Exclusive: How Writer-Director David Goyer brought Asimov’s epic sci-fi adventure ‘Foundation’ to life

leah harvey as salvor hardin in foundation
Leah Harvey as Salvor Hardin in Foundation. Pic Credit. Apple TV +

David Goyer loves to delve deeply into the vast worlds that he passionately writes about.

Since Batman Begins in 2005, the comic book aficionado has written many of the great DC comic superhero movies, including The Dark Knight trilogy, the Blade trilogy, Man of Steel, and Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD.

Now, the prolific writer has stepped into the sci-fi realm as the creator of the original dramatic television series Foundation on Apple TV +.

He wrote, executive produced, and is the showrunner of the riveting episodes of Foundation, the series based on the timeless trilogy of the same name written by Isaac Asimov. The series, which premiered the first two episodes on Sept. 24, stars Laura Birn, Terrence Mann, Cassian Bilton, and Alfred Enoch. Goyer proudly directed the series finale.

The highly-anticipated epic saga based on Asimov’s iconic novels reveals a deeper look at the adaptation. Audiences are inviting to venture across the galaxy to embark on a thrilling and emotional journey following a band of exiles who discover that the only way to save the Galactic Empire from destruction is to defy it.

“Even though I’ve been involved in some very dark movies and shows over the course of the years, Asimov’s Foundation is fundamentally a message of hope and faith in humanity and human ingenuity,” Goyer exclusively told Monsters & Critics.

“Certainly, after the last couple of years, it is a story that I’m even more determined to tell.”

Monsters & Critics: Please start by telling me what you’re most proud of when it comes to this project.

David Goyer:  Well, I’m just proud of the fact that we got it made. People have been trying to make Foundation since I was a kid, and there have been many false starts. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine. I was given Foundation, the trilogy to read when I was 13 years old. I was approached a couple of times in my career to adapt it as a feature, and I turned it down because I didn’t think it could be adapted into a feature. I didn’t think it could be condensed.

M&C: So, what changed?

David Goyer: Well, then when all these big streaming shows So, I thought in the back of my mind, I think that the medium and audience has matured to a place where maybe you could adapt it. I didn’t have access to the property at that time. So, when it came around again about four years ago, sort of like a comet, it was the third time I was offered the chance to adapt it. But this time it was as a streaming show, so I leaped at the chance.

M&C: Was it a major undertaking to make Foundation?

David Goyer:  Absolutely. I knew it would be an incredible challenge, and it was a bigger challenge than I ever could have dreamed. But I think back to when we were enduring all the hardships of making it during the pandemic with the cast and the crew, I think we made something pretty special. And I think we made something that is worthy and has a message of hope, so I’m proud of that. It’s certainly what kept us going the last few years.

M&C: You’ve told a lot of amazing stories over the years. What are some of the things you love most about being a storyteller?  

David Goyer: There are different points in my life when I was going through something hard when I just wanted to lose myself and be transported by a story. I’ve had the same experience as an audience member when I watched something that is meaningful to me, or I see myself reflected in a story, or maybe a character going through something that I’ve felt.

I think the most gratifying thing for me as a storyteller over the years is when I’ve run into people, fans or whatnot, who’ve said, “Oh my God, that movie, that television show, moved me and meant something to me.” And I think that’s what’s most gratifying because as storytellers we want to communicate and we want to share our universal experience. Not to sound too highfalutin, but it’s true.

M&C: Are there life lessons or messages in Foundation that are relevant today?

David Goyer: I think it’s pretty evident that there are. Look, Asimov was writing this in a post-World War II environment, where Europe was realigning, and he was wondering whether or not history was doomed to repeat itself and whether or not humanity could learn from its past mistakes. I would argue that Foundation is even more relevant now than when he was writing it post-World War II.

M&C: In what way?

Well, it’s certainly more relevant now than when I started adapting it three and a half years ago. We never could have imagined that there would be a global pandemic. Climate change seems like it’s reached an inflection point. So, in terms of the lessons of people heeding warning signs, or coming together, or sacrificing for a future generation, I think it’s completely relevant.

M&C:  Do you think there are elements for people both who have enjoyed your past work and maybe who are not as aware of you or Asimov’s work?

David Goyer: I certainly hope so. I designed the show and built the show for people who’ve never read the novels. I’m hoping that people will be attracted to it who don’t even consider themselves fans of science fiction, but who want to find themselves immersed in an epic. It was important to me when we were working on the show, when we were writing the show and when we were rehearsing the scenes. I would constantly tell everyone, “Let’s strip all the spaceships and the robots away, and make sure that this story works as if it were just a contemporary drama. We have to ask, “How do I relate to it as a person of today and not as a person of the future?”

So, if the story works, if the scene works in that way, then I feel like we’re on to something. So, my hope is that audiences don’t have to have read the books, don’t have to consider themselves fans of science fiction or fantasy. Even though I myself am an enormous fan of those, I want to bring in a larger audience just like Chris Nolan did with Batman.

A scene from Apple’s sumptuous sci-fi series Foundation. Pic Credit Apple TV +

M&C: Do you feel that today with all the things that we’re going through, that we need heroes and superheroes more than we ever did?

David Goyer: I do. I mean, what I’ve watched over the decades is that it feels like sometimes when things are going well, people want to see the opposite, they want to see more stories about villains. And when the world is going through hard times, they want to see more heroes and they want to watch more stories that convey a message of hope. That’s certainly what was important to me when I first pitched the show to Apple TV about four years ago.

M&C:  What do you think you learned professionally and personally during the tough days of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

David Goyer:  For me, I think my metric is I really need to care about what I’m working on even more so than I did before. I think the pandemic has been such a humbling reminder of the fact that life is fleeting. My mother died of COVID-related causes while we were filming this show. For the first time in my memory, this event, the entire world is going through it.  And so my metric really now moving forward with my career is, is to ask myself “Is this project worthy? Is it worth the sacrifice? Is it worth me being away from kids? Is it worth me having to go to all these far-flung places?” And so far this one has been. So, I would say that this has been the most important lesson.

M&C:  When you were starting your career if I had told you what you have already accomplished, what would you have said to me?

David Goyer: I would not have believed you. I was planning on becoming a homicide detective in Detroit. I had never met anyone involved in film or television, and I had never even read a screenplay. So, I would have laughed at you.

M&C: And to what do you attribute this amazing career so far?

David Goyer:  A little bit of luck, a lot of perseverance, a lot of plodding forward even when people were slamming doors in my face…and hard work. All of the above.

The first two episodes premiered on Apple TV + on Friday, Sept. 24. They will be followed by one new episode weekly on Fridays.

For more sci-fi, please check out: Sci Fi’s Caprica greenlit; Polly Walker talks science fiction

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