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How ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ revival connects to Bowie's version, plus watch the first trailer

Fresh intel from Showtime Television Critic's Association virtual panel for The Man Who Fell to Earth.

By Tara Bennett

It's been almost 50-years since Nicolas Roeg adapted novelist Walter Tevis's 1963 novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth, into a now-classic sci-fi film that starred David Bowie as an alien who crashes on our planet looking to send water back to his ailing home world. On April 24 on Showtime, executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet and John Hlavin will introduce a new generation to the story with Chiwetel Ejiofor playing Faraday, the alien who arrives on Earth in the wake of his planet's similar self-inflicted demise. 

With Bowie's performance still being referenced for its unique otherworldliness, Ejiofor told reporters that he too remembers seeing the film years ago and how he couldn't tear his eyes away from Bowie.

"I felt with Bowie, so completely engaged by him," the actor said of Bowie's work. "He’s such an extraordinary person and incredible persona that you are wrapped up in him. He’s such a special person and it's such a deep honor to be in this show for that reason amongst many."

In the more literal sense, actor Bill Nighy will be reprising Bowie's alien character, Thomas Newman, in the series, as the older, wiser alien who connects with Faraday to assist with his quest. Executive producer Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote the pilot with Lumet, says the Newman character was included in the series' DNA from the beginning. And they always knew that casting the role was going to have the baggage of a new actor stepping into Bowie's proverbial shoes. 

"But it wasn't going to be an actor doing an impression, but someone who brings their own very unique soul to character of Thomas Newton," Kurtzman says of their casting parameters."You need a legend to step into the shoes of legend."

With Nighy signing on, Kurtzman said, "Bill could do anything and it would be brilliant. Naomi Harris and Chiwetel have worked with him before, but I am happy to report he’s everything you want him to be as a human being. He also knew Bowie a bit so he's honoring that relationship."

In the first trailer for the series, which dropped today, Nighy and Ejiofor's aliens interact on our planet, while Harris' Justin Falls helps Faraday navigate the good and bad of our planet:

Asked about how Tevis' book and Roeg's film are woven into this new series, Kurtzman said they took "tremendous inspiration" from both the film and the novel. "The book is an extraordinary book where the science fiction is off to the side. It's really an exploration of loneliness. Tevis felt tremendous alienation and wrote the character as a shadow version of himself to work through his demons. Roeg made a film that was a homage to the book but was its own thing. But the common denominator through all three is a sense of loneliness and isolation. What does it mean to find connection with people? We hope the show honors Bowie, Roeg and Tevis who all wrenched their hearts open to tell them."

As for their contemporary take, Kurtzman continued, "It felt for us that we had to find a way to reinterpret the themes and ideas that we're living in breathing in. There are timeless questions that humanity, in every phase of life, has to confront and if we’re going to survive, what are we going to do now? The idea of getting to try and explore and understand what’s happening was the task of the show. It's exploring what it means to be a human being. And the character of Faraday is a wonderful prism through which we get to explore ourselves. Everything is a first to him, so he distills it down to the basics. For him, it's very clear and binary. And if the goal is asking who we are right now, there's no better prism than an alien who sees the best and the worst in us."

In the series, Faraday arrives on Earth in the wake of his own planet suffering a monumental crisis based on the detrimental actions of his people. With Earth on the cusp of a similar fate, Ejiofor said that he hopes audiences sees helpful parallels in his journey and message. "For all of us, there’s no crystal ball regarding the crazy debates about where we are in the world with climate change and the future," he mused. "The perspective of this character wasn’t being prescriptive, but just saying, 'Where I’m from, this is what happened to us. Where I’m from our planet was destroyed due to so many of our actions.' Faraday sees similarities in experience and a profound way to look at the issue."

The Man Who Fell to Earth premieres April 24, 2022 on Showtime.