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SYFY WIRE Chiwetel Ejiofor

Chiwetel Ejiofor following in David Bowie's cosmic footsteps with 'Man Who Fell to Earth' at Paramount+

By Josh Weiss
Chiwetel Ejiofor Man Who Fell to Earth

There's a starman waiting in the sky...Chiwetel Ejiofor is heading off planet (and then crashing into ours) for his next genre role.

Paramount+ (formerly known as CBS All Access) announced Friday that The Lion King and Old Guard star will headline a brand-new series based on Walter Tevis' 1963 novel — as well as the 1976 film it inspired — The Man Who Fell to Earth. The project hails from Star Trek and Clarice bosses, Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet, who will write, executive produce, and co-showrun alongside EP John Hlavin (creator of the Shooter TV show). Kurtzman is also locked in as director, with Rola Bauer, Tim Halkin, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, and Heather Kadin attached as executive producers. In addition, Aaron Baiers will serve as co-executive producer.

Following in the footsteps of David Bowie's character from the '76 movie, Ejiofor will play an alien who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution. In order to determine humanity's future, the cosmic visitor must confront his own past. This marks a significant departure from the original, which centered around an alien named Thomas Jerome Newton who visits Earth in an effort to save his dying planet, only to fall in love and into the hands of those who'd wish to profit off of him.

“Chiwetel Ejiofor’s stage and film career are staggering in their bravery, commitment and quality,” Kurtzman and Lumet said in a joint statement. “He’s everything we could imagine and a million things we can’t. We couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Helmed by the late Nicolas Roeg, The Man Who Fell To Earth was not well-received upon its release in March of 1976. Over the years, however, it has gained a strong cult following. Upon its re-release in 2011, critic Roger Ebert bumped up his initial 2 1/2 star rating to 3. While the film was released long before the internet, it currently holds a fresh score of 82 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The feature was Bowie's first major turn as an actor and according to Roeg, the singer nailed the role of someone from outer space.

"[I] really came to believe that Bowie was a man who had come to Earth from another galaxy," the filmmaker said during an interview with The Telegraph in 2013. "His actual social behavior was extraordinary — he hardly mixed with anyone at all. He seemed to be alone — which is what Newton is in the film — isolated and alone."