Adaptations: Dick & O’Brian

Speaking of Philip K. Dick, Frank Rose, for Wired, reports on a forthcoming Dick adaptation, and considers the impact of the writer’s work on modern-day film. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a Dick novel, famously inspired Blade Runner, but Rose says Dick’s influence is much more broad than most people realize: “Memory, paranoia, alternate realities: Dick’s themes are everywhere.” (Via Bookwatch.)

Laura Miller made the same point about Dick’s influence on contemporary literature in an interesting article (now available only through The New York Times paid archives) I mentioned last year. She said:

Dickian devices and themes — implanted memories, commodified identities, simulacra — haunt contemporary literary fiction . . . The naming of years after corporate sponsors in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest; the downtrodden, stigmatized souls in George Saunders’s futuristic short stories, with their degrading theme park jobs; the dream worlds Haruki Murakami’s characters tumble into and out of — all partake of Dick’s peculiar mixture of wrenched ontology and underdog sympathies.

Master and Commander, adapted from a Patrick O’Brian novel, is the subject of three articles in the Telegraph. In one, John Collee talks about his trepidation in accepting Peter Weir’s offer that he draft the screenplay:

As Peter Weir is to films, O’Brian is to the historical novel: hailed as the master by talents as diverse as David Mamet and AS Byatt. A late-flowering genius, O’Brian is best known for his novels on the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars: great sprawling books which defy the normal rules of plot and structure. Roaming the globe, digressing on botany, gunnery, rope-making and cranial surgery, O’Brian took the whole world for his canvas and peopled it with hundreds of memorable characters. To adapt his novels into a single film was like being asked to adapt the Bible, but Peter reckoned he had the solution: we would focus on one of the novels – a relatively straightforward story called The Far Side of the World.

Collee and Weir went back and forth on the screenplay draft, and in the end significant changes to O’Brian’s story were made.


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