During a special screening of Midnight Special on Monday at the Time Inc. offices in New York, director Jeff Nichols and stars Adam Driver and Michael Shannon discussed the influences behind their science-fiction thriller.

“I like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and it’s pretty obvious it’s connections to this film,” Nichols told Entertainment Weekly correspondent Joe McGovern about his latest, which has drawn comparisons to Steven Spielberg’s classic feature.

Midnight Special centers on a father (Shannon) and son who go on the run when it’s discovered that the child has some kind of special powers. Driver plays a NSA agent sent in to conduct interviews about the events that have transpired.

Nichols described the difficulties of Driver’s character, and what influences he applied to the role. “Adam had a tough job. I think that’s the trickiest character in the whole thing because he’s the one most open to cliché or affectation,” said Nichols. “I was thinking about some weird amalgam of Richard Dreyfuss from Jaws and [Francois] Truffaut from Close Encounters, and oddly enough my friend Andrew Bujalski, a filmmaker from Austin. I was just squeezing all these people together and other than Andrew Bujalski, the others are totally fake people. And that’s a precarious place to be writing a character from.”

He went onto praise Driver’s performance, “I think what could have been a really generic character on the page, he started to add these details and these personality traits. I think we talked a lot about this kind of analog approach that his mind has to things in a digital world. And I think Adam pushed that further than I did in the script and I think he made the character a lot better.”

Midnight Special is currently in limited release in New York, Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas. It’s set to expand nationally on April 1.

Midnight Special
  • Movie
  • 111 minutes