David Goyer on adapting Foundation for Apple TV+

Thanks to the new Apple TV+ give, I’ve been catching up on some terrific Tv indicates and movies over the recent months- Ted Lasso, See, and Greyhound merely to name a few cases.

This Friday, Apple TV+ will see arguably its most ambitious entry yet with the premiere of Foundation, an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s legendary sci-fi novel serial. Foundation is about as big as it gets- a loom narrative of how humanity survives the end of civilization.

I caught up with showrunner, novelist, and executive producer David S. Goyer( The Dark Knight) to learn more about how the accomplished columnist/ director planned to tackle this monumental new series.

The book serial Foundation is legendarily difficult to adapt due to its epic scope … its story spans many thousands of years. What was called upon to you about tackling something so huge and complex?

DG: Hubris![ giggles] I was weaned on Foundation. My father introduced it to me when I was 13 year olds, he said it was the greatest science-fiction work ever written. I firstly read it in my 20 s … I didn’t wholly get wise. I read it again[ formerly] I was a father, and I understood more how important and revolutionary it was. Likewise, twice before in my career I was given the opportunity to adapt it as specific features[ film ], and I turned it down because I didn’t think it was possible to condense everything down into two or 3 hour.

It was only in the past six or seven years…when some of these giant streaming indicates started happening, like Game of Thrones and others. You discovered these big-hearted novelistic adaptations, and I thought that maybe the audience and the medium had grown to a place where Foundation might be possible. For the first time, we weren’t talking about having to condense everything- in success, we were talking about the possibility of being able to expand.

So the idea of telling this story across 70 occurrences, or 80 chapters, that was really appealing to me. We don’t even get all the way through the first book in the first season. We can take our times, and actually dig into the characters. The books were light on emotion, they were more about ideas and philosophy. But I belief when people watch these presents, what hooks them are the emotion and the specific characteristics.

So I had to figure out ways to take Asimov’s themes and embody them in attributes. And that’s what resulted me to create the Genetic Dynasty, which is not an idea that exists in the book. In the book, the Empire is resistant to change, it’s monolithic and rigid. And I envisioned, what’s the craziest formulation of that? How do you take that to 11? Well, what if the Empire is the same Emperor cloning himself again and again and again, and enforcing his ego across the galaxy? That was my way of exploring Asimov’s theme. And that led to all these interesting persona things we could do with the Emperor. It let me to depict the Emperors as monsters, but also these likable figures who were desperate to individuate themselves, who were living in the shadow of Cleon I. That approaching was kind of, in a microscope, my approach to the series writ large.


Asimov’s writing style is famously straightforward. Did you feel like you had a wide opening to leave your own creative fingerprints on this cosmo?

A little bit … I was a fan of the books, so I approached it as a devotee. I don’t think it would be successful if I hadn’t liked the books. One of the first things I did was try to identify all the themes and elements of the books that I thought were essential. I reached out to the Asimov estate and I said, “this is what I have identified as what establishes Foundation, Foundation. Do you agreed to accept what I’ve recognized? ” And they said, “Yep, those seem like the most important elements.”

When Asimov was writing these volumes, he was using them as a reflect to reflect back on contemporary society. But that society was 70 years ago, it was a post World War II environment. We’re 70 times removed from that, so if I’m going to shine a mirror back on culture, then I likewise need to be writing about today. I don’t want to preach to people, but subtly I want to be talking about today.

Did you have a creative breakthrough in terms of capturing the essence of this famously complex serial for a modern audience? Was there a moment when you told me, “I know how to do this? ”

Yeah, it actually started with Gaal. So in the original trilogy, Gaal is the point-of-view character. Asmiov was very clever with what he did. When we pick up Gaal, Gaal is just arriving at Trantor having made a journey through space …[ Gaal] is likely to be the audience’s eyes and ears. You don’t have to have read the books, or know about psychohistory, or the Empire … you don’t have to know what it’s like to take a journey through room, to fold room. What’s cool about that is, then you can just ask yourself, what is it like for that country mouse who’s leaving a parochial world and going to the big city for the first time? Emotionally, what is it like to get on a spaceship, to be in zero gravity, to be terrified when room is folding and you’re breaking time and space?

