EXCLUSIVE: The Isaac Asimov science fiction trilogy Foundation heavily informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series, but for decades it has confounded Hollywood attempts at a straight adaptation. I’m hearing that Skydance, David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman are going to try to crack it. Skydance Television is closing a deal with the Asimov estate to try turning Foundation into a sprawling TV series.
Originally published as a short story series in Astounding Magazine in 1942, Asimov’s Foundation is the complex saga of humans scattered on planets throughout the galaxy, all living under the rule of the Galactic Empire. The protagonist is a psycho-historian who has an ability to read the future and foresees the empire’s imminent collapse. He sets out to save the knowledge of mankind from being wiped out. Asimov’s trilogy has been tried numerous times as a feature film at Fox, Warner Bros (with Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, the guys who greenlit The Lord Of The Rings), and then at Sony with Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. Many top sci-fi writers have done scripts. Most recently, HBO tried a series with Emmerich and Interstellar co-writer and Westworld exec producer Jonathan Nolan.
I’ve heard that Goyer (credits including the Batman, Ghost Rider and Blade franchises) and Friedman (whose sci-fi credits include the War Of The World remake and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, will step up and take their shot at the sprawling tale. Much as Luc Besson found a treasure trove of characters and worlds in his upcoming film Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, Asimov’s three novels have a rich tapestry and the relevant geopolitical theme of the rise and fall of empires. That is a challenge, but also an opportunity.
The biggest creative quandary, I’ve heard from those who tried to adapt Foundation, is that so many of Asimov’s themes found their way into George Lucas’s Star Wars that the challenge is to not appear to be ripping off one of Hollywood’s most successful film franchises, even though Asimov wrote his books 75 years ago. Considering that Lucasfilm continues to borrow from that mythology with myriad Star Wars sequels and spinoff films, perhaps a TV series is the best bet.
Some hardcore sci-fi fans might shake their heads and say Asimov’s tale is too dated, or un-adaptable. I can remember first revealing that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had set Game Of Thrones in a series deal at HBO. At the time, many said the same thing; in fact, Benioff and Weiss told me that when they first proposed the series to George RR Martin, he told them he was so frustrated by his Hollywood screenwriting experiences that he authored his books to be un-adaptable for any other medium, mostly to spare himself the heartache. It took Benioff and Weiss years, but GOT has become one of the most ambitious TV series of all time. It took Besson 20 years to figure out how to bring to the big screen Valerian, the Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mezieres French comic book series the director loved as a child. It took Peter Jackson years to figure out how to turn JRR Tolkien’s LOTR novels into the Oscar-winning trilogy. So, why not Asimov? For its part, Skydance would not comment, but I am confident it is all coming together.
Goyer is repped by WME and John LaViolette, Friedman by UTA and Karl Austen.