According to Variety, the Sci Fi Channel has engineered two major talent deals, signing Ridley Scott to exec produce and supervise a four-hour remake of the 1971 thriller "The Andromeda Strain" and Frank Darabont to take charge of a four-hour remake of The Thing.
Scott and Darabont join an already bulging roster of Hollywood players working on projects for Sci Fi, including Steven Spielberg ("Nine Lives"), Martin Scorsese ("The Twelve"), Gale Anne Hurd ("Red Mars"), Nicolas Cage ("Dresden Files") and Bryan Singer and Dean Devlin ("The Triangle").
Mark Stern, executive VP of program development for Sci Fi, said Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan is writing the adaptation of "Andromeda," based on Michael Crichton's novel, and David Johnson is working on the script of The Thing, based on the short story "Who Goes There" by John W. Campbell Jr.
Darabont said Johnson should complete his adaptation by Christmas and shooting could get under way next year for an airdate on Sci Fi of either December 2005 or early spring 2006.
The Thing deals with an alien parasite, which can take over the mind and body of a human being, causing havoc on a military compound isolated at the tip of the South Pole. That's the version of the story seized on by John Carpenter for his elaborate 1982 remake of the low-budget, black-and-white original from 1951, which Howard Hawks had a hand in directing (although Christian Nyby got the onscreen credit).
Darabont said he favors the Carpenter version, which he calls "the distilled essence of paranoia" and "one of the three greatest sci-fi remakes of all time."
A producer of Carpenter's "Thing," David Foster, will join Darabont as co-executive producer of the Sci Fi adaptation.
Stern said Schenkkan and Tom Thayer's Traveler's Rest Film brought the idea of a remake of "Andromeda Strain" to Scott, who was attracted to the plot about a group of scientists who gather at an underground facility to destroy a virus from outer space that that has killed the inhabitants of a small town in New Mexico.
And with the longer time frame of four hours compared with the 130-minute original, "The filmmakers will get more creative flexibility," Stern said. "They'll go into greater depth with the characters and storyline" of the Crichton novel. Ridley and brother Tony Scott are exec producers of "Andromeda" with Thayer and David W. Zucker.
Both "Thing" and "Andromeda" come from Universal Pictures, a sister company of the Sci Fi Channel, and NBC Universal TV will produce the new versions. Stern said he loves scouring the Universal library for projects suitable for remake, and Sci Fi is bullish about them because they're pre-marketed, pre-sold commodities.
The Sci Fi Channel is coming off its best primetime summer ever, averaging 1.245 million total viewers -- 17% higher than those of last year -- to finish in 10th place among all ad-supported cable networks. Among adults 25-54, Sci Fi climbed to sixth place overall in primetime this summer, averaging 695,000 in the demo, up 14% from a year ago. It finished ninth in primetime among adults 18-49, the 606,000 total 13% above last summer.