Not only is there a potentially great film waiting to be made from William Gibson’s seminal 1984 science-fiction novel Neuromancer, there’s probably a rather funny companion piece in the long, odd production journey the book has experienced. The novel basically kick-started the modern era of sci-fi: space operas gave way to a dystopic but recognisable future set on this planet, with a noir inflected vision. “The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel,” was the first line, and the book effectively launched the cyberpunk genre.
Gibson, whose concept of a worldwide virtual reality dataspace he called the Matrix prefigures the Internet, layered a tight plot beneath the icy prose. Neuromancer is concerned with a damaged data thief offered redemption, a physically enhanced female bodyguard and a mysterious World War III veteran who hires them on behalf of an unknown entity. So what happened during the book’s initial acclaim? The following promotional video, made by the book’s original producers, may give you an idea of the mismatched forces aligned on the project. If for no other reason, I urge you to watch this and marvel at Hollywood fashion in the mid eighties.
Cabana Boy Productions sadly disappeared, but various filmmakers were attracted to Neuromancer, which has sold over seven million copies even as concepts from the book became part of popular culture; a dismal 1995 adaptation of a Gibson short story, Johnny Mnemonic, by leading American artist Robert Longo with Keanu Reeves as the lead, didn’t help engender confidence.
But Canadian writer/director Vincenzo Natali, whose previous works – Cube, Cypher and Splice – suggest an affinity for paranoid sci-fi, persevered and Neuromancer is now an international co-production that will shoot in Canada, Istanbul, Tokyo and London early next year. Natali’s first casting move has been to secure the right Armitage, the former Special Forces officer running a major criminal enterprise. Bruce Willis appears to be in line for the part, and Gibson, who by all rights should have stopped caring decades ago, tweeted that the actor was a “natural” for the role.
Brian De Palma (pictured), who made his first short film in 1960, has been quiet recently, with the independent multi-media Iraq war film Redacted his last feature in 2007. But the director, whose lengthy career spans Carrie, Scarface, Mission: Impossible and Mission to Mars, is now set to lens an adaptation of the recent French film Love Crime, where Kristin Scott played a corporate executive menacing Ludivine Sagnier’s young subordinate. De Palma may have a different dynamic in mind, as his two leads