Jeff Nichols says Midnight Special is an homage to Steven Spielberg

The writer/director talks exclusively about his upcoming film and how it channels Close Encounters and E.T.


Daniel Seddon


For anyone who has paddled in the murky psychological waters of a Jeff Nichols film, you’ll be excited to learn that he has not one but two films coming out in 2016. The first, Midnight Special, which may or may not be named after the Clearwater Creedence Revival song, is a high-concept sci-fi tackling themes of fatherhood and the supernatural.

The basis for the film concerns the relationship between a father (Nichols’ regular Michael Shannon) and his son (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) as they’re hounded across America by government forces and religious extremists. In order to dissect this mysterious project a little more, we caught up with its rapidly rising 37-year-old writer/director:

“When I write a film I always kinda attack it from two different paths,” Nichols told LWLies recently. “The first is always more about plot and story and aesthetics, and for this one I really was looking at sci-fi films from the ’80s – specifically government sci-fi chase films like Starman, Close Encounters and E.T. – looking structurally at how the narratives unfolded in those films but also the aesthetic of those films; the colours, lens flares and the general feeling and tone.”

Judging by the trailer for the film, there’s a palpable Spielbergian quality to the material. Acknowledging this influence, Nichols says, “At the time of writing, my son had just turned one and I was really thinking about what it felt like to be a father and the emotional changes that I felt since becoming a father, and all the responsibilities and insecurities that come with that.”

While Nichols also confirms that visual effects played a more significant part in Midnight Special than in his previous work, he hopes this won’t be to the film’s detriment. “You’ll see some CGI,” he reveals, “but I don’t think that you’ll walk away thinking the film is just bathed or drenched in it. I hope the audience just follow the mystery of the narrative, because that’s how it’s designed – it’s designed to unfold like my other films.”

Midnight Special is released 15 April.

Published 14 Jan 2016

Tags: Jeff Nichols Michael Shannon Midnight Special Steven Spielberg

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