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George Orwell's '1984' Headed To The Big Screen, Famed Designer Shepard Fairey May Produce

by Joe Cunningham
March 22, 2012 9:00 AM
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1984 Shepard Fairey

George Orwell’s seminal 1949 dystopian novel, “1984,” arguably has as high a profile now as it ever did. In fact, if you say "1984" to someone they’d probably think of the book before they think of the year. Even for those that haven’t read the book, the title is synonymous with totalitarian politics, propaganda and the surveillance culture, and "Big Brother" is now even an established global brand of exploitative reality television.

The story follows a man named Winston Smith in a world which has been through a nuclear war. He works for a government branch called the Ministry of Truth, but harbors desires for both a rebellion and an illicit love affair. The book was last adapted for the screen back in (you guessed it) 1984, in a less than memorable flick directed by Michael Radford and starring John Hurt and Richard Burton. The book is now set for a fresh film adaptation thanks to the persistence of an unlikely champion of the novel.

Graphic designer Shepard Fairey is probably best known for creating the Barack Obama "Hope" poster, but cinema audiences may recognize him from his appearance in the Banksy documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” Apparently Fairey was instrumental in bringing the project to Imagine, who then simultaneously pursued the rights for the novel at the same time as LBI Entertainment, and the production houses decided to team up on the project. We can’t see any reason why the story wouldn’t resonate as much today as it has in the past, if not perhaps more so, and done well this could be right up there with the very best dystopian science-fiction noir. There’s room alongside “Brazil” and “Blade Runner” up at the top, right? Any suggestions for who should direct? [THR]

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  • jayc. | March 22, 2012 11:42 AMReply

    For director on this project I'd love to see Alfonso Cuaron. Children of Men should be on anybody's list of great dystopian films. But, if this film lands in Michael Bay's hands...I will jump off a very tall building.

  • Kevin | March 22, 2012 11:24 AMReply

    For clarification, the opinion on "1984" is mine and not Joe's. Also -- I guess I need to watch it again?

  • Chris | March 22, 2012 12:26 PM

    Yeah, I'd recommend watching it again - but who knows, maybe you'd still be underwhelmed by it. Worth a shot, though, right? I'd be interested to hear more takes on it because it's a movie not many people talk about - in part, I assume, because it can be hard to find on DVD.

  • Chris | March 22, 2012 10:49 AMReply

    Echoing what Mark said, the 1984 version of the film is fantastic. Great mood, great performances, hugely influential cinematography by Roger Deakins. I wonder if many people who are dismissive of the film have even seen it.

  • The Playlist | March 22, 2012 11:11 AM

    Haven't seen it in forever, but yeah, I remember it to be really fucking chilling and John Hurt is incredible in it. Whoever makes this film needs to make it a full-on nightmare. In many ways Terry Gilliam's Brazil has a lot of the same tone and mood except it's obviously a lot more satirical (and came out the following year, but was held in ransom from the studio so was ironically completed around the year before).

  • e. blair | March 22, 2012 10:22 AMReply

    Soderbergh. I know he's supposedly retiring (or taking a sabbatical or something) after he completes his currently slated films, but.... well, he's great so he should do it.

  • Scott | March 22, 2012 10:02 AMReply

    If Shepard Fairey is on-board, then you should be concerned considering what a talentless hack he is (unless you consider plagiarizing people's work, writing "OBEY" and putting a small stencil of Andre the Giant makes you a genius). Maybe Shepard Fairey will just copy the 1956 adaption that isn't in circulation anymore, he already famously copied one of the posters from the movie - why not just the whole movie?

  • Mark | March 22, 2012 9:22 AMReply

    "Less than memorable"? The Hurt-Burton version is well respected and seen as an excellent adaption. Something tells me it is this reboot that will be dreadful. Not every great movie was made after 2000; quite the opposite.

  • Kevin | March 22, 2012 1:01 PM

    Similarly, not every "reboot" made after the year 2000 is automatically dreadful.

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