Philip K. Dick's daughter Isa Dick Hackett talks about The Adjustment Bureau, upcoming adaptations of her father's work, and much more
Author Philip K. Dick is a name synonymous with greatness in the sci-fi genre, not only for his extensive catalog of novels and short stories, but also for the film adaptations of his work. Although there have been 11 movie adaptations of his novels and short stories - including Blade Runner, Total Recall, and one of my personal favorites (not only of his work, but in the sci-fi genre as a whole), Minority Report - the author published 44 novels and 121 short stories in 30 years as a published writer.
Philip K. Dick passed away in 1982, shortly before the first film adaptation based on one of his novels, Blade Runner, was released in theaters. Shortly after his death, his daughter Isa Dick Hackett and her siblings were put in control of his father's works, and now she runs the company Electric Shepherd, which oversees all of the Philip K. Dick adaptations. The latest of these adaptations is the fantastic sci-fi thriller The Adjustment Bureau, which was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 21. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Isa Dick Hackett, who executive produced The Adjustment Bureau, about the movie, the legacy of her father's work, future adaptations, and much more. Here's what she had to say below.
You were only 15 when your father passed away. I was wondering at what age you really took an interest in your father's work?
Isa Dick Hackett: Well, my sister and brother and I inherited the library, the intellectual property rights. For the first 10 years, the estate was in probate, so things were pretty complicated then. I've always been involved, in that anyone who wants to do a project has had to arrange a deal through my sister and brother and I. About five years ago, we became involved in the film and television adaptations. We started a production company, Electric Shepherd, which only produces Philip K. Dick material, obviously, and our hope and goal and our efforts are connecting the material with filmmakers who have the certain sensibilities to do something really special. That was my long-winded answer.
This could really be said about all of his stories, but The Adjustment Team is one of his earlier stories, and it's amazing how relevant it still is nearly 60 years after it was written. It's interesting to see in the movies also, because it seems that the technology is finally starting to catch up to his vision. Do you think this story would have worked if it had been one of the earlier adaptations in the 80s?
Isa Dick Hackett: Well, I think it would have. I mean, you saw Blade Runner, and the amazing things that were done with that. Obviously, the technology gives more options, in terms of how to shape things. This movie, I felt, was so much more about the romance and this sort of higher power, if you will, and didn't really require as many of the sci-fi elements that a lot of the other ones have. I love that it's really not about the sci-fi, and it's really about the human story. That really comes true.
A majority of his adaptations are based on short stories, such as this one, instead of his novels. I've heard from several others that a short story is more ideal to adapt into a movie. Do you think, with the scope of his work, that short stories are more ideal adaptations than his novels?
Isa Dick Hackett: I can understand why filmmakers feel that way. A lot of times, a short story has an obvious core premise or two which you can build something around and take license with. None of the short stories are really that precious, in terms of places you can go with them, and you're not really messing with a Hugo-award winning novel which is revered. Yes, I do think, in that regard, you can build in a third act or whatever you need. The novels, obviously Blade Runner was based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and we did A Scanner Darkly. We have Ubik in development right now, so it's good to see some of the novels as well. There is so much in them, as you said. Every two pages there is this amazing idea.
Can you talk about your first interactions with (writer-director) George Nolfi? I know this is a project he had wanted to do for awhile.
Isa Dick Hackett: Yeah. I really don't want to overstate any creative involvement on my part, because it was all George. He optioned the title a number of years ago, it was his baby. Of course, once he had it scripted, he handed it to us and we talked about it. I find George to be very thoughtful and smart and ethereal. He studied philosophy and this idea of a higher power is really consistent with how his mind works. I really enjoy him. He's one of the good guys out there, one of the nice guys (Laughs). I don't want to disparage directors in general, but sometimes, they can be pretty ego-driven, and that's almost par for the course, but he's not. He listens, he's collaborative, and I found him to be just a total joy to work with.
Can you talk about the casting a bit? I'm sure, after reading the story a number of times, you had your own vision of the characters in your own head. Can you talk about, when Matt Damon and Emily Blunt were cast, how they kind of compared to how you pictured these characters in your own head?
