Iconic screenwriter David S. Goyer serves as showrunner and executive producer for Apple TV +'s upcoming series adaptation Foundation. Digging through the back issue bins at a local comic book store as a child would eventually lead Goyer to become a master at adapting iconic comic book properties into character-driven screenplays such as Blade, Man of Steel, and "The Dark Knight" trilogy. Now with an IMDB page that serves as a road map to many comic book enthusiasts' souls, Goyer aims his keyboard at bringing Isaac Asimov's ambitious worlds to epic life in Foundation. The fate of an entire galaxy rests on the beliefs of Dr. Hari Seldon (Jared Harris). Will his conviction save humanity or doom it? Foundation chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire. Bleeding Cool had the opportunity to speak with Goyer about his love of comics, why he relates to Gaal Dornick & and if the audience is ready for this massive, generation-spanning story.
What got you into comic books as a young man?
David S Goyer: I grew up a Marvel kid taking the bus, in my case downtown, to Ann Arbor. I was introduced to back issues of comics at a comic book store. The Eye of Agamotto and I had that experience of digging through the back issue bins and then having the owner of the store recommend earlier runs to me. I've been a fan of comics ever since.
"Foundation" was almost required reading for a nerd like me. There have been efforts to adapt it for quite some time. What makes you think that you have the formula to get it right?
DSG: Well, I would never be so presumptuous, but I did get it made. So there's that. I think it's a combination of things. I honestly think it's that the medium caught up to Asimov. I was approached before about adapting it as a feature film or maybe a series of films. I didn't think it could be condensed into two hours or six or seven hours. With the advent of these big novelistic streaming shows like "Game of Thrones" and other things, it feels like the audience is finally there. They've got the patience for an epic to unravel over the course of seasons, over the course of years. I was fortunate enough when it came my way again, a third time about three or four years ago, that the medium had caught up to Asimov. People were willing to embrace the idea of telling this story over 70 hours, 80 hours. Instead of having to condense everything, we were able to expand upon Asimov's ideas and themes. So many things in the books happened off-screen, but with our show, we're able to portray those events happening on screen.
"Foundation" is such a grand story and you begin your adaptation with the first book. What are the elements that you want to amplify and bring more to the forefront?
DSG: The most obvious example is Gaal Dornick [Lou Llobell]. Gaal Dornick is the point-of-view character in the first short story. There's a reason Asimov chose Gaal to be the point of view character, a fish out of water. I thought we'll take Gaal and we'll extrapolate that. Gaal will be the point-of-view character for the first season. The beauty is that Gaal has never been off-planet. Never traveled on a jump -ship before. Never been to Trantor. Never met Harry Seldon or anyone from the Empire, and doesn't know much about history. And so through Gaal's eyes, the audience gets to experience all of those things. You don't have to have read any of the books because we have Gaal. You don't even have to be a fan of science fiction necessarily because we have Gaal.
The overall theme of "Foundation" of trying to save what we have now for the future. How prescient is that considering today's state of affairs? Does it serve as a warning?
DSG: Look, the story was a warning when Asimov wrote it in the shadow of World War Two and the story was a bit of a warning when we were contemplating adapting this three years ago. We could not have imagined that climate change would reach that kind of crisis point, could not have imagined that we would be faced with a global pandemic. Although obviously there had been a global pandemic in 1917. It's kind of eerie how much more prescient and relevant the show has become since we started making it. I also want to be clear that Asimov was fundamentally a humanist and someone who had faith in humanity and science and rationalism. One of the reasons why I wanted to adapt "Foundation," having adapted quite a few very dark stories in my career prior to this, now that I'm a father is I want to tell an optimistic story. I want to tell a story about scientists and nerds saving human civilization. In that respect, I think that even though it's become more prescient, hopefully, that kind of hopeful message will also be more relevant right now.
Which one among this vast cast of characters would you say you relate the most with?
DSG: You're asking me to pick my favorite child? I think that because the show is rooted in emotion and human experience. The thing that I told my writers and my actors is that these stories need to work without the science fiction. We need to be able to strip them all away and have them still work as a contemporary drama. So when I was a kid, I felt like an outsider. I felt like people didn't really understand my point of view. So in that regard, I relate a lot to Gaal. That gave me kind of an emotional hook to latch on to for the story.