It's now a couple of years since two very exciting literary sci-fi adaptations went into development more or less at the same time. And while all has gone very quiet lately regarding Vincenzo Natali's Neuromancer (from William Gibson's cyberpunk classic), we do have cursory confirmation this morning that Michel Gondry is still at work on his version of Philip K. Dick's Ubik.
Out on the publicity trail for his currently distributor-and-release-free Mood Indigo, Gondry reassured the curious audience that Ubik is still on his agenda, although "we are still at the very beginning". It is, he said, "an amazing, very complicated story from a very prominent book, so I am taking it slow..."
Complicated? He's not exaggerating. The bonkers mystery plot of Dick's 1969 masterpiece involves psychic corporate spies and security firms, and an attack in which our shabby Everyman hero Joe Chip (Paul Giamatti, please?) and his team find themselves the victims of rapidly accelerating ageing, while time starts to run backwards.
In short, it's as good a combination of adaptor and source we can think of: Isa Dick Hackett, Phil's daughter and the custodian of his estate, goes so far as to call it "crazy good".
"Getting Ubik adapted has always been a huge passion of mine," said Hackett in 2011. "It's taken a long time because it's non-linear and metaphysical, but I love Michel Gondry's work and I think he's an insanely great fit."
Last we heard, Steve Zaillian is producing, and Hackett believes his is an equally safe pair of hands: "He's a craftsman, so it's great to have him on the team so we don't end up with something that's so non-linear that it can't be understood."
Given his studio experience with Green Hornet (which he talks about in The Playlist's feature), Gondry has always been keen to keep Ubik indie, and has Hackett's support with that. The plan is to take the film to studios and "figure out who wants to make it" once the script is cracked. Dick himself wrote a Ubik screenplay in 1974 which playfully messed around with the form of film itself, although it's not yet known if Gondry is using it as his starting point.
We're keeping a very keen eye on this one. There will, of course, be more as soon as we get it. In the meantime, you might catch Mood Indigo on the festival circuit (Empire's Damon Wise saw it at Karlovy), and the trailer for Gondry's animated Noam Chomsky documentary Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? is online here.