Asimov’s Foundation Was Supposed To Be A Movie, Before Becoming A Terrible Apple Series

By Josh Tyler | Updated


Isaac Asimov is most often associated with robotics, for which he developed the three laws. But the sci-fi author’s real masterwork isn’t really focused on mechanoids, and if you haven’t, you should probably read Foundation.

What you don’t want to do is watch the new Foundation series streaming on Apple TV+. It bears no resemblance to anything Asimov wrote and even on its own merits is generally pretty terrible.

But it didn’t have to be this way. At one point Foundation was set to become a big-budget movie.

In 2011 Sony Pictures announced that were turning the first book in Asimov’s galaxy-spanning Foundation series into a movie. They hired a mostly unknown writer named Dante Harper to adapt it and then after he did so, for unknown reasons scrapped the whole project.

For the uninitiated, Foundation’s premise involves a genius mathematician named Hari Seldon, who develops a way to predict the future, based on the idea that the larger the mass of people involved, the more predictable their future is. Using that knowledge, he foresees the fall of the human race and so sets a series of things in motion in an attempt to save humanity.

But that’s really just the larger goal of what’s going on; most of the story is told on a much smaller scale, from the perspective of the individuals caught up in Seldon’s grand plan. And it’s brilliant. Think of it like a series of short stories separated by centuries, which all collect together to form one wonderful whole. Now imagine a whole series of movies that do the same thing, and there was potential here to do something really cool. Of course, Hollywood botched it.

Maybe we were actually lucky this failed. The only other time Hollywood tried to adapt Asimov into a movie, the result was I, Robot.