director was in “over his head” on the project, which was produced under a reported $66 million budget. Still, Sony’s Tom Rothman stated he was impressed with the director’s work, hoping to collaborate with the filmmaker on future projects. Modi Wiczyk was much more pointed in his remarks, calling his company MRC an “artist-driven” company, denying any claims they tried to push out the director.
“We shot this on time and on budget. We didn’t go over our schedule by even a day. We would never marginalize or remove a director or dare to edit a film.”
The report also adds that the co-financing deal Sony struck with MRC gave MRC “kill rights,” allowing them to veto anything they saw fit, from the marketing campaign to the final cut of the movie, with author Stephen King also retaining veto rights as well, as part of his deal. One source claimed there were “too many cooks in the kitchen” on this project, and it was often difficult to come to a consensus on various aspects of the film. This report also claims that the studio spent $6 million on reshoots, that more thoroughly explained The Gunslinger’s hatred for The Man in Black, while five minutes of exposition were cut, and replaced with a new scene that was shot to “combine ideas that had been sprinkled throughout the picture.” Tom Rothman goes onto say this.
“It’s a fantasy film and so yes, it’s complicated; it’s intricate and ambitious, but that’s a good thing because with the complexity of the stuff on television now, theater audiences want ambition.”
This report also claims that the movie runs 88 minutes long, which is seven minutes shorter than the previously-confirmed Dark Tower runtime of 95 minutes. Since a runtime also includes the full end credits, it’s possible that Variety’s 88-minute figure could be the length of the movie without the full credits, but that has yet to be confirmed. Regardless, since the film was produced with a $66 million budget, the studio doesn’t necessarily have to worry about debuting with a huge opening weekend to carve out a decent profit from The Dark Tower.