'The Dark Tower' Faced Creative Clashes And Poor Test Screenings, Director Nearly Replaced

The Dark Tower opens this weekend, and despite it being based on Stephen King's epic series, beloved by millions of readers, you would hardly even know it. There is practically no buzz for the film at all, other than negative from those who doubt King's massive narrative could be effectively brought to the big screen. And perhaps they are right, because it seems the production was racked with problems from the start.

According to Variety, The Dark Tower was "plagued" with serious issues and creative clashes. Director Nikolaj Arcel, making his jump to big studio films after the well-received A Royal Affair, was "in over his head" handling the $66M project. It began with an early edit turned in by Arcel that flummoxed MRC and Sony execs, to the point that they considered replacing him altogether. They decided to stick with Arcel, but Ron Howard, who was originally going to direct when the project had larger aspirations at Universal, was around to watch over his shoulder lend his advice, along with super-producer Akiva Goldsman.

That was followed by a series of test screenings, with unfinished visual effects, that tested very poorly with audiences confused by the mythology. They didn't understand why the Gunslinger (Idris Elba) and The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) were at odds and why there was so much hatred between them. That led to MRC and Sony, who clashed repeatedly in a creative and marketing power struggle, to at least agree to $6M in reshoots to flesh out the backstory.

Of course, MRC, Sony, and Arcel paint a much rosier picture. Arcel went so far to say that he would have left if the studios exerted too much control over the project...

“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.”

Considering The Dark Tower's many delays (it was supposed to open in February, then last week), the lack of enthusiasm, the unfamiliar "sequel" plot structure, and these behind-the-scenes reports, it's easy to just go ahead and write the film off. But there's still a lot of talent working on some truly great source material by King. The best thing will be to check it out and hope for the best.