Jeff Nichols, the filmmaker behind movies like Take Shelter, Mud, and Midnight Special, is one of the best directors who isn’t quite a household name yet. But his next planned project, a big budget remake of the 1988 sci-fi buddy cop film Alien Nation, seemed poised to launch his career to the next level. Unfortunately, that movie ended up becoming a casualty of Disney’s acquisition of Fox, which was a big disappointment – but the project has since mutated into a different form.
According to Nichols, he has converted his movie screenplay into a series of scripts for a 10-episode television show, and Disney is currently deciding if they’re going to move ahead with this version of the story instead of the movie. Read his quotes below.
Nichols and his cinematographer Adam Stone were guests on a recent episode of the Team Deakins podcast, in which Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins and his wife and collaborator James Deakins interview fellow filmmakers, and Nichols was asked if he would ever work on a TV show or miniseries. “[Alien Nation] is a possible series that might happen in the near future,” Stone butted in, and Nichols followed up with some more detail.
“Yeah, I’m working on a series right now,” the director confirmed, explaining the backstory about how Fox came to him after his 2016 film Loving and asked if he wanted to put his spin on Alien Nation. After initially turning down the studio’s offer, Nichols had a change of heart. “I then had this idea of how I could take that title but a situation that has nothing to do with the original movie, necessarily, and I got really excited about it…I spent three years building out an entire alien civilization and this situation and this setup and all these characters, and it’s really what I’ve been doing for a long time. We were set to go make it. It was going to be our next big challenge for Adam and I, which would be making a big, $100 million studio film, still in Arkansas. Disney bought Fox and killed it, which was a little soul-crushing, to say the least.”
That happened in 2019, but since then, the folks at Disney have evidently had a change of heart.
“But they came and said, ‘Would you consider turning this into a series, potentially?'” Nichols continued. “So I have taken it and broken it into ten episodes, and it’s under consideration right now. Who knows, people in far more powerful positions than me are deciding that. One of the tricks is, I want to shoot it like a giant film, and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get away with that.”
The 1988 film was set in Los Angeles after a spaceship carrying 300,000 extra-terrestrial refugees lands on Earth. After spending three years in quarantine, the so-called “Newcomers” begin to integrate into human society. The film follows the L.A.P.D.’s first alien cop (Mandy Patinkin), who’s partnered with a cop played by James Caan who does not like the idea of the aliens intermingling with his species. It sounds like Nichols’ take wouldn’t be a straight remake, but would still provide him the opportunity to comment on refugees, immigration, fear-mongering, xenophobia, racism, and several other key themes that have been brought to the forefront during the past four years in the United States. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that Disney+ announces Alien Nation will be coming to the streaming service soon.
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