Movies adapted from the writings of Philip Kindred Dick are always depicted through fantasy, steeped in conspiracy. It’s the art of film encompassing what we love most about movies and why we rely on them for momentary escapism. So far, 10 major motion pictures have been brought to life based on the writings of Philip K. Dick. Eleven and 12 are on the way; 13 and 14 are in the wings; and other writings by the author have been sold.
The first two films adapted from his works already have remakes. “Total Recall” was the second full-length feature film based on P.K. Dick’s writings, it was taken from the short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.” Released in 1990, it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox, and was a box office smash. Although the re-make released last year featured just as much star power with Kate Beckensale, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel, Bokeem Woodbine and Colin Ferrell (which may have been the primary flaw – given his performance and the fact that the movie-buff going public still have ‘Arnold’ in their heads as “Quaid”) paled at the box-office and on screen. Amidst the many of P.K.’s visions that have been brought to the screen, the original ‘Recall’ (in all it’s cheesiness), “The Adjustment Bureau,” “Minority Report,” and “Blade Runner” are the best of the lot — in my humble opinion. “Blade Runner” was the first feature based on P.K.’s work, starring a young Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos and Daryl Hannah, it didn’t bring in the numbers that ‘Recall’ did, but it became a cult-classic and was considered ahead of its time. So much so that the original director of the first one, Ridley Scott, is doing it again… or at least we think so, to explain – “Prometheus” was originally to be the prequel to the “Alien” franchise, then it wasn’t, yet incorporated the “Space Jockey,” that was from the “Alien” film. The anticipated re-make of “Blade Runner” is currently listed as the “Untitled Blade Runner Project,” so the end result of what it actually will be, remains to be seen.
The other movies adapted from P.K. Dick’s writings include: “The Adjustment Bureau”; “Minority Report”; “Paycheck”; “Screamers” and the direct to video sequel “Screamers: The Hunting”; “Barjo” (French film); “Next” (Biel’s first P.K. movie); “A Scanner Darkly” and “Imposter.” Actors including the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Keanu Reeves, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder (her dad was a personal friend of Dick’s), Mekhi Phifer, Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Peter Weller, Julianne Moore, Nicolas Cage, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie and Matt Damon, have all starred in the aforementioned releases. “Imposter” was actually the first of Dick’s writings to be translated to the screen via the 1962 television series “Out of This World.” It featured Boris Karloff, aired for one season, and included 14 episodes. Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” was on the air during that same period. Ridley Scott is set to produce a new TV series based on Dick’s novel “The Man in the High Castle” for the Syfy channel.
According to a New York Times article: Syfy said in a news release that its adaptation of ‘The Man in the High Castle’ would be done by Frank Spotnitz, a writer and producer of “The X-Files” and “Millennium,” who will also be executive producer on the project with Ridley Scott, the director and producer of ‘Blade Runner,’ an adaptation of Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” The mini-series will be produced by Mr. Scott’s Scott Free Productions with Headline Pictures, Electric Shepherd Productions and FremantleMedia International. Mr. Spotnitz will write its first two hours and supervise the writing of the second two hours, Syfy said. Isa Dick Hackett, a daughter of Philip K. Dick and a founder of Electric Shepherd Productions, said in a statement: “‘The Man in the High Castle’ is one of the most highly regarded and influential novels my father wrote. It’s thrilling to be bringing it to life with such a talented, passionate team, and in a format that can do justice to the full scope of the material.” No air-date or casting information has been announced yet.
What is in the works, are adaptations for the following feature films. Based on Dick’s novels “Now Wait for Last Year,” anticipated for release next year – It’s 2055 and Earth is caught between two galactic powers in an interstellar conflict. Dr. Eric Sweetscent and his wife Kathy get addicted to a powerful drug that appears to cause time travel. The doctor’s only patient is the world leader, UN Secretary General; “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said” was first adapted into a play by Linda Hartinian in 1988. A celebrity wakes up after surviving an assassination attempt to realize that no one has ever heard of him. The last adaptation of a novel currently in pre-production is P.K.’s “Ubik.” One of his more popular books, I took the description straight from the Philip K. Dick website… http://www.philipkdick.com/index.html “Glen Runciter is dead. Or is everybody else? Someone died in an explosion orchestrated by Runciter’s business competitors. And, indeed, it’s the kingly Runciter whose funeral is scheduled in Des Moines. But in the meantime, his mourning employees are receiving bewildering – and sometimes scatological – messages from their boss. And the world around them is warping in ways that suggest that their own time is running out. Or already has… Dick’s searing metaphysical comedy of death and salvation (the latter available in a convenient aerosol spray) is a tour de force of paranoiac menace and unfettered slapstick, in which the departed give business advice, shop for their next incarnation, and run the continual risk of dying yet again.”
Based on Philip’s short story, “King of the Elves,” Disney is doing an animated feature about a Mississippi man that becomes the reluctant ruler of a mythical race of elves after he saves them from a deadly troll. His reluctant actions to help a desperate band of elves, leads them to name him their new king. Joining the innocent and endangered elves as they attempt to escape from an evil and menacing troll, their unlikely new leader finds himself caught on a journey filled with unimaginable dangers and a chance to bring real meaning back to his own life. Other properties that have been sold are “Time Out of Joint”; and Warner Brothers has the rights to “Valis” and “Radio Free Albemuth.” A movie version of “Radio Free Albemuth,” was actually released in 2010, featuring Alanis Morissette, but it didn’t get much attention. In 1987, the Greek Sci-Fi “Morning Patrol” aka “Proini Peripolos (Morning Patrol)” was released. However it featured writing credits for Dick, Raymond Chandler, and three other writers – so I wouldn’t consider it a full-length P.K. Dick movie. The film adaptation of all P.K.’s works that garnered the most success at the box office was Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report.” Starring Tom Cruise, it co-starred Ferrell (who would later do the aforementioned remake of ‘Total Recall’) as his nemesis of sorts, in a futuristic tale about law enforcement. Although “Minority Report” holds the biggest box office numbers, the original “Total Recall” has the greatest profit margin of all Dick’s adaptations.
2012: TOTAL RECALL – Grossed $58,877,969/ Production Budget: $125 million
1995: SCREAMERS – Grossed $5,711,695/ Production Budget n/a
2001: IMPOSTOR – It took in a little over $6 million at the box office in the United States and Canada, with the estimated worldwide gross of over $8 million at $8,145,549/ Production Budget: $40 million
2002: MINORITY REPORT – Grossed $132,072,926/ Production Budget: $102 million
2003: PAYCHECK – Grossed $53,790,451/ Production Budget: $60 million
2006: A SCANNER DARKLY – Grossed $5,501,616/ Production Budget n/a
2011: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (“Adjustment Team”) – Grossed $62,495,645/ Production Budget: $50.2 million
Box office figures and production budget information taken from www.boxofficemojo.com
The company that keeps the dreams of P.K. Dick alive are operated by his children at: http://www.electricshepherdproductions.com
for the love of P.K. Dick and FUNKY films
UPDATE 10/12/17: A second installment of “Blade Runner” is in theaters. The Internet series “Electric Dreams,” featuring Terrence Howard and Janelle Monae, is announced – airing on Amazon in 2018… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtX_LVwEJhA