Hollywood has been trying to adapt Isaac Asimov’s seminal sci-fi classic Foundation for years, but it looks like Apple might just succeed with its highly anticipated series from David S. Goyer. Apple TV+ has tapped Jared Harris and Lee Pace to lead the Foundation cast in the 10-episode drama series based on Asimov’s epic sci-fi saga.
Apple announced that Jared Harris Chernobyl and Lee Pace H and Catch Fire will star in the Apple TV+ series Foundation, which chronicles ” the epic saga of The Foundation, a band of exiles who discover that the only way to save the Galactic Empire from destruction is to defy it.” Harris will star as Hari Seldon, a mathematical genius who predicts the death of the empire, while Pace will star as Brother Day, the Emperor of the Galaxy.
Isaac Asimov is considered one of the founding fathers of science fiction largely because of the widespread influence of his Foundation series, which spans seven books published over the course of 40 years. The sci-fi saga first began as a collection of short stories published in 1951, and was expanded into a now-famous trilogy of novels — which it remained for decades before Asimov was convinced to write more novels, the last of which was published posthumously. While the Foundation series has left a massive impact on the sci-fi genre as a whole, Hollywood has struggled to bring it to the big screen. Roland Emmerich first tried to adapt it into a feature film at Sony in 2011, but rights lapsed in 2014, allowing HBO to swoop in for Jonathan Nolan to turn into a series. However, Nolan opted to make Westworld instead, and the rights ended up in Apple’s lap.
As we’ve seen with Apple’s star-studded catalog so far, the tech company has no shortage of A-list stars and money to pour into its original titles, and Foundation could certainly use both. The ambitious story, which chronicles the waning days of a future Galactic Empire inspired by the collapse of the Roman Empire, spans generations and needs solid stars to anchor such a cerebral saga. I’ve never read Foundation, but /Film managing editor Jacob Hall notes that Foundation is more about grand concepts than characters, so Harris and Lee will be given plenty of creative freedom to bring their characters to life. Harris is particularly suited to play the genius Hari Seldon — a guy so smart he predicts thousands of years of history — as the Emmy nominee has proven in Chernobyl that he excels at playing the smartest guy in the room.
The Crown producer Left Bank is developing a TV adaptation of Paul Sussman's archeological thriller novels The Khalifa Mysteries.
The Sony-owned company is developing a small-screen adaptation of the books with Simon Allen, who is writing BBC America's The Watch and has written on series including Sky and Cinemax co-pro Strike Back and The Musketeers.
The books have been described as the “intelligent reader's answer to The Da Vinci Code”. The series of novels consists of four books, The Lost Army of Cambyses, The Last Secret of the Temple, The Labyrinth of Osiris and The Hidden Oasis.
They mix the modern-day police procedural with archaeological mysteries. The first book, The Lost Army of Cambyses, mixes the 523 BC disappearance of an army with with Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor police’s investigation into three seemingly unrelated murders. The Last Secret of the Temple explores the murder of Dutch archaeologist Piet Jansen and age-old religious treasure smuggled to the castle of Castelombres and the whereabouts of aged Nazi sympathisers, The Hidden Oasis flips between 2152 BC Egypt and 1988 USSR with the disappearance of a plane from a recently decommissioned nuclear research facility, while The Labyrinth of Osiris features a gruesome murder in Jerusalem’s Armenian Cathedral.
Sussman, who died in 2012, was an interesting character; in addition to writing these books, he worked as a gravedigger in France, sold cigars in Harrods and toured Europe as Aunt Sponge in a production of James and the Giant Peach before he began writing.
Left Bank is currently preparing for the launch of the third season of The Crown, with Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth, in November and is in production of the fourth season. It is also producing Quiz, based on the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? cheating scandal, for AMC and ITV, feature-length drama Sitting In Limbo for the BBC, and two further dramas for Netflix: White Lines, from Money Heist creator Álex Pina, and Behind Her Eyes, adaptation of Sarah Pinborough’s psychological thriller.
