For someone who once famously said, “You would have to kill me and prop me up in the seat of my car with a smile painted on my face to get me to go near Hollywood,” writer Phillip K. Dick certainly has a good Tinsel Town track record. Films based on his novels and short stories have made more than $1 billion, a figure that is bound to increase with the release of this weekend’s The Adjustment Bureau.
Based on Dick’s short story Adjustment Team, the film stars John Slattery as a mysterious Adjustment Bureau agent who must keep star-crossed lovers Matt Damon and Emily Blunt apart. It follows along with at least one tradition typical of Dick’s Hollywood adaptations—a title change.
Blade Runner was based on the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale became Total Recall and Next, the Nicolas Cage movie, was loosely based on the short story The Golden Man.
“Phil often commented that he couldn't write good titles,” said Dick's ex-wife, Tessa. “If he could, he would have been an advertising writer instead of a novelist.”
Blade Runner is arguably Dick’s most famous film, but an early draft of the script so displeased Dick he went on the offensive, deriding it as “Phillip Marlowe meets The Stepford Wives.”
Later, however, when shown 20 minutes of special effects shots, the author came on board, saying the footage of Los Angeles in 2019 looked “exactly as how I'd imagined it.” Ironically, director Ridley Scott later let it slip that he had never even read Dick’s book.
Total Recall also had a similar rocky development from page to stage. Early on, David Cronenberg was attached to write and direct but walked from the project when producers told him they wanted to change the story into something akin to “Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars.” Eventually it was made as an incredibly violent Arnold Schwarzenegger film Roger Ebert called “one of the most complex and visually interesting science fiction movies in a long time.”
Despite the fact that Dick died in 1982 of a heart attack, interest in his work remains unabated. Disney is planning an animated adaptation of King of the Elves and Ridley Scott is reported to be producing a mini-series based on The Man in the High Castle for the BBC.