Most serious movie buffs have heard of writer/director Jeff Nichols for his indie, critically acclaimed movies Shotgun Stories (2007), with the brilliant Michael Shannon, Take Shelter (2001), starring Jessica Chastain at the beginning of her peak, and Mud (2012), starring Matthew McConaughey at the height of his McConaissance. But those who haven’t yet heard his name are about to. On March 18, his sci-fi thriller Midnight Special, about a boy with very special powers, begins its theatrical release. And while comparisons to Starman and ET are inevitable, they don’t go much further than bright light coming out of body parts. The movie’s a suspense/thriller with chase scenes and shootouts, but at its heart it’s about what parents, particularly a father, will do for his child.
With Midnight Special, Nichols finds himself in an unfamiliar place. People may actually see this film, which is positioned to do well not only because of the acting (Michael Shannon stars, as he has in every one of Nichols’ films, along with Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver and Kirsten Dunst), the directing, which is fast-paced and gripping, but most importantly, it’s the first film for Nichols that has big studio backing. Warner Bros. has taken a chance on the 37-year-old Texan, and he’s hoping it pays off. We talked to Nichols about why kids with super-powers are such a popular movie fodder, his “muse,” Michael Shannon, what it was like to work with Adam Driver, and how Kirsten Dunst convinced him to hire her.