It’s no secret that The Dark Tower is held up as Stephen King’s greatest achievement.
Spanning multiple genres and fantastical worlds, the King classic is an eight-part saga that began life in 1982 with The Gunslinger, and after years of false starts and scrapped plans, we’re now teetering on the edge of Sony’s big-budget adaptation. And though the film’s long, meandering journey to the silver screen is public knowledge, we’re now learning that The Dark Tower was plagued by red tape all throughout production, as Sony Pictures, Stephen King, Media Rights Capital (MRC), and director Nikolaj Arcel allegedly clashed over story concerns and restrictive vetos.
Variety has the report. Citing the old “too many cooks” adage, the outlet claims that while The Dark Tower has all the trappings of a blockbuster movie franchise – two bankable leads in Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba; cutting-edge visual effects; and a rich universe to explore – the fact that both MRC and author King held veto power over select story elements means that Sony’s adaptation is more streamlined than the marketing material would have you believe.
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That certainly explains the relatively lean runtime – 95 minutes, for those keeping track – though it’s important to note that these purported setbacks and studio politics go hand-in-hand with adapting any sprawling fantasy saga for the big screen, and aren’t necessarily indicative of The Dark Tower itself.
Sources paint a more acrimonious picture of the production, one that was enabled by the unique nature of the deal that Sony struck with MRC — a pact that allowed competing power centers to emerge. The two companies split costs, and in return MRC was granted “kill rights” on everything from the marketing campaign to the final cut of the picture. If one company didn’t like a trailer or a cut of the film, it had to be scrapped, making it difficult to achieve consensus. It’s a rare type of partnership, with the kind of sign-off that few production companies enjoy. That led to a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” according to one insider. [Stephen] King also had a great deal of input. In return for the rights to his work, he retained veto approval of almost every aspect of the film.
Sony is yet to release any formal statement on Variety’s report at the time of writing, but we’ll update this post should that situation change. The bigger question now is whether the Powers That Be are staring down the face of a botched franchise-starter? Or will it channel the spirit of World War Z and emerge relatively unscathed from a prolonged spell in production?
All will be revealed when The Dark Tower opens on August 4th, and if you’re wanting to get up to speed on all of the dark, spine-chilling mysteries lurking within the Stephen King universe, our own Sarah Myles recently compiled the definitive guide.