EXCLUSIVE: Ben Wheatley to direct Amy Jump’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s novel for Jeremy Thomas; Film4, HanWay on board.
Ben Wheatley is newly on board to direct Jeremy Thomas’ long-gestating JG Ballard adaptation High Rise.
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Kill List and A Field in England writer Amy Jump has written the script with Film4 on board as backers and HanWay handling international sales.
Thomas and Wheatley are lining up a 2014 UK shoot for the ‘faithful’ adaptation of Ballard’s unnerving 1975 novel about life in a modern tower block spiralling out of control.
Set in a luxury high-rise building, the book follows a group of affluent tenants hell-bent on an orgy of destruction. Cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on ‘enemy’ floors and the once-luxurious amenities become an arena for technological mayhem.
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.
The satire is a long-time passion project for Thomas, who was a friend of iconic writer Ballard, who died in 2009.
Previous adaptations of Ballard’s work include RPC’S controversial drama Crash, directed by David Cronenberg, and Steven Spielberg’s epic, six-time Oscar nominee Empire of The Sun.
Splice director Vincenzo Natali had long been attached to direct his and Richard Stanley’s adaptation of the book but when the rights for the project recently lapsed Thomas decided to take the film in another direction. Thomas nearly made the film in the late 1970s, with Nicolas Roeg directing.
Sightseers and Kill List director Wheatley told ScreenDaily: “I love Ballard’s work. This project started out with me looking at my bookcase, seeing the book, and thinking: ‘that would make a great film’.
“I started looking into who had the rights for the book and that led me to Jeremy, who has made some of my favourite films. It took me a few meetings just to get over the typewriter he has from Naked Lunch in his office.”
Wheatley has subsequently been studying Ballard’s notes and letters at the British Library.
“The idea is to be true to Ballard,” Wheatley added. “It is such a rich and interesting time that it seemed a shame to set it anywhere other than England.
“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.”
“The scope of the film is exciting. It will be challenging, like Crash, but it’s not as dark as Kill List. The book is pretty out there, though.”
Thomas described the source material to Screen as “a glorious book with great cinematic possibilities” and described Jump’s script as “completely changed” from previous incarnations.
Wheatley is currently in development on HBO TV pilot Silk Road and has a UK TV project lined up to shoot at the end of this year. Anticipated feature thriller Freakshift is also slated to shoot in 2014. He most recently directed Film4.0 drama A Field in England.
RPC’s Dom Hemingway and Only Lovers Left Alive are both heading to Toronto, after the latter’s premiere in competition at Cannes.
Also in development for Oscar-winning producer Thomas is The Kinks biopic You Really Got Me.
One of the UK’s most well-known novelists of the 1970s and 80s, JG Ballard came to be associated with the New Wave of science fiction early in his career and spawned a style famous for portraying dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.
Among Ballard’s other acclaimed novels are The Drowned World, Concrete Island and Cocaine Nights.