Lee Pace Halt and Catch Fire and Jared Harris Chernobyl have been tapped as leads in Foundation, Apple TV+'s upcoming drama series based on Isaac Asimov's science fiction novel trilogy.
Your Complete Guide to Pilots and Straight-to-Series orders
The 10-episode series, from David Goyer, Josh Friedman and Skydance Television, chronicles the epic saga of The Foundation, a band of exiles who discover that the only way to save the Galactic Empire from destruction is to defy it.
Pace plays Brother Day, the current Emperor of the Galaxy. Harris plays Hari Seldon, a mathematical genius who predicts the demise of the empire.
Goyer serves as showrunner and executive producer. Skydance Television is producing the series, with David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Marcy Ross serving as executive producers. Friedman and Asimov's daughter, Robyn Asimov, also serve as executive producers for the series.
Pace, who starred on AMC's Halt and Catch Fire for four seasons, recently starred in the hit Hong Kong drama series Flying Tiger and was seen in the movies Captain Marvel and Driven. The actor, an Emmy and Golden Globe nominee for Pushing Daisies, is repped by WME and attorney Jodi Peikoff.
Harris is coming off an Emmy nomination for HBO's limited series Chernobyl. He was previously nominated for an Emmy for his role on AMC' Mad Men and for BAFTA TV Award for Netflix's The Crown. The British actor co-stars on Amazon's Carnival Row and will be seen in Morbius. He is repped by ICM Partners, Independent Talent Group, Gateway Management Company and Danis Panaro.
le Amazon has become an Emmys juggernaut with more intimate series like “Fleabag” and “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” those kind of character-based stories are not all the streaming service does — or plans to do. And no upcoming series proves that point more than Amazon's long-awaited, multi-season television adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's “The Lord of the Rings.”
Amazon has kept news about “The Lord of the Rings” as quiet as it possibly can, but IndieWire has compiled a list of the nine must-know details about the upcoming series. From its big shoes to fill as another Tolkien adaptation to its hush-hush casting, below is everything you need to know about Amazon's “The Lord of the Rings.”
Chances are fairly high you already know about the source material of this particular Amazon series, but in case you don't: Amazon's “The Lord of the Rings” series is based on author J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy novel series of the same name. A sequel series to Tolkien's 1937 novel “The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings” consists of three novels: “The Fellowship of the Ring” published in July 1954, “The Two Towers” published in November 1954, and “The Return of the King” published in October 1955. Take notes, George R.R. Martin.
Both of these stories exist in a world of mythical creatures such as wizards, dwarves, elves, orcs, and of course, hobbits. “The Hobbit” follows the titular hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, as he embarks on an incredibly dangerous adventure far away from the safety of his home in the idyllic Shire. During his travels, he found the One Ring and took it home with him. “The Lord of the Rings” begins with an older Bilbo giving the Ring to his younger cousin Frodo, who is then tasked—with the aid of the Company of the Ring—to destroy the ring in the Fire of Mount Doom in Mordor, where it was forged and the only place it can be destroyed.
Since their original publications, there have been multiple adaptations of both “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” in a number of media radio, television, film, stage, in both live-action and animated formats. But most notably, both “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” also as a trilogy were adapted to the big screen, in major live-action motion pictures directed by Peter Jackson.
Adaptation, by its very nature, is transformative. A screenwriter must necessarily make changes to another form of written work in order for that work to function in the medium of film. Fans of the original work will often judge the value of the adaptation by fidelity to the source material, judging a film by how much it adheres to the story beats, tone, and even specific dialogue that they remember and appreciate from the work they grew to love in the first place. But sometimes the adaptational process subjects the original work to such transformative pressures that it’s barely recognizable.
Take, for instance, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. Ostensibly, Waititi adapted the screenplay from a novel by Christine Leunens titled Caging Skies, but if you’re familiar with the kinds of films Waititi makes, Caging Skies seems like an exceedingly odd choice to inspire this particular filmmaker. Most notably, Caging Skies is a very, very bleak story. It is so bleak, in fact, that even though the book jacket for the recent U.S. printing describes the story as “darkly comic,” that darkness is so stifling that I struggle to understand why anyone would think it’s remotely funny. And yet, when you look at Jojo Rabbit, the bones of this story are still there, even if radically altered to serve different ends.
