As news dried up, the frustration was felt most by fans of the classic mid-'80s BBC version of The Tripods, which was cruelly axed after two mostly fantastic seasons with the last book in the trilogy unfilmed. A nation of children who feared cappings, Black Guards and dreamt of the White Mountains were left without a visual resolution to the ambitious tale.
I understand you're working on a movie version of The Tripods?
"I am, yeah. Myself and a writer Stuart Hazeldine. He's a Brit and we've collaborated on quite a few things together - some things have not been made, unfortunately. He was also one of the writers on Knowing as well. We're really at the first draft stage with it, but we're both big fans of the books and both read them when we were kids, the perfect age to read them, I guess. They were passed around at my school as kind of like secret knowledge, like 'read this and it will really blow your mind' - which it did. And so we're both coming at it from a point of great passion for those stories. It's interesting, because not many people ask me about them in the States, but I've done a few UK interviews now and every single person asks me about The Tripods because it's such a beloved series of books there. We're trying to stay very faithful to them. We've just done 'The White Mountains' so far, and I guess the hope is that if that movie is well received we'll do the other two books of the trilogy."
Have you seen the 1980s BBC television series?
"Yes I have, yeah. I remember seeing it at the time it was made and then I watched it again recently when I took this project on."
It was very sad that the second season ended on a cliffhanger and then plans to film the final book were cancelled...
"Yeah, it was extremely frustrating for everyone."
"Well I can't promise to make all three because it's really about the first one! But 'The White Mountains' holds up really, really well as a single story and we've made the script obviously so that it works as a single story. But what I can guarantee is that if I get to make two, then I will absolutely make three. It's just getting to number two, because you just never know.
"The thing is, the books were enormously successful and popular in England and in Australia. In Australia they were hugely popular and most Australian kids know them as well. But unfortunately they're not quite as well known in the US, so there is a bit of a battle there. There have been various incarnations when various people have tried to make movies of The Tripods and they've ended up changing the setting to the US and all that sort of stuff, which I think is really stupid. We're retaining the original setting of the novels and I think that's really important because there's something about the sort of medieval, agricultural British society that this works with really well, and when you change it to something in the US it just doesn't make any sense anymore.
It would be great to terrify a new generation of kids. I remember when I saw the show when I was a little kid I wouldn't let my mum take me to the hairdressers because I thought I'd have my head shaved and be capped by a Tripod!
"That's fantastic! It's a really frightening concept for kids, everyone remembers that so well. Even some people who don't remember the title, the whole notion of capping by these alien invaders is just so resonant for people. It really scared the bejesus out of me as a kid."
For your adaptation, will you be using a similar striking beginning to the television show, which depicted a seemingly period setting only for the caption '2089 A.D.' to appear and stun viewers, followed by the arrival of a Tripod?
"We're not even doing a date. Through the script you realise eventually that it's set in the future, but we're actually going one step further and totally creating a medieval environment at first. There are some additions to the books that we've made. For example, there is a kind of religious cult that revolves around the Tripods. They have priests in every village and their place of worship is a church with a triangle on its peak, because that's the symbol of the Tripods. So there are a few surreal oddities at first, but until you see the first Tripod and the first capping - very much as it was in the TV series - you don't really know where you are. You're in some weird mythical place and then suddenly you realise you're in a science fiction hybrid and throughout he course of the story you realise it's set in the future and they took over the Earth at some point and subjugated humanity."
"Well, we've erm, I'm giving you all my secrets, but we've actually changed Beanpole to a girl. That was a pretty significant change, because I really just didn't get the notion that there'd be these three boys travelling around the countryside and they just really wanted to have a girl in the mix.
"Eloise is still there, the red tower is still there, all the beats from the book are still there, but I hope we've added a layer of character development that the books don't In all honesty, as big a fan as I am, the characters are pretty sketchy in the books. So we've tried to give them a level of depth that will hopefully sustain three movies."
Knowing is released in the UK this Wednesday. Check back on Wednesday for the full interview with Alex Proyas, covering Knowing and his thoughts on Dark City 2 and the proposed remake of The Crow.
In the meantime, here's a look at the BBC's take on The Tripods: