Acclaimed filmmaker Jeff Nichols (“Take Shelter,” “Loving,” “Midnight Special”) has had his name attached to a remake of Graham Baker’s cult 1988 sci-fi crime feature “Alien Nation” for a little over two years now.
James Caan starred in the original as a racist detective forced to team up with an alien (Mandy Patinkin) to solve a murder – one that ties back to a narcotic from the alien’s homeworld. The film, and its spin-off TV series, dealt with how these beings integrated into society.
The new “Alien Nation,” setup at 20th Century Fox, would easily be Nichols’ biggest project to date but it hasn’t yet received a green light. Nichols has previously said the film isn’t a traditional remake and speaking with Slashfilm this week he revealed he is staying positive about the project and offered a lengthy update on where it currently stands:
“So I’ve been working on ‘Alien Nation’ like for two years, the screenplay. And I’m still … I’m almost done with it. I’m hoping this draft that I’m working on now will be my last. The studio seems to really love it, and we’re working on conception design of the aliens and everything else, and it happens to be a studio that’s being bought by Disney right now.
I’m working with Fox on it, so it feels a little bit like you’re one of those monks doing those giant murals in sand. It might just blow away, which would be a real shame, but everybody at Fox has been so good to me about it. And they’re so positive about it, obviously I’m trying to stay in the positive zone, and hopefully knock out this last draft.
It’s epic. I mean, it’s the biggest canvas I’ve ever painted on, but it 100% feels like a Jeff Nichols film, which I’m sure there are gonna be some Alien Nation fans out there that are like, ‘What the f–k?’ But my hope is if they … If people come to it just ready for a new story, that they’ll like it. And I put my heart and soul into it. To be the project that’s supposed to be me being a sell out, it is like the least … I’m not saying that to save face or be cool. I put so much of myself into it, it takes place in Arkansas. There’s so much of me in it.
When you’re making something that big, there’s just so many things that are out of your control. In a weird way, all you can control and concentrate on is the creative aspect… So hopefully Alien Nation goes, I’ve got a couple of things that I won’t say are more serious films, because ‘Alien Nation’ is actually pretty serious, but there’s a lot more traditional kind of adult movies.
I’ve got a couple of those but I haven’t settled on one, and then I’ve got a really another big PG, PG-13 kind of like summer blockbuster family film, which makes it sound real lame, but it’s not. It’s more like Mud, but with some bigger fantastical elements in it.”
Reviews for Netflix’s big-budget feature “Bright” noted how the fantasy tale was essentially a rip-off of the original film but with magical creatures rather than aliens. Nichols has not released or directed a film since his awards success in 2016 with “Loving”.