“Gattaca,” released in 1997, didn’t explode at the box office. It’s attracted quite a following in its home video afterlife however, and deservedly so. You’ve got Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Jude Law starring in a futuristic thriller set in a world divided between Valids — people who were genetically altered in utero to “reach their full potential” as humans — and Invalids, or those born through natural means. Grant was kind enough to take some time last week to chat with us about the still-gestating project, and he revealed that his first move was to strip away the closed confines of the NASA-like organization that Hawke’s character worked for in the movie.
“That facility was so specific, so narrow in its focus. It worked for [the movie’s] story, but if you open it up and go outside that world, you can see a broader canvas there,” Grant explained. The idea of a police procedural evolved naturally from there, both as a source of compelling weekly stories and as a portrait of the issues facing a society which has embraced eugenics.
“I came up with a world which is populated with Valids and Invalids, the same premise [as the movie], but taken into a police department where we’re… integrating, using the analogy of the ‘60s Civil Rights struggle,” Grant explained. In the movie, those born through natural means filled the blue collar ranks while their genetically superior brothers and sisters enjoyed a wealth of opportunities.
“Even though it’s technically illegal to discriminate against Invalids, just like in the ‘60s people did,” Grant continued. “So it’s come to pass that [the government has] ordered the police department to hire their first token Invalid into the detective department. What we’re doing is we’re taking an Invalid and teaming him up with a Valid, a seasoned officer. You know, it’s oil and water.”
It’s certainly a more compelling idea than simply having two Valid cops — a la the movie’s detectives, played by Alan Arkin and Loren Dean — fighting crime in a eugenics-driven future. The idea of a sort of genetic civil rights movement was never broached in “Gattaca,” but it’s certainly a believable, even welcome, addendum to the fiction. Which isn’t to say that Grant has had any guidance from Niccol.
“I don’t know him,” he stated simply. There’s nothing but respect for the original work, but any chance of Niccol being involved, even in some consulting capacity, is out of Grant’s hands. “That’s really up to [license-holder] Sony, I think. I’m certainly open to it, but that’s not my call.”
The film is guidance enough, at least as far as painting the world of “Gattaca” is concerned. It is littered with Hawke monologues in which he creates a sense of the bigger picture by introducing terms and ideas which are specific to the world. It’s there that Grant finds inspiration.
“I would use a great deal of the world and the nomenclature and the art direction, the feel of it, the music. It’s just such a beautiful film, and really cool,” he said. “I think you do as much of that as you can do, but set it at a police department. Then you get all the crimes and all the tension that’s built up with Valids being accused of something they didn’t do, all the forensic science that would be new and much more advanced than we have new. I can see it easily moving into a police procedural.”
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see. There’s no script yet and there won’t be one until January or February, according to Grant. It’s too early to say even if the series will follow the current trend in hour-longs, of tying everything together beneath an overarching narrative. That said, Grant does have a few ideas.
“My kneejerk reaction is that I think it’s more episodic, but… you carry some personal arcs along. The Invalid character I see as having a Valid girlfriend, and she’s dating him for all the wrong reasons. And I think that the Valid, the older detective, has some problems in his personal life that you follow through. Then you’ve got the captain of the police department who’s forced to hire this [Invalid]. Whether or not we have an over-reaching, bigger story arc, I’m not sure. I tend to think not,” he said.
Similarly, don’t expect to see any familiar faces, or characters. The plan as it stands now is to embrace Niccol’s fiction without directly referencing it. “I think we do our own thing,” Grant said. “It’s different all together. I think it would be in some ways truer to the film to just [set things in a] different corner of the world and not try to re-cast an existing character.”
Are you a fan of Niccol’s original movie? What do you think of the plans for a “Gattaca” TV series as Grant has laid them out?