If you’re making a new adaptation of a film that stars David Bowie, who do you get to replace David Bowie? When illness kept Bowie out of Twin Peaks: The Return, David Lynch replaced him with a talking teapot, because, well, why not. It’s David Lynch, Twin Peaks, and David Bowie. Of course his character would morph into a giant talking teapot. But if you’re NOT David Lynch and your remake ISN’T Twin Peaks, what to do, what to do? Get Bill Nighy, I guess, which is the solution of the filmmakers of a new adaptation of Walter Tevis’s novel, The Man Who Fell To Earth.
Bowie starred in the 1976 film, directed by Nicolas Roeg—who also made The Witches with Anjelica Huston, one of the top five “why Millennials are like this” films—as Thomas Newton, an alien who falls to Earth and is sidetracked and ultimately sideswiped by all of humanity’s vices and worst impulses. The new adaptation comes from Alex Kurtzman of Kurtzman & Orci Star Trek/Sleepy Hollow/Now You See Me/Tom Cruise The Mummy fame. It is a “reimagining” of Tevis’s novel, which is quite obvious from the jump in the trailer, because Chiwetel Ejiofor is playing an alien who falls to Earth who is NOT Thomas Newton. No, the new Thomas Newton is Bill Nighy, which makes a lot of sense. He’s the most Bowie English actor out there, without ever seeming like he’s trying to be Bowie, which only makes him MORE Bowie.
This new version is also a limited series, with Naomie Harris taking on the role of the woman who befriends the alien. The cast is hard to argue with, also including That Guy Extraordinaire Jimmi Simpson (McPoyle rules!), Rob Delaney putting on his drama hat, Clarke Peters, and Kate Mulgrew. And there is obviously a lot of money in this, it looks tremendously expensive. But it also looks a bit scrubbed of weirdness. I hope that’s just a trailer thing, and not reflective of the series itself. Also, I am a bit wary of Alex Kurtzman being in charge of a sci-fi series after the debacle that was Sleepy Hollow. It got off to SUCH a great start and then almost immediately squandered not only a solid premise, but also the talent and chemistry of a spectacular cast. And do not think for one second I have forgotten the reportedly poor treatment of Nicole Beharie behind the scenes. I have a lot of confidence in Chiwetel Ejiofor, Naomie Harris, and Bill Nighy. It's Alex Kurtzman I’m watching out for.