This post contains spoilers for Jojo Rabbit.
The Boyhood Whimsy and Coming of Age of Jojo Rabbit
Waititi’s film follows a preteen boy named Jojo growing up in World War II-era Germany. Jojo lives with his mother, as his father went off to fight in the war and never returned, and he participates in the Hitler Youth. Acting as a surrogate father is Jojo’s imaginary friend, a wildly flamboyant and childish personification of Hitler himself as portrayed by Waititi. Jojo is overtaken by nationalistic fervor for his country, much to his mother’s concern, which she masks behind eccentricity in trying to keep him childish and free from hateful indoctrination.
However, Jojo’s life changes when an accident during a Hitler Youth activity leaves him injured from a grenade blast, scarring his face. It’s then that he comes to realize that maybe he and his mother are not alone in their home, as he discovers a Jewish teenager named Elsa living in their walls. Elsa threatens Jojo’s life should he tell anyone, but Jojo worries about what will happen to his mother if word got out that they were harboring a Jew. So Jojo and Elsa are left at an impasse, as neither wants to tell Jojo’s mother about their knowledge of one another for fear of the danger that would put her in.
So Jojo endeavors to study his unexpected roommate in a sort of anthropological study of Judaism, which is largely founded on the farcically demonic caricatures he was taught in the Hitler Youth but is gradually chipped away as he comes to recognize Elsa’s humanity, even if he has trouble admitting it as such to himself. Meanwhile, Jojo starts to suspect that maybe his mother is more involved with the resistance to the German government than he had ever suspected, and just as he starts to recognize his prepubescent romantic feelings for Elsa, Jojo discovers his mother hanging dead in the city square, executed for her treason.
Though initially angry at Elsa, Jojo still makes efforts to hide her from government investigation. She’s the last bit of family he has left in the world, and he starts to realize that perhaps Jews aren’t the monsters he was indoctrinated to believe. This arc completes when Jojo finally murders his pleading, sniveling faux-friend, Faux Hitler, leaving the ways in which he was misled in childhood behind him in favor of enlightened empathy.
As the Allied forces invade, liberating the city, Elsa asks Jojo who has won the war. Jojo, in a moment of weakness, tells her that the Germans have won, but he quickly reassures her that he’ll help her escape in the post-battle chaos. As she leaves the house for the first time since being hidden there, it becomes obvious that the Allies have won, that Jojo told a fib, and that she is free. The final moments are happy ones, as the pair laugh joyously at the possibilities that await them.
The Dark Hearts of Broken People in Caging Skies
Christine Leunens’ book follows a very similar path to Taika Waititi’s adaptation in the broadly plotted strokes, though a multitude of minor and major details compound to make the book very distinct from what Waititi would later do with it. For instance, Johannes has no cute or childish nickname, and he lives with his mother, father, and elderly grandmother in Austria, not Germany. Johannes does not become injured during a Hitler Youth activity, but during an actual air raid in which he was enlisted as a child soldier. He is not just scarred on his face, but half of his face is left paralyzed, and one of his arms has been partially amputated. Hitler never makes an appearance, imaginary or otherwise.
Johannes’ discovery of Elsa is largely the same, but their secret correspondence takes place over a period of years, rather than weeks or months, so Johannes grows up to be a young man over the course of the war. During that time, Johannes’ father is arrested as a member of the resistance and sent to a concentration camp. Johannes’ mother meets much the same fate as she does in the film, but her attitude is much less whimsical in the book, more pointedly oblivious in an effort to convey normalcy to her son rather than distract him. Left as the only provider for his household with a disability that prevents him from getting sufficient work, Johannes starts to become embittered toward Elsa as an unwanted houseguest, though he refuses to reveal her to his grandmother out of loyalty to his mother’s wishes. Even more than that, Johannes has adolescent feelings of lust for Elsa, hating her for being the reason his parents were killed, but also bearing affection for her as the only person who understands him and listens to him, as ugly and isolated as he has become.
