Leonardo DiCaprio is producing a remake of Aldous Huxley’s psychedelic last novel: here’s the story behind it
Film+TV | 3 August 2020
Text Finn Blythe

Above image: Shutter Island, 2010 (dir. Martin Scorsese)

Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way is reported to be developing a new TV adaption of Aldous Huxley’s final and lesser-known novel, Island (1962), in collaboration with In Good Company Films. The news follows HBO’s recent release of The Plot Against America and a television release of Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), both contemporary takes on dystopic works of literary fiction that appear part of a wider attempt to exorcise the current zeitgeist with works that foretold our current mess.

Island was Huxley’s utopian counterpoint to Brave New World and follows a journalist, Will Farnaby, who intentionally shipwrecks himself to gain access to the fictional island of Pala, a well-hidden, forbidden place within the Indonesian archipelago. His mission is to curry favour with the island’s queen and with it, the untapped oil reserves under her control. In this peaceful and largely pacifist society, which rings with the same abounding optimism of the decade that birthed it, Huxley presents an alternative, more restrained path of mass industrialisation and technological advancement.

Written long after Huxley’s transformative experience with psychedelic drugs in 1953, Island delves deep into the power of such substances. Where soma dulled the senses in Brave New World, an opioid-like drug that barred critical thoughts, in Island, moksha medicine is used for cosmological insight and facilitating meditation, in the same was as psychoactive mushrooms helped Huxley throughout the latter half of his life.

Given Appian Way’s numerous collaborations with Netflix (Virunga, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, The Ivory Game, How to Change the World and Catching the Sun), expect the US streaming giant to be snapping up the rights to this project soon.

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