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Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne are looking to the future — literally.
The New Line founders-turned-producers have signed on to produce their first project since they received their post-New Line deal at Warners, boarding an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s futuristic sci-fi epic “Foundation” that they’ll produce through their Unique Features banner.
Warners recently picked up “Foundation,” which had been in development at Fox. Vince Gerardis, who had been attached as a producer in the Fox incarnation, will remain on board as a producer for the Warners project with Shaye and Lynne.
“Foundation” is based on Asimov’s “Foundation Trilogy,” which centers on a society that has figured out how to predict the future based on a method called psychohistory and sets up a foundation devoted to scientific research to protect itself and ensure its survival.
The politically inflected work, which features such characters as the prophetic Hari Seldon and a villain called the Mule, spans hundreds of years, essentially tracking the rise and fall of civilizations. Each book contains a new set of characters, which has in the past prompted some development execs to say they consider it a difficult work to adapt for the screen.
Shaye and Lynne’s goal is to adapt the first book for now, and, if it’s successful, potentially follow the New Line “Lord of the Rings” template by developing adaptations down the road of the second and third books.
Calling the trilogy “one of the things I’ve had close to my heart” since he read the books as a young man, Shaye said the project had as its goal locating and creating an audience for the Asimov classic. “Our idea to renew the worldwide audience’s appetite for the story,” he said.
Shaye noted that the books’ political themes, particularly its focus on the rise and fall of empires, give the movie a geopolitical relevance. But he also said their complexity would cause the company to move forward carefully. “This is not a script you can knock out in six months,” he said.
Science fiction is a genre in which the duo and New Line had dabbled, most notably in recent years with “The Last Mimzy,” the sci-fi family tale that Shaye directed.
Shaye and Lynne exited the Warner fold this year as part of Time Warner’s absorption of New Line. This month, the pair announced the formation of Unique, a production company with a three-year, first-look deal at Warners. The goal is to produce two or three movies per year, with Warners handling marketing and distribution.
Hollywood has found Asimov a difficult writer to adapt to film because his books tend to incorporate philosophical themes as much as action elements. Still, the loose adaptation of his “I, Robot” collection of stories turned into a $340 million global hit for Fox in 2004.
Fox, which adapted the whole trilogy as one standalone script (perhaps in a bid to counteract development obstacles), had attached several individuals who had worked on an earlier Asimov adaptation. In addition to Gerardis, who produced “I, Robot,” Jeff Vintar, who penned the screenplay to that film, was attached to pen the “Foundation” screenplay. Vintar has said in interviews that he was focusing on the latter parts of the trilogy, which span a more limited period of time, to make the Fox project more manageable.
Shaye said that the ambition of the “Foundation” project makes it the right movie to kick off the Unique slate. “This epitomizes the movies we want to make, not the movies that ought to be made to fill a slate or movies that repeat an old formula,” he said.
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