Johannes’ lie is also the same, as he tells Elsa that the German army has fought off the Allied forces and declared victory. But this moment, one of the last moments of the film, arrives at about the halfway point of the book. If the point of this story were the same as the adaptation that Waititi decided to make, this would be the logical place to end it, or it would at least serve as the climax before an epilogue. But it’s here that Leunens’ purpose becomes very distinct from Waititi’s, more so than the tone or constructive details ever could.
When Johannes lies to Elsa, that lie stays intact. He does not promise to help Elsa escape, only to continue keeping her hidden. This lie is born out of shame, lust, and loneliness, as Johannes remains in a state of arrested development by shackling his imprisoned childhood crush’s fate to his own when he’s forced to navigate a world that is leaving his hateful ideology behind. At first, Johannes is conflicted about his lie, but ultimately he’s pleased enough with his choice that his grandmother starts to suspect that he’s bringing a girl around. Grandma’s suspicion is only made more troublesome by Elsa’s increased carelessness as she loses hope of ever having a normal life again.
When Johannes’ grandmother eventually dies, this offers Elsa a bit more freedom to roam the house, but the pair gradually start to resent each other as more years go on. This hatred becomes exacerbated as Johannes continues to struggle supporting them, because his rations are limited to just his own and he has no means to provide enough food for two people without using his grandmother as an excuse. This hardship becomes so severe that Johannes has to sell off all the furniture and eventually abandon the house itself, smuggling Elsa into an apartment building. By this point, Elsa and Johannes are bitterly resentful of one another. She suspects that he hasn’t been honest with her, and Johannes is struggling more and more to maintain the lie. He tries to ameliorate Elsa’s isolation with a cat, but this only adds stress to the situation and the cat ends up flying out the skylight window. Their shouting matches lead the neighbors to believe that Johannes has a secret “wife,” and it’s during one of these fights that Johannes reveals, in a half-hearted, guilt-ridden attempt at a joke, that he’s been keeping her hidden from the world not for her safety, but out of love. She realizes the lie, a full four years after the end of the war, and she leaves.
Why One Story Became Two
Caging Skies is making very pointed critiques of German Nazi nationalism, toxic masculinity, confusion of possession for love, and the ways that men hold women hostage because they cannot cope with their own pain. Any sense of levity the book has is quickly subsumed by the bleak hopelessness of its message, leaving us alone with a sickly twisted narrator who is incapable of recognizing the moral of his own story. It’s not a story about how people can change and grow, but rather about how people are doomed to fall victim to the harmful messaging that they internalize in their culture.
Taika Waititi joked during the Q&A after Jojo Rabbit’s screening at Fantastic Fest that he only read about half of Caging Skies on his mother’s recommendation before writing the screenplay, and it would not surprise me in the least to learn that Waititi never did finish reading it. Certain changes to the source material are obvious for a Taika Waititi project, such as the focus on Jojo’s absent father figure, the emphasis of Jojo’s coming of age, and the film’s generally lighter tone and reliance on humor. If Waititi had made a straight adaptation of Caging Skies, it would be just about the most unlikely thing to ever grace Waititi’s filmography, spitting in the face of the optimism of films like Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
So why adapt Caging Skies at all? Obviously I cannot speak for Waititi, but it seems as though Caging Skies was a form of incidental inspiration. He read part of a book that he probably didn’t care for much, then rewrote the story to suit his own ends, dabbling with themes of boyhood and growing up in a comic, fanciful manner that pays enough homage to the structure and story beats of the novel that it just can’t be cited as a wholly original work. Jojo Rabbit probably feels like such a strange adaptation because it’s hardly an adaptation at all, adding subplots about authority figures in Jojo’s life that have no comparable equivalent in the novel and completely excising anything that contradicts the idea that Jojo is capable of overcoming the culture he was born into. Like any adaptation, Jojo Rabbit took on some of the personality of the person doing the adapting. What makes Jojo Rabbit unique is that the writer took something he likely objected to and transformed it into something he loved.
We do not speak of the 2007 feature film The Golden Compass. Chris Weitz’s botched adaptation of the acclaimed Philip Pullman fantasy novel came at the tail end of a string of Harry Potter knock-offs, and suffered from being reduced into a typical children’s fantasy adventure without all the religious themes and dark undertones that made Pullman’s epic inversion of Milton’s Paradise Lost so great. But I’m inevitably going to draw comparisons to that nonsensical disaster of a film in this review of His Dark Materials, HBO and BBC’s lavish, enthralling, and infinitely more successful adaptation.
When The Golden Compass came out, studios were desperate to find the next Harry Potter, and a slew of generic children’s fantasies were arriving and subsequently disappearing from theaters. The Golden Compass was primed to follow in the footsteps of those children’s fantasy misfires: an adventure story that follows a young girl on a quest to rescue her friend from a group of child kidnappers. The problem was the overt anti-religious themes that loomed throughout Pullman’s story, in the form of the oppressive Magisterium a thinly veiled analog to the Catholic Church that severely punished any whispers of heresy. The studio quickly did away with any and all religious parallels and replaced the novel’s tragic ending with a happier, frustratingly short-ended one.
But where The Golden Compass erased the darker themes and religious underpinnings of Pullman’s story, HBO’s His Dark Materials dials up the mature elements to emphasize that this is a grown-up story now, kids. And no matter the amount of talking armored bears or corporeal human souls that take the form of talking animals, HBO is going to take His Dark Materials seriously. Written by Jack Thorne Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, His Dark Materials is very much a fantasy series made in the aftermath of Game of Thrones, with the story’s more fantastical elements given as much weight as the conspiratorial mysteries and complicated character dynamics. While the series admittedly still tiptoes around the religious elements, this is an approach that vastly benefits an adaptation of Pullman’s entire trilogy.
Set in an alternate world where humans’ souls take the form of walking, talking animals called daemons, His Dark Materials follows Lyra Belacqua Dafne Keen, a headstrong orphan raised in the austere halls of Oxford’s Jordan College, a simultaneously grand and cozy estate that is designed like a cross between Winterfell and Hogwarts. Not content to scaling the rooftops and wandering the eerie crypts with her friend Roger Lewin Lloyd, a cherubic servant boy who works in the kitchens, Lyra dreams of going north with her adventurer uncle Lord Asriel James McAvoy. But when she witnesses the Master of Jordan College Clarke Peters attempt to poison her uncle, Lyra’s understanding of her small world is forever changed.
Though she saves his life, Asriel refuses to allow her to accompany him on his scientific mission north, which Lyra learns is related to a substance called “Dust,” a mysterious, newly-discovered particle that immediately unnerves the scholars at Jordan College and which gains the attention of the Magisterium, which decries it to be heresy. But Lyra soon gets her chance to leave Jordan College with the arrival of the sophisticated Mrs. Coulter Ruth Wilson, a charismatic socialite who sweeps Lyra off her feet and off to London, just as Lyra’s friend Roger suddenly goes missing. It’s a disappearance that eats away at Lyra, as rumors of child-kidnapping “Gobblers” turn out to be very real. Soon, Lyra finds herself caught up in a plot involving the Gobblers, Dust, prophecies, and a nomadic canal-faring community called Gyptians whose children have been abducted in alarming numbers.
His Dark Materials takes place in a rich and expansive world — though you’d be surprised to know that based on how much of the series takes place in confined spaces and claustrophobic hallways this reviewer received the first four episodes of eight total. I’d chalk much of that up to the show taking place in Lyra’s limited perspective, but the thing is, His Dark Materials isn’t entirely about Lyra. Though the series ostensibly revolves around her, Lyra sometimes feels like a bit player in a grander, more complicated story — one that the series delights in building up with nods and heavy foreshadowing to future events and characters. Instead, I’d point the blame on the muted visual style at director Tom Hooper, who helms the first two episodes of the series and establishes the house style for His Dark Materials. His signature directorial style — that of handheld cameras, intense close-ups, and negative space — washes out the sumptuous world that Pullman created. It all feels suffocatingly confined. Even when the series ventures north and out into open, much of the plotting takes place in dank, dark spaces or grimy alleys.