Isa Dick Hackett: The script was written with Matt in mind. He was always our dream for this. George knew Matt because of prior projects. So, really, the goal was to get it to him and that he would do it. I never thought about anybody else for the role, and thankfully it all worked out. For Elise, we didn't really have anybody in mind, but because of the dialogue, it occurred to me that this person is going to have to pull off these cute interactions that they have. When you read it on paper, it's like, 'Hmm, how is that going to work? Is it going to be cute? Is it going to be funny, or is it going to be silly or flat?' The thing that I was most impressed with was the chemistry between them, which was very cute, and she was perfect for that. She had that attitude and you could tell there was an attraction there. I think it was perfect casting. I think think the two of them were great together. Did you think it was good casting?
I did, actually. I remember watching the trailers before I actually saw it, I was wondering how much of this cutesy stuff they were going to get into. The more you saw it, though, it just fits. I can't really describe it, but it fits.
Isa Dick Hackett: Yeah, and you have to believe, too, that they fall so quickly. YOu have to buy into that to really care, and root for them. They pulled that off. I know she did a lot of that dancing, and she hadn't danced before, and that's a lot of work. I was there for part of that when they shot it, and wow. I have a lot of respect for her. It was hard work. I think the supporting characters did a great job too.
When I talked to George, we talked a bit about the original ending and the ending which was in the final print. I'm curious what your thoughts on that first ending are, or how that might have worked out?
Isa Dick Hackett: The screening that I saw was, essentially, the ending that is the ending. I didn't see it filmed that way, the original ending. I just saw a version of what we ultimately saw. From what I understand, the ending as it is now, the ending is an improvement.
Have either you or your siblings ever considered adapting one of your father's works yourself?
Isa Dick Hackett: No. There is a novel for kids that my dad wrote, called Nick and the Glimmung. It's quite charming and it's something that I'd love to get in development. My dad wrote the novel when my mom was pregnant with me, and it was never published in the United States when he was alive. I picked up a U.K. copy and I had never read it. I read it when I happened to be pregnant with my twins, so it became this special connection. It's a really cute story, and a lot of his themes are in there, but for a kids audience. That's something near and dear to my heart. I'm not a writer, and I don't pretend to wedge myself into something. Getting the material into the right hands is key. That's what I try to do.
You talked a bit about Ubik and there is also King of the Elves in development, as well as a biopic on your father brewing as well. Are these all in early development right now?
Isa Dick Hackett: Yes. King of the Elves is in full development. There are sets and storyboards and everything. The biopic is not going, because it was with HBO Films, which is no longer. That one is not active. Ubik is, and you've probably heard we have Michel Gondry scripting and Steven Zaillian is producing with us. The Man in the High Castle is being adapted for a five-hour mini-series with BBC. We've got Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said in development. Of course, Total Recall is being remade now and it looks like Blade Runner too. We might be seeing a sequel to Blade Runner, so there's a lot of stuff going on.
It's great to hear about a mini-series, because, as I talked about before, just with the scope of his work, a mini-series might be the perfect fit for a novel like that.
Isa Dick Hackett: For The Man in the High Castle, definitely, because we definitely have enough room to tell the story in five hours. It's perfect. I think the BBC is a great partner in this. It's a difficult story to tell, in some ways, and it's hard to make it filmic, but they're doing a great job. Howard Brenton is writing it an he does a lot of work for them. He's a playwright. Yeah, it looks like a great medium for that particular novel, for sure. Some novels you could get away with a regular feature, you wouldn't lose too much. But that one, there's a lot going on in there.
Isa Dick Hackett: Well, I can honestly say it's a really fun, entertaining, sweet, uplifting movie. I think you don't find these too often. It's one of those things you watch and feel good, and enjoy the chemistry between the two, and it's also full of surprises. I'm pretty sure everyone in the family will like it. There is suspense, some surprises and romance. It's just a really fun movie.
Great. Well, that's about all I have for you. Thank you so much for your time and best of luck with all the other adaptations.
Isa Dick Hackett: Thank you. It was good to talk to you.