By one of the most important and influential works of literature, George Orwell‘s seminal 1949 novel 1984 has been adapted for the stage and screen many times before. It’s legacy lives on in film, music, books, and comics. Now the book is getting the celluloid treatment once more.
Brian Grazer and Ron Howard‘s production company Imagine Entertainment is teaming with LBI Entertainment to mount a new film adaptation of 1984, and Shepard Fairley, the street artist responsible for the iconic “Hope” poster for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign who brought the 1984 project to the attention of Imagine and LBI, might be taking an important role in the production once all is said and done. Both production companies had been seeking the rights from Orwell’s estate and decided to team up on the project.
The story, which centers on a lowly government employee living under a fascist regime in a dystopian future who harbors dreams of rebellion and finds them through a love affair with a woman named Julia, was first adapted for the screen in 1953 as an episode of the CBS television series Westinghouse Studio One and starred Eddie Albert (Green Acres) as Winston Smith and Lorne Greene (Bonanza) as his cruel antagonist O’Brien. The most famous screen version of Orwell’s novel was adapted by Michael Radford (Il Postino) and released, very appropriately, in 1984. Radford’s film starred John Hurt as Smith and Richard Burton, in his final performance, as O’Brien. Ridley Scott’s famous Apple Macintosh commercial that aired during Super Bowl XVIII was so heavily influenced by 1984 that the estate of George Orwell considered it a copyright infringement and compelled Apple to drop the commercial from their advertising campaign.
Imagine and LBI are expected to hire a writer for the project before the shopping it to studios. This could make for an interesting film in the proper hands, but one wonders if there’s even a need for a new film adaptation of 1984 given that Radford’s version is often viewed as the best possible screen translation of the material and the vast amount of multimedia influenced by Orwell’s classic work that currently exist and continue to multiply would negate the project’s validity. Time will tell, and as always Big Brother will be watching.