Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special was pretty polarizing when it hit theaters last year — those who loved really loved it, and those who didn’t were various degrees of disappointed with the ending. Jeff Nichols heard the critics, and recently had an interesting take on why he believes Midnight Special is the “least well-executed” of all his movies.
Biopics about historical figures have a tendency to feel too pedagogic or overly political. No one wants to go to the movies for a history lesson – that’s what substitute teachers in high school are for. The strength of Loving, a new biopic about Richard and Mildred Loving, is that filmmaker Jeff Nichols puts the political talk in the background, focusing instead on the in intimate relationship at the center of a groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court case.
Richard and Mildred Loving couldn’t have had a more perfect last name. The real-life interracial couple, whose 1958 marriage violated Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws and led to a landmark laws civil rights case, weren’t just incredible for how much they changed history, but for how deeply they loved one another despite all opposite. In the aptly titled historical drama ‘Loving,’ Jeff Nichols makes the couple’s warm devotion to one another the focal point of his quiet, intimate film.
From Shotgun Stories to Take Shelter to Mud, Jeff Nichols’ has made his name as an indie filmmaker who tells the types of stories he wants instead of yielding to mainstream expectations. Just look at Midnight Special, a sci-fi thriller that refuses to give audiences overt explanations, or his latest biopic Loving, which is more of a love story than a didactic political drama. Considering the originality of Nichols’ work, it might have been surprising to some that the director’s next project will be a remake of 1988 sci-fi movie Alien Nation. But even that film won’t be what you’d expect.
It was last March (as in, 2015) that we first learned about Fox’s plans to remake Alien Nation, when Iron Man scribes Art Marcum and Matt Holloway signed on to write the screenplay for the new film based on the bizarre 1988 sci-fi buddy cop comedy. With his latest film (and second of 2016) debuting at TIFF, director Jeff Nichols is coming aboard the Alien Nation remake, for which he’ll also deliver a new screenplay.
“Let the midnight special shine it’s light on me,” go the lyrics of the folk song that shares a title, Midnight Special, with director Jeff Nichols’ fourth film. While those lyrics have no explicit analog within the film, it certainly is a fitting description of the powers of a mysterious young boy, Alton, whose eyes can shoot bursts of a powerful blue light that deliver an overwhelming sense of emotion and awe to those in his gaze.
One of the many intriguing aspects of the Sony e-mail leak was the news that Warner Bros. was in talks with Jeff Nichols (the upcoming Midnight Special) to direct the Aquaman spinoff. We know now, over a year later, that Warner Bros. eventually hired James Wan to direct Aquaman, but I caught up with Nichols today to get the full story on what happened to his version of the film, and why he eventually decided to walk away.