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The Making Of "Next"
In today's sometimes justifiably paranoid world, where once sacrosanct edifices have been destroyed by terrorists, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine that out there, others are plotting yet another similarly unspeakable act. To avert this frightening possibility, it would be most valuable if we could see into the future, and that's exactly the premise that attracted screenwriter Gary Goldman to Philip K. Dick's short story, The Golden Man, a sci-fi tale which he decided to update and reset in the present day.

"What I liked most about the story was that the protagonist Cris Johnson is a ‘pre-cog.' Yes, he can see two minutes into his own future, which gives him a vast amount of power, but that gift also has its limitations,” says Goldman. The idea of turning "Next” into a motion picture stemmed from the release of the hit Steven Spielberg film "Minority Report” in 2002, which was also adapted from a work by Dick and on which Goldman was the screenwriter and executive producer.

"I was approached by Jason Koornick, who created and ran the official Philip K. Dick website, who said he wanted to interview me,” explains Goldman. During the course of the interview, Koornick told Goldman that he had negotiated a compensation package with the Philip K. Dick estate in return for running the website. It included an option on one of the author's short stories of his choosing. The two men decided to form a partnership since Goldman already knew how expensive and difficult it is to secure an option a Dick story, and Koornick was well aware of the challenges of adapting and producing one. Together they set their sights on Dick's story The Golden Man.

Although the original short story takes place in the future, Goldman decided to set the story in the present. Koornick refers to this as genre speculative fiction because, he explains, "science fiction takes place in the future, with future technology and aliens. ‘Next' is set in the real world that we all recognize. It obeys all the laws of physics except in the case of the central character,” explains Koornick.

What Goldman liked best about the protagonist's precognitive ability was that it approached life in the same way that many of us learn how to play video games. "When you play a video game, you try something out. You see if it works and then, eventually, you get killed. After that, you do it over and you get better at it. You're able to understand and learn things from your previous mistakes and bring them to bear during your next attempt. The idea of being able to live life as if you were playing a video game, I think, is very appealing, and that's basically what Cris is able to do. With his gift, he is able to live his life up to the point where he's harmed or killed. "And then he's able to snap back and play it again and again, each time going a little further until he gets it right.”

The unique nature of how this gift is manifested, however, is what really fascinated Goldman. "Golden Man has a character with a super power, which is precognition, the ability to see into the future, but it's done in a way that we've never really seen before,” he adds. "Instead of just being a clairvoyant who can glimpse something far into the future, Cris has a kind of future radar. He can see with absolute precision a short distance into his own (and only his own) future. I was very excited about the possibility of putting this on screen.”

Goldman and Koornick brought the idea to producer Norm Golightly, head of production for Nicolas Cage's Saturn Films. "It was instantly something we wanted to do,” says Golightly. "We asked Gary if he would write the script and then come back to us, which he did. And Nic reacted to it about as strongly as I've ever seen him react to any first draft.”

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