Michel Gondry Abandons Ubik
Philip K. Dick adaptation too difficult to crack
Isa Dick Hackett, custodian of her father Philip K. Dick's estate, called the collision of Dick's work and director Michel Gondry "crazy good". Sadly, however, it's turned out too good to be true. Michel Gondry has abandoned his plans to adapt Ubik, one of Dick's best novels, for the screen.
"The book is brilliant," Gondry told Telerama, "but it's good as a literary work. Having tried to adapt it with several screenwriters... at the moment I don't feel up to doing it. It doesn't have the dramatic structure that would make it a good film. I received a script that disheartened me a bit, and that was it. It was a dream, but in life you can't always have what you want."
It was all looking so promising. First announced three years ago, Ubik had Steve Zaillian aboard as a producer, and Hackett was keen to play up its fierce indie credibility. "When the script's written we'll take it out and figure out who wants to make that story," she insisted, "as opposed to doing development with a studio and having them tell us what story we're going to tell. For me, the biggest failure would be a film that was just devoid of the real message from the material."
But that material has clearly proved intractible in its sheer bonkers complexity: it centres on psychic corporate spies and security firms, and an attack in which our shabby Everyman hero Joe Chip (we had our fingers crossed for Paul Giamatti) and his team find themselves the victims of rapidly accelerating ageing, while time starts to run backwards.
Dick himself wrote a screenplay in 1974, which playfully messed around with the form of film itself, but it was never produced. Gondry's version, it seems, has gone the same way, and returns to the ranks of the "unfilmable"... until the next person decides that it isn't after all. "Getting Ubik adapted has always been a huge passion of mine," says Hackett. We may see it yet...
Gondry's Noam Chomsky documentary, Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?, is out in the UK in the near future, followed on August 1 by Mood Indigo with Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris. Watch this space for Empire's own Gondry podcast.