alien nation remake

Earlier this week, director Wes Ball’s long-brewing Mouse Guard movie was officially pronounced dead thanks to the Disney/Fox acquisition, leading Ball and others involved with the project to give us a glimpse into the work they’d done developing the movie. Now Mouse Guard has unfortunately found a new companion in cancellation in the form of Fox’s Alien Nation remake, which was to be directed by Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special, Mud, Take Shelter). Nichols had spent three years working on the script, and now that work seems to have been for naught.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision newsletter reports that the remake of the 1988 sci-fi film was previously in active development, but has now fallen by the wayside thanks to Disney swooping in with an historic purchase of a studio rival.

The ’88 film, which was directed by Graham Baker, was set in Los Angeles after a spaceship carrying 300,000 extra-terrestrial refugees lands on Earth. After years of quarantine, the “Newcomers” have begun to integrate into human society, and Mandy Patinkin plays the city’s first alien police officer. Naturally, he finds himself partnered with a racist (specist?) cop played by James Caan, who doesn’t like the Newcomers one bit. It’s a buddy cop sci-fi movie about the way we treat others, and it would have been perfect for a filmmaker like Nichols, whose humanistic touch surely would have given us a remake that would have resonated with our ongoing political hellscape. Frequent Nichols collaborator Michael Shannon was rumored to be playing the alien detective, which also sounds like it would have been pretty damn perfect.

THR says that the project “will very likely be revisited down the road in some capacity,” but that seems more like speculation on their part than anything concrete. I’m guessing a project like this, which has an obvious political relevance and would almost certainly ruffle some feathers, seemed like more of a risk than an opportunity for the family-friendly and notoriously risk-averse Disney.

That’s a huge bummer, because it sounds like Nichols, who hasn’t directed a movie since 2016’s Loving, poured his heart and soul into this one. He told us all about it in 2018:

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 percent 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 fuck?’ 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…I put so much of myself into it, it takes place in Arkansas. There’s so much of me in it.

Check out more of our discussion with Nichols here, and we’ll be holding out hope that this movie gets put back on track one day.

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