Hollywood has had a love affair with the works of Philip K. Dick for decades now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since it’s given us movies such as Blade Runner and Total Recall. But it is frustrating simply because Hollywood often seems to ignore the vast quantities of equally fascinating science fiction content by non-Dick authors. Writer J.G. Ballard has had a couple of his works adapted in the past, including Empire of the Sun and Crash. Now another of his books is headed to the big screen, with director Ben Wheatley, best known for the outstanding cult horror hit Kill List, at the helm.
First published in 1975, High-Rise is set within an luxurious high-rise apartment building, where the inhabitants can be totally cut off from the world. Small annoyances such as power failures and arguments kick off a slide into violence and the stratification of the inhabitants into different classes throughout the building. Before things are through, “human society slips into violent reverse as the inhabitants of the ultra-modern high-rise, driven by primal urges, recreate a world ruled by the laws of the jungle.”
Screendaily reports that Kill List’s Ben Wheatley will direct the film, and he’s a perfect pick to handle Ballard’s violent, pitch-black satire. If you wonder why I will simply direct you to watch Kill List. Don’t read anything about it, just find a copy and watch it, knowing as little as possible beforehand. Wheatley is also being joined on the project by his Kill List co-writer Amy Jump, who penned a new version of the script.
Producer Jeremy Thomas has been trying to turn High-Rise into a movie since the 1970s, with several different creative teams involved. Splice/Cube director Vincenzo Natali was the most recent, with a script penned by Richard Stanley (The Island of Dr. Moreau). Wheatley, a longtime fan of Ballard’s work, became curious about who held the rights to the book, and that led him to Thomas. “The idea is to be true to Ballard,” says Wheatley, explaining that setting the book anywhere other than England would have felt wrong.
The director also cites a personal connection with High-Rise. “I was born in 1972, three years before the book was written, so one of the attractions of the film was that I kind of imagine myself as one of the kids running around on the estate and my parents as the adults”
High-Rise isn’t the only Ballard property with a movie in the works. Last February we reported on an adaptation of Ballard’s The Drowned World, set in a future after the ice caps have melted and much of the world has been swallowed up by rising oceans. Interestingly enough, the protagonist of The Drowned World also makes his home in a high-rise…but his 35th floor London apartment is only two floors above the waterline.