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‘Thor,’ ‘Terminator’ director returning to TV for WGN America’s ‘Roadside Picnic’

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Alan Taylor is coming off two big budget blockbuster films, “Thor: The Dark World” and “Terminator Genisys,” and he’s ready to return to the small screen. The longtime TV director, whose notable projects include “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men” and “The Sopranos,” is working on an adaptation of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s 1971 science fiction novel “Roadside Picnic” for WGN America.

WGN America confirms to Zap2it that the project is in development with Taylor serving as director and executive producer. “Transcendence” writer Jack Paglen will write and executive produce the project. Neal Moritz and Vivian Cannon from Original Film, as well as Sony Pictures TV and Tribune Studios, are also producing.

It’s been three years since Taylor directed an episode of TV; “Game of Thrones'” Season 2 finale “Valar Morghulis.” Though his return to direct potential “Terminator” sequels is still up in the air, he says his “impulse is to do something very, very different” after working on two movies.

“I’m going to try and do a tiny TV show,” Taylor told Zap2it while promoting “Genisys.” “It’s something that I’ve been developing with a writer that we’re hoping to find a home … based on a science fiction novel that I’ve always loved. It’s very different in scale.”

“Roadside Picnic” has been adapted twice before; the first in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film “Stalker,” and the second in the 2007 video game “S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl.” The novella tells the story of an extra-terrestrial phenomenon, known as the “Visitation,” and the way it affects the humans trying to grapple with the event. The aliens left behind multiple objects, which are interpreted to have supernatural properties.

Though Taylor shifted to directing movies, he sees a connection between the types of projects he’s taken on. In some ways projects like “Thor: The Dark World” and “Terminator Genisys” — parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and “Terminator” franchise, respectively — are episodes in big screen series.

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“There was a period there where I was going from ‘Sopranos’ to ‘Deadwood’ to ‘Sex in the City’ and back, and the task of stepping into a language and a world and having to speak that language and try and uplift it and try and do it better, but also make it personal to yourself but also very much jump into an existing mythology became a craft I enjoyed doing,” he says. “I think that’s the same process, in a way, of coming into Branagh’s ‘Thor’ and going, ‘OK, I see what’s going on here. I love it, but I would do this differently and that differently.’ It doesn’t feel like that different a process.”

Taylor continues, “I was getting a PhD in history before I switched into movies and TV, and I think there’s an element where it’s the same brain process, where you go in and you study a world and then you’re versed in it and you can start to represent it. A historian’s task is sort of what I’ve been doing in some of these worlds where you look around at all the available material and then make your own.”