Earlier this year, Jeff Nichols channeled 1980s sci-fi movies like Starman and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in his underrated drama Midnight Special. Now he's going full-on remake with the 1980s sci-fi movie Alien Nation. Deadline reports that Nichols will write a new script for the project, which has been in development for over a year and previously was being penned by Iron Man's Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. Nichols is also bringing on his Loving producers, so he's clearly set on making this all his own.
That's important, because until now the filmmaker has only worked on original movies that he's written, although Loving is based on a true story. Still, the job goes against what he's said of remakes in the past. "You want to pay homage to these kinds of films but they can’t just be those films – those films have been made," he told the Playlist in 2013. "We need to make new films. That’s why I’m against this whole remake thing. It’s like – we have new stories to tell. Let’s create new myths and new icons and everything else."
Alien Nation does have a story Nichols is fit for, given his genre deconstruction work and interest in civil rights stories, of which this is one with a sci-fi angle. The 1988 original stars James Caan as a tough L.A. police detective who is partnered on a homicide case with a "Newcomer" alien played by Mandy Patinkin. It already spawned a short-lived TV series adaptation in 1989 and a number of novels. And as far as its influence goes, the 2009 Best Picture nominee District 9 is a pretty close rehash.
As far as casting the remake goes, let's hope Nichols gives regular collaborator Michael Shannon the human-cop part and Joel Edgerton the alien role. Or Shea Whigham as the human and Shannon as the alien. And either way, Matthew McConaughey can be the alien businessman bad guy played by Terence Stamp in the original. Nichols is great at casting, so he'll come up with the right combination. This may not be an ideal project for him, but he hasn't done wrong yet so we're not too worried.