There have been rumblings about adaptations of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation for years now, but no one has quite gotten there. Last we heard, Roland Emmerich planned to develop it as a television series, and while the TV part of that still appears to be true, the players involved have changed. It is now being reported that Jonathan Nolan, screenwriter of Interstellar and frequent collaborator with his brother Christopher, is working to write and produce a series based on the books for HBO and Warner Bros. TV.
Given the scope, scale, and expansiveness of the narrative—which takes place over thousands of years, and tells the slow-burn story of how humanity falls into a barbaric state after the collapse of Galactic Empire—a movie would have never had done this justice. HBO has certainly shown that they’re not afraid to tell a sprawling, intricate story that’s a gradual build (just look at Game of Thrones), so this might be a perfect match.
Nolan is working with HBO on the modern retelling of Westworld, and has apparently been developing this for some time. Talking to the Playlist last week, he talked about his passion for Foundation, but in a more vague, abstract way. He said, “Well, I fucking love the ‘Foundation’ novels by Isaac Asimov. They’re certainly not [unknown], but that’s a set of books I think everyone would benefit from reading. That’s a set of books where the influence they have is just fucking massive. They have many imitators and many have been inspired by them, but go back and read those, and there are some ideas in those that’ll set your fucking hair on fire.”
While that certainly indicates that he’s a fan, it wasn’t until a report surfaced yesterday on The Wrap indicating that this is indeed going down. So far HBO, WBTV, and Nolan’s representatives have all declined to comment, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for this one, hoping their sources are accurate.
HBO spent a small fortune acquiring the rights to Foundation when they came up for sale this past summer after a number of failed attempts to bring it to the screen, any screen. Though there are a number of newer additions and prequels, the core of Foundation are Asimov’s three original novels, Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation, and that is going to form the basis for the series. There is certainly more than enough in this trilogy to build a series on, and there’s much more to mine in Nolan feels like it.
Set in the distant future, the Galactic Empire rules the whole Milky Way, and Hari Seldon, a scientist, has developed psychohistory, a system that combines a number of factors and indicators to predict the future of civilization. But what he sees is not good, envisioning the fall of the Empire and 30,000 years of darkness. If he plans it right, however, he can reduce this to one thousand years, and sets up the Foundation to accomplish this goal. But while he can foresee a broad skeleton outline of what’s to come, his calculations have trouble accounting for chaotic human nature.
There’s no timeline laid out for Foundation at the moment, and like I said, it’s not official yet, but you can bet we’re going to have our eyes peeled for any news about this one.