Warner Bros is looking to remake H.G. Wells’ classic science fiction novel The Island of Dr. Moreau into a full-length feature film. Although there have already been six film versions (and a Simpsons spoof) of Wells’ 1896 book, the new and updated version will add a modern environmental spin to the central story.
According to Deadline, Leonardo DiCaprio and his producing partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran’s Appian Way Productions is joining forces with Warner Bros to take this story out for yet another spin. Appian Way will also co-produce the sci-fi film with Mad Hatter Entertainment’s Michael Connolly. The project recently found screenwriters with Lee Shipman and Brian McGreevy, who will adapt the book for a contemporary audience.
Wells’ novel follows Edward Prendick, a man shipwrecked and rescued, but ultimately left on the island home of a mad scientist, Dr. Moreau, who creates animals with human characteristics though vivisection. The book is full of philosophical themes, including pain and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and human interference with nature. As reported, the new film will deal with “a topical ecological message.”
The last outing for The Island of Dr. Moreau was director John Frankenheimer’s 1996 film starring Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Ron Perlman, and Fairuza Balk. Sadly, critics hated the movie, and audiences opted not to watch it. The film grossed $49.6 million against a $40 million budget. The production was also a nightmare. Richard Stanley, the original director, was fired due to difficulties working with Val Kilmer, and by that point Brando was damn near impossible to work with. The film was later nominated for a Razzie for Worst Picture of 1996.
Other versions of Dr. Moreau include a silent French film from 1913, a well-regarded film adaptation from 1932 called Island Of Lost Souls with Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi (available as part of the Criterion Collection), a 1959 Filipino attempt, the horror adaptation The Twilight People from 1972 with Pam Grier, and Don Taylor’s 1977 film adaptation starring Burt Lancaster and Michael York. This is a story that has been around the block a time or two.
DiCaprioa and Appian Way are also still trying to get a live-action American version of the legendary Japanese Manga and Anime Akira off the ground. That project has been mired in development hell since 2008, and hopefully this crew can get Dr. Moreau in motion sooner than later.
Shipman and McGreevy are coming off a successful turn on Netflix’s Hemlock Grove with Eli Roth and producer Michael Connolly. The online series was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards. Hopefully this duo brings some of Hemlock Grove‘s brand of eerie horror and sex appeal to this project. That would be an unsettling thing to watch. The Island of Dr. Moreau is the type of classic sci-fi that benefits from being updated over time as technology undergoes drastic changes.