Ben Wheatley will be the latest director to try and climb J.G. Ballard‘s satirical sci-fi novel High-Rise. Published in 1975, the book, per Empire, “takes place in a tower block, which is supposed to be a gleaming new, exciting and exotic home for its affluent residents, but ends up isolating and factionalizing them into all-out war, with the surface sophistication degenerating to primal savagery.” So it’s pretty much in the violent wheelhouse Wheatley established with his first three movies, Down Terrace, Kill List, and Sightseers.
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As Empire explains, an adaptation has been in development since the late 1970s. Nicolas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth) was the first to take a shot at it from a screenplay by Rudy Wurlitzer (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid). Eventually, the project ended up with Splice director Vincenzo Natali, although Natali wanted to make more of a spin-off than a straight adaptation. As Natali said back in 2010,
So I kind of made that story the background story to our film. [The novel is] almost like a backstory [to the movie]. And we’ll learn a lot more about Royal, the architect. And we’re going to learn a little bit about past failed experiments of his. It all ties into this High Rise, which is very isolated. It’s on an island somewhere in the Pacific.
However, time ran out on Natali’s adaptation, and now Wheatley is stepping to the plate. The director will be working from a script by Amy Jump, who has written and edited all of his movies except for Down Terrace. Wheatley intends to be “true to Ballard” and retain the English setting (again, like his previous movies). “The scope of the film is exciting,” he says. “It will be challenging like [David Cronenberg's 1996 adaptation of] Crash, but not as dark as Kill List. The book is pretty out there though!”
Wheatley intends to shoot the movie at some point in his very busy 2014. He’s also attached to direct the HBO pilot Silk Road, an untitled TV project for the U.K., and his untitled thriller Freakshift. I’ve become a fan of Wheatley’s, and I’ll be interested to see how he branches out into sci-fi aside from the likely hardcore violence.