Midnight Special’s Jeff Nichols Talks About His Unsuccessful Aquaman Pitch

Jeff Nichols, Aquaman

by James White |
Updated on

Jeff Nichols is enjoying some love right now thanks to the acclaim for his latest, The Bikeriders at the Telluride Film Festival (see the trailer here). He switched from working on A Quiet Place: Day One (though retains script credit) for it, but that was far from his first brush with franchise filmmaking. He was, at one point, in line to direct Aquaman.

History, of course, records that James Wan ended up with that gig, delivering a $1 billion hit (plus cult favourite drumming octopus) and spawning a sequel due out this December.

But way back in 2014, among the emails unearthed by the infamous Sony hack were messages between studio folk about Warner Bros. considering Nichols – then the director of Take Shelter and Mud to handle the movie.

According to Nichols, who talked to Josh Horowitz on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, his concept would have been quite different…

"I still have scenes from Aquaman in my head that would’ve been good," Nichols says. "They would’ve been quite different from the film that was made. It wasn’t ever feasible… I liked the older Aquaman, like when he had a harpoon for a hand. He was a fallen king and his son had died. He was in mourning. Obviously from this brief pitch you can see it would’ve sold hundreds of dollars worth of tickets!"

Not having scored that job, he instead made Midnight Special and Loving, and off the back of those, was tempted by another chunk of IP… a new version 1988 sci-fi thriller Alien Nation. Yet that would become a casualty of Disney buying Fox.

"On the Alien Nation front, that was a heartbreaker," Nichols admits. "That’s one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to make another film. I spent four years on that. We were at the one yard line. I had it cast and we had it ready to go, but the universe didn’t want me to make that right then. That was an original story I crafted and they wanted to put the Alien Nation title on it."

But it sounds like there will be a happy ending to that one, even if it doesn't end up being an Alien Nation movie.

"Fortunately that script without the title has gone over to Paramount," he adds. "After the strike lifts, I can get back to work on it."

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