Asimov’s “Foundation” to try for an adaptation again

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is regarded as one of the most influential science fiction book series of all time, and due to its literary popularity has been under the eyes of several studios and production companies in the hopes of adapting it for television or the big screen. Now we are hearing once again, through Deadline, of another attempt at tackling this epic, but this time it is David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman who are looking to develop the Foundation series for television.

If you’re ever going to read any science fiction, many would point to Asimov as being one of the first authors to pick up. Foundation, and the laws of robotics it often focuses on, contains concepts of science fiction and computer engineering that still have ramifications to this day. As such, it’s been hugely influential—the bones of the Foundation series already have been explored in everything from Star Wars to HBO’s Westworld, and that could make adapting the series, which began as short stories in the pages of Astounding Magazine in 1942, a challenging task. This epic 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.

The fact that Goyer (Man of Steel) is now in this new mix may not inspire much confidence with fans, but perhaps Friedman’s involvement should. His take on the Terminator mythos, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, was actually a great exploration of ideas first posited by Asimov—when Lena Heady wasn’t blowing robots up with shotguns.

But don’t get too excited about this show popping up in your Netflix or Hulu queue anytime soon. Goyer and Friedman’s series is still in an extremely early development phase, and there are no reports of where the series could end up if produced, and as previously mentioned, the Foundation series has a long history of abortive adaptation attempts.

One of the biggest problems with trying 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. Then again, many people said the same thing about Game Of Thrones, even after David Benioff and D.B. Weiss inked their deal with HBO. Even George RR Martin wrote his books in such a manner so that they could not be adapted, and while it took years for Benioff and Weiss to get the series off the ground, its popularity and success is proof that it can be done. The same was said about Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson, with his well deserved Oscars, clearly proved those critics wrong, so why not Asimov’s seminal work?

Will the fourth try be the one that succeeds?

Goyer is repped by WME and John LaViolette, Friedman by UTA and Karl Austen.

Is Foundation something that you would like to see adapted for the TV screen, or does it serve to be on the big screen, along with a massive Hollywood movie budget? If so, how many movies would it take to tell that story? Do you feel that it would be folly to attempt such an undertaking, whether it is movie or television, and that it should be left to the printed page only?
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