Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, the former New Line Cinema execs who approved the production of Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, have signed on to produce a film adaptation of another classic genre trilogy- Issac Asimov’s Foundation.
Based loosely on Edward Gibbon’s History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy charted the fall of a great Galactic Empire and the group of academics who not only predicted its collapse, but who struggle to bring about the rise of a new galactic republic.
The project had recently been under development at 20th Century Fox, where producer Vince Gerardis had screenwriter Jeff Vintar condensing the three books down into one film.
Long held a classic of science-fiction literature, studios have been trying to turn the Foundation Trilogy into films for decades. I can remember reading an announcement back in the early 1980s.In 1998, while still at New Line, Shaye and Lynne spent $1.5 million on developing a screenplay before finally passing on the project in favor of making Lord Of The Rings.
But the series poses a number of obstacles outside of the huge special effects budget it would need. The three books cover a range of five centuries and are broken into smaller episodic sections with their own cast of characters. Such a structure was a strength when the BBC adapted the series in 1973 as an eight-part series of hour-long episodes.
Asimov’s other works have also been highly resistant to Hollywood adaptation. I noted in 200- that any resemblance between the Will Smith’s I, Robot and the collection of Asimov short stories it was allegedly based on was purely coincidental. Longtime friend of Asimov, Harlan Ellison has scripted a version of I, Robot back in the late 1970s that plays like a science-fiction version of Citizen Kane, but its cost was considered prohibitive.
Seeing as Ellison has been the only writer to have demonstrated an ability to understand and work with Asimov’s material, perhaps he should be the one approached to work on this.