You’ve probably already noticed networks are downright obsessed with turning movies into TV shows lately (this season’s Limitless, Rush Hour and Uncle Buck to name just a few). But how does that happen, exactly? We turned to Max Borenstein, the showrunner of Fox’s Minority Report, to walk us through how Steve Spielberg’s 2002 sci-fi hit became a prime-time thriller this fall.
1. Get in the room: As it turns out, making a Minority Report TV show was not a new idea. For years, would-be producers saw potential in the techno thriller about a law enforcement division using a trio of seers who could predict murders before they happen, yet they couldn’t overcome one major hurdle: Spielberg, who resisted pitch after pitch to adapt his film. When Borenstein was asked if he’d like a turn at bat, the Godzilla writer immediately agreed — then rewatched the film and discovered why others had failed …
2. Win the rights: “I was terrified watching the film,” Borenstein recalls. “Because I realized it’s great, but it’s also a finished story that tells of the downfall of the PreCrime program. It shows why this program is actually flawed because it doesn’t take free choice into account and PreCrime is abolished at the end.” So the movie’s entire point is that its TV-friendly police squad was morally wrong — no wonder Spielberg kept shooting down adaptation ideas. Luckily, there was the film’s very last scene. “The last shot shows the Precogs — the brothers and Agatha — sent into isolation and I thought, ‘Whoa, that’s the story! What happened to these people? They had no childhood, no social interaction, and now years later they’ve become adults without any life experience, but they still see these murders in the future.” And that’s how Borenstein got Spielberg to sign on.
3. Protect the title: Even a Precog couldn’t envision Comedy Central announcing a late-night show called The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore. In the era of online branding, you don’t want two matching titles confusing Google and Twitter in the marketplace. Fox unleashed its lawyers, and Comedy Central’s Minority Report became The Nightly Show.
4. Cast wisely: Samantha Morton played the lead Precog Agatha in the film and producers briefly considered the London-based actress for reprising the role, but “ultimately it was not tenable,” while the movie’s twins weren’t even speaking roles. Borenstein tapped Laura Regan, Stark Sands and Nick Zano as the Precogs, with Meagan Good as a D.C. police detective. But there was another name from the film you might have heard of who the producers would love to get, even if just for a cameo. “There’s been no serious discussion, given that he’s Tom Cruise and a gigantic movie star, but if we ever had the opportunity we’d jump at it,” Borenstein says. So that’s Mission: Highly Improbable at the very least.
5. Listen to the master: The busiest director in Hollywood is far more hands-on that you might think. Spielberg gives script notes, watches dailies, provides suggestions on edits (some extremely specific, like which frame to cut a scene on). “He had an idea for a piece of technology that he sketched on a cocktail napkin and sent a photo of it,” Borenstein says.
6. Tweak the look: Blue steel may work for Zoolander, but not for coloring a TV show. The film stylized the year 2054 with a desaturated tint that was compelling for a sci-fi noir tale, but producers on the Fox show agreed the series needed a more accessible feel. “Everybody, Spielberg included, thought the look needed to be more inviting if you’re going to open up that world and explore different aspects of it.”
7. Sell the show to viewers — as something totally different! It’s the double-edged sword of having a familiar title: Your show gets more attention, but fans also don’t want the same story twice. “The immediate reaction you get is: ‘Oh, you can’t come up with anything original,'” Borenstein says. “But what’s exciting about our show is that it’s totally original in relation to the film — it’s a different story and none of the characters in our show, with the slight exception of Agatha, were really key players in the film.” Will the show be a hit when it debuts Monday, Sept. 21? That’s one thing that’s very tough to predict.
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RELATED VIDEO: The cast and creators of ‘Minority Report’ on what it’s like to have Steven Spielberg as a boss
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