Then I “ve thought about” the shape of the spaceships. We say folding room, but the Empire is kind of this patriarchy. They don’t think about folding room, but cutting room, cleaving space. That brings to mind the idea of a blade. So I said I craved the Empire’s ships to look like knife blades the hell is literally cutting space. Everything comes from story, from character. If Gaal is our gateway to Foundation, and Gaal doesn’t know much about the universe that we’re exploring … that’s a real gift for the narrator, and hopefully a endowment for the audience.


In the book, the reader rapidly learns that civilization’s downfall is guaranteed, with humanity left to stumble for eons through a dark age. It’s a grim proposition- how do you maintain observers emotionally invested in a testify where the stakes are so unfathomable?

That’s a good question. At the end of the working day, Asimov was an optimist …. he had a lot of faith in humanity, in ingenuity, in engineering, in rationalism. Later on, in the 70 s and 80 s, science fiction get much more dystopian and dark. Lord knows, in my job I’ve done a lot of dark projects! I imagine after[ becoming] a father-god, I liked the relevant recommendations of doing something that had high stakes, but basically was a message of hope and optimism. If we work together, we can get through the dark days. That was an important message for me to convey, as a dad.

When I started the project, it was before the pandemic had hit. And everything became eerily more relevant once we were in post production. Making the display was incredibly hard during the pandemic, the casting and crew were all isolated for over a year. We couldn’t go home. At certain levels in the filming, I would demonstrate the casting and crew scenes that “were just” doing. And I think we all felt like we were building something worthy, and something that might give people a sense of hope in these dark times.

There are a lot of wild notions in Foundation: maths, sociology, psychohistory … how do you integrate all of that in a way that’s faithful but isn’t a college lecture?

A perfect example of that is our approach to math. Famously, Hari Seldon develops this mathematical formula for predicting the future[ ed note: “psychohistory” ]. On the surface, for people not into math, that could seem dry or academic. I was terrible at math when I was in school. Even with a teacher, I get Ds. I ever had a block.

Math was boring to me, but I wanted to depict math as beautiful. And so I said to my layout squad, I want to find a way to visualize math that’s different from anything we’ve seen before. I know this will clang funny, but I want math to look like the language of angels. I are willing to nearly be this mystical experience. So we did a lot of development into the math, a lot of concept art, previsualizations, and beta testing with the visual effects. And we came up with this visual expres for math, and I think it is beautiful. And I said, great. Now we need to do that with every single thing in the prove.

Are there any other epic Tv serials or cinema serials that you’re employing as a North star to help guide the production?

Um … there aren’t many Tv shows. I would say the one TV prove, and I know this will seem funny, is Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. I enjoy the storytelling on those depicts. I love the way Vince Gilligan takes his time, the mode that a huge plot device can hang on something tiny that you introduce in a prior season. He truly trusts in his audience. I desire the shades of gray-headed that Gilligan writes in. I’m not interested in black and white, I love shadows of grey, and that’s something we’re certainly exploring in this show. So even though it’s a crazy science fiction evidence, I would say Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are definitely the things I talked about the most in the writers’ room.

Is there anything in our contemporary minute that in some manner maybe similarities Seldon’s prophecies and the Empire’s reaction to them?

I mean, plainly the pandemic. All the scripts were written prior to the pandemic, it’s not something we have been able predicted. But the facts of the case that we went through a pandemic 100 years ago, and sadly it seems like we didn’t learn a lot of the lessons learned from that pandemic even 100 years later. That’s very topical right now. I guess the path that science has get politicized, things that looks a lot like objective facts are kind of up for grabs. That’s something that Asimov was very interested in.

Climate change also appeared to me…

For sure, for sure. Climate change was something we were thinking about when we were writing the reveal. But because we wrote the indicate, in the three years since, it seems like we’ve reached this inflection point we weren’t quite at when we first were accommodating the show.

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