The the late fall and winter of 2014 was a dark time for Sony Pictures. Hackers found their way into the studio’s email network and the entire company’s secrets were open to the public. Leaks turned into news and the floodgates opened with journalists ransacking the leaked files for movie details. Other studios were caught in the crosshairs too. One of them was Warner Bros., a studio that Sony often discussed. One email detailed the fact that indie director Jeff Nichols (“Midnight Special,” “Take Shelter”) would be directing the DCU film “Aquaman” starring Jason Momoa.
Months later it was James Wan (“Furious 7”) who actually scored the directing gig, but still, one has to wonder: was Nichols actually involved or close to the gig? The answer is: sort of. “Oh yeah, that was crazy, right? I never thought that North Koreans could affect my life,” the director told us last month at the Berlin Film Festival, making reference to the origins of the alleged hacks.
But the reality is, Nichols was never attached, never wrote a script as some had alleged, and never got past the discussion phase. “We talked about it,” Nichols admitted. “But I was at Warner Brothers at a period of time when they were activating this entire DC universe and they had already slated all these films that didn't have filmmakers. So it would have been odd to have been a director at Warner Brothers then and not get into some conversation about [those projects].”
Evidently those conversations led to Nichols giving his pitch. “I grew up reading comic books, I love comic books and I told them, ‘I’ve got an idea for that!’” he explained. “But it never materialized into anything substantial. And that's what's so funny about that Sony leak — what the hell did they know? They're a different studio!”
Was there something specific that attracted "Aquaman" to the filmmaker? “Yeah definitely. He lost his son!” Nichols explained (fathers and sons being a huge aspect of his upcoming film “Midnight Special” which centers on a dad and his specially-gifted boy on the run from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies). “Needless to say, they are going in a different direction.”
In a separate interview with Screencrush, Nichols said while superhero movies interest him, he still wouldn’t be very interested to return to the DCU. “Not really,” he said when asked if he’d like to explore that world in earnest. “Because, it’s all a connected universe. And it should be. And I was an advocate of that. The decisions that Zack [Snyder] is going to make in ‘Batman vs. Superman,’ those all connect to things that are going to happen in 'Justice League' and all that. And I was a huge comic book nerd, so I know all these characters and they all need to be beautifully webbed together. I was just far enough on the outside that I could develop things in a vacuum all day long but it wasn’t going to line up with everything they had planned.”
‘Aquaman’ is set to open in theaters on July 27, 2018. “Midnight Special” makes its North American premiere at SXSW this week and then opens theatrically on March 18th. More from this interview, by Jessica Kiang, soon.