- Director:Paul Mayersberg
- Writer:Isaac Asimov,Paul Mayersberg
- Cast:David Birney,Sarah Douglas,Alexis Kanner
- Time:1h 23min
|Cast overview, first billed only:|
|Chuck Hayward||-||Kin (as Charles Hayward)|
|Larry Hankin||-||Desert King|
|Ronald R. Burns||-||Aton's Man|
|Bernard J. Garsen||-||Aton's Man|
|Dan Wells||-||Architect's Assistant|
|Stephen D. Nathenson||-||City Dweller|
Isaac Asimov was never consulted in the making of the film based on his short story, and completely disowned the finished film when it was released.
Nightfall was the short story which helped establish Isaac Asimov's reputation when it was published in 1941. Julie Corman became aware of it in 1979 when she read a review of an Asimov anthology in the New York Times. She was attracted by a story "about people who have recognizable moral dilemmas," and bought the screen rights. Roger Corman announced in 1980 he would make the film with a reported $6 million budget, co producing with a German company.
When Isaac Asimov turned down the chance to adapt the story himself, Julie Corman approached Paul Mayersberg, then best known for writing The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). He passed so she tried a number of different writers. In July 1987 Corman eventually went back to Mayersberg after seeing his directorial debut, Captive (1986). Mayersberg agreed to write the script if he could direct. Corman agreed. Mayersberg wrote the script in five weeks in London and the film was shot over an eight week period in October 1987.
Before approaching Paul Mayersberg to write the script, several other writers had developed various scripts which didn't work out. "The problem was getting a script that had the essence of Nightfall and also had good, involving characters," said Julie Corman. "Some of the scripts that we developed were excellent on the science-fiction elements, but they weren't very visual. In other versions, the characters were incredibly good but Asimov's philosophical war of words had been played down. Along the way. we encountered the usual money problems, so the project was put on the back burner."
In an interview about Nightfall (1988), writer and director Paul Mayersberg said "I'm of the belief that, in general, film is not a very good medium for science fiction, it's visual, and therefore not very imaginative. Movies don't work well when it comes to picturing large landscapes, and so forth; film can only show you what exists, that which we can already see with our eyes, If you want to imagine a city in space, you have to build a model- and frankly, it looks like a model."
The only characters retained from the story were Aton, astronomer and leader of the city, and Sor, leader of the Believers (called the Cultists in the original short story). Paul Mayersberg created the female character of Roa, who was once married to Aton but left him to become one of Sor's disciples. Maybersberg said the two men stood for "the relationship between science and religion as a means of explaining the world. As for the Day of Judgment, do you believe the religious view or do you subscribe to the scientific view that it's nothing more than an eclipse and is a part of the movement in the universe?", he also said "Instead of hardware and lasers, I used strings and elastic bands and crystal swords, whatever the people who lived on the planet could find that might exist or, in the case of something like a kite, could build. I wanted to omit the present totally, and work on merging the past and future."
The amount of suns was reduced from six in the short story to three in the movie.
The film was shot in an organic architectural development in Arizona called Arcosanti. Scenes were also shot in Cosanti, just outside Scottsdale, and in the Tonto National Forest. Some Arcosanti residents appeared as extras.
The film rained for three out of the five weeks of shooting.
"Nightfall was, for me, about a slate of mind, not about a sequence of events," Paul Mayersberg later said about the film. "I tried to present that in terms of the characters' lives and the way in which the film is constructed, which is not so much in dialogue as image. I intended the film to be about ways one can approach a life crisis. What do you do? Do you go mad, do you become rational, cowardly, throw reason to the winds? Do you try to figure it out, do you suddenly become religious? This is a story where there's a sort of nervous breakdown in the society where these people live, and how they cope with it."
Julie Corman later said it was one project of hers she wished she could remake with a bigger budget. "On a low budget, it was kind of hard to create that world," she said.