There’s a worn scrappiness to this series that extends beyond the directorial style, however. It’s probably best embodied by the design of the alethiometer, the titular “golden compass” that the Master entrusts to Lyra with a plea that she keep it secret. A rare truth-telling device, the show’s alethiometer is a far cry from the one described in the books, where it’s a weighty, expensive-looking instrument made of gold. Instead, the alethiometer of the series is a practical device that folds into a battered, weatherworn case no shinier than an old coin. The tactile, modern designs of the world are a departure from the lavish feeling of the books, but they do lend that air of prestige that His Dark Materials seems to be striving for. They also aid in grounding the visual effects of the daemons and the armored bears, the visual effects for which are good enough to blend in seamlessly with this iteration of the world.
Thankfully, the performances are big enough to negate some of the underwhelming visuals of the series. Keen, who exploded onto the scene as the murderous Laura in 2017’s Logan, gives another humdinger of a performance as Lyra. I was a little unsure about Keen’s take at first — she speaks a little too haltingly, picks her words a little too carefully at the beginning of the series. But she brings a real darkness to the character that allows Lyra’s brash, bratty nature to slowly shine through in a very deliberate way that stands apart from the typical reckless YA heroine.
But the real MVP of the series is Wilson, who is absolute dynamite as the villainous Mrs. Coulter. Playing a character which had previously only been depicted as an unreadable ice queen, Wilson gives her a fiery edge: charismatic, savage, vulnerable, and terrifying all at once. In one sequence, she gives a positively feral physical performance, imitating the actions of her devilish monkey daemon in a sequence that plays out like a horror film. Wilson’s Mrs. Coulter is the sociopathic female villain post- Gone Girl, a dead-eyed force of nature who crushes everything in her path with perfectly coiffed hair and a sweet smile.
On the other end of the spectrum is McAvoy, which the series almost positions as its hero — so naturally rugged and charismatic is the It Chapter 2 actor. But try as McAvoy might, his portrayal of the character’s ambitious ruthlessness falls a little flat, perhaps because his leading-man face can’t help but betray a noble nature. Basically, I can’t buy that he’s an asshole when his deep blue eyes are always quivering with regret at being mean to a kid. But the rest of the cast are all strong players: James Cosmo is a comforting stand-out as Farder Coram, the genial and wise Gyptian elder who takes Lyra under his wing; while Ian Peck is enjoyably smarmy as the scheming Cardinal Sturrock. Even Lin-Manuel Miranda is believable as the swashbuckling aeronaut Lee Scoresby, giving a theatrical performance that lends a little comedy to the series and shows a delightful dynamic with Keen. And there’s the captivating Ariyon Bakare as the enigmatic Lord Boreal, a powerful ally of the Magisterium who gets a much-expanded arc that plays out like an espionage thriller.
The first season of His Dark Materials only covers the events of the first novel, The Golden Compass — easily the most accessible and simply plotted of the trilogy — but the HBO series has its eyes on the rich mythology and intricate narrative twists of later books, and even the prequels. Later events are heavily foreshadowed, while shocking reveals from books 2 or 3 are divulged right off the bat. The opening of the first episode is plucked right out of Pullman’s first book in his new prequel trilogy. But while these changes may unsettle some fans that have read and reread the books meticulously aka, me, it is a smart way of reconciling the first book’s kiddish adventure story with the rest of the trilogy’s dramatic left turn into distressingly violent and morally challenging territory. It results in a season that will be immensely rewarding to old fans of the books, and an intriguing, if potentially confusing, watch for new viewers.
His Dark Materials premieres on HBO on November 4, 2019.