‘The Dark Tower’ Tested So Poorly That Sony Considered Replacing Director — Report

The long-gestating Stephen King adaptation is finally hitting the big screen, but a new report holds that the road there was even rockier than imagined.
'The Dark Tower' Test Screenings Almost Led to Replacing Director

After nearly a decade in development, the first film adaptation of Stephen King’s beloved magnum opus “The Dark Tower” is finally set to hit the big screen later this week. But a new report over at Variety holds that the film’s long journey isn’t over yet, not by a long shot.

The new piece, intriguingly titled “‘The Dark Tower’: Clashing Visions, Brutal Test Screenings Plagued Journey to Big Screen,” details a fraught production, capped off by terrible test screenings and a persistent rumor that studio brass at Sony and Media Rights Capital sought to replace director Nikolaj Arcel, or at least bring in another helmer to fix issues that arose from said screenings and other post-production worries.

Various sources reportedly told the outlet that “the creative process — particularly in post-production — was plagued with problems and clashing visions.” The article adds that “three blind screenings last October, shown before final effects work had been completed, confirmed fears that the picture was a mess. Audiences at the test screenings couldn’t understand the mythology and rated the film poorly.”

Throughout the story, MRC co-founder Modi Wiczyk and Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman refute the claims.

The outlet also reports that “Sony and MRC spent $6 million on reshoots to fill in more backstory,” much of it aimed at clarifying the intense battle between Idris Elba’s The Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey’s The Man in Black. Additionally, reshoots reportedly focused on ways to “better familiarize audiences with Mid-World, the film’s magical setting,” ultimately leading to the cutting of five minutes of exposition and the addition of a new scene that combined “ideas that had been sprinkled throughout the picture.”

Although the story claims that “when Arcel delivered an early cut of the picture that alarmed Wiczyk and Rothman, they considered bringing in a more experienced filmmaker to recut it,” both men deny the allegation. Other sources told Variety that Sony and MRC decided against bringing on another filmmaker (perhaps because it “would have been too costly”), but that studio brass, along with producers like Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman, “remained heavily involved” in the editing process.

Arcel himself also hit back at the claims, telling Variety, “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.”

When IndieWire spoke with Arcel earlier this week, the filmmaker was upbeat about his work on the project, and maintained that at least one person was also very happy: King himself.

As Arcel said, “He was really happy. He wrote me this expression that’s in the novels about ‘forgetting the face of your father,’ and he actually ended the email by saying, ‘you didn’t forget the face of your father.’” We’ll see what audiences think, when the film hits theaters later this week.

Read the full story over at Variety.

“The Dark Tower” hits theaters on Friday, August 4.

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