Director Paul Greengrass and actor (not to mention, Oscar-winning screenwriter) Matt Damon are now officially working on a new Jason Bourne movie for 2016, but that is far from the only project on Greengrass’ to-do list. The filmmaker reportedly has his eye on directing the currently-untitled true-story 1996 Olympics bombing feature, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill onboard to star; and now, Greengrass is attached to helm a new big screen take on 1984.
The original 1984 novel was, of course, written by George Orwell and helped set the standard for the contemporary sci-fi dystopia genre. Orwell’s source material was previously adapted into movie form in 1956 and, appropriately enough, in 1984. The latter film adaptation stars John Hurt as protagonist Winston Smith, a member of the totalitarian empire Oceania and a loyal worker responsible for rewriting history, before he he commits the “crime” of falling in love with a woman named Julia (Suzanna Hamilton).
Deadline is reporting that Greengrass and frequent producer, Scott Rudin, have set playwright James Graham (who adapted Finding Neverland into a Broadway musical) to pen the new screen version of Orwell’s 1984 novel. Greengrass tends to work on either docudrama fare (United 93, Captain Phillips) or action/thrillers (the Bourne movies, Green Zone) that feels all the more grounded, thanks to his journalistic visual style; or, if you prefer, his mix of “shaky cam” and fast-cut editing. Which is to say, it would be interesting to if his directorial approach, married to Orwell’s satire, results in a film with more of a cinéma vérité feel than your average sci-fi film.
The problem with re-adapting 1984 for the big screen, admittedly, is that so many dystopia movies in recent memory – ranging from comic book adaptations (V for Vendetta) to young adult novel adaptations (The Hunger Games), and even original projects (Equilibrium) – have included elements inspired by (and/or lifted from) Orwell’s source material. In other words, this project faces the John Carter dilemma; it will be all the more difficult for the film version to stand out as something unique, after so many years of its imitators having reached theaters.
Greengrass movies usually have a (relatively) heightened sense of realism to them which, as mentioned before, could help to better distinguish his version of 1984 from both past versions and its relatives alike. It’s still early days, though, and with other projects demanding his attention too, there’s always a risk that Greengrass will end up walking away (like he did on The Trial of the Chicago Seven) or that this take on 1984 might wind up halted during takeoff (like Greengrass’ planned MLK drama/thriller Memphis). We’ll see.
We’ll bring you more information on Greengrass’ 1984 when we have it.