'The Dark Tower' Director Nikolaj Arcel Explains That Short Runtime [Comic-Con 2017]

There's one thing you learn very quickly about The Dark Tower director Nikolaj Arcel — the man is a dedicated fan of Stephen King's epic fantasy/horror/science fiction series.

We spoke during the San Diego Comic-Con in a Gaslamp District bar remade for promotional purposes into the Dixie Pig, a restaurant from King's novels (and the upcoming film adaptation) that caters to a not-quite-human clientele and serves as a gateway between worlds. And while the bulk of our conversation was dedicated to all things Dark Tower and how he tackled this long-gestating adaptation, I had to ask him the question of the moment. Why is The Dark Tower, an adaptation of a sprawling saga that spans seven thick novels, only 95 minutes long?

And Arcel had an answer.

My full interview will run next week, but for now, here's the exchange where we talk about that surprisingly brisk running time.


There's one story that's been making the rounds on the internet and I want to ask about it because I think it's unfair to keep talking about it without having you chime in. The movie is a lot shorter than a lot of people, myself included, expected. We thought it was going to be a two and a half hour epic.

Yeah, yeah.

The knee-jerk reaction has been "That's really short!" Can you talk about how it came to be that length?

The good news here...the reason why many fans are worried about the run time is that they think we are trying to do everything in this film. Which we are not. This is ideally the first film. This is an introduction to the world and the characters. It's not meant to be all the novels and we're just trying to cram everything in there. So that's one thing. And the script was really lean and tight. When I got on board, the script was very short, very lean. That's one of the things that attracted me to it. I said "This is smart." You start with a lean, mean story and you don't try to cram everything in there. You just build the basic ideas. And if people enjoy it and if they like this world and these characters, we can start expanding.


While I remain as nervous about The Dark Tower as I would about any film adaption of a book series that has been a part of my life for nearly two decades, Arcel is a smart guy and he's clearly a Stephen King devotee (a "constant reader," to be specific). We'll see how the movie turns out in two weeks, but any director who promises Salem's Lot easter eggs in his Dark Tower adaptation deserves our faith. You can read all about that and more in the full interview when it runs next week.

The Dark Tower opens on August 4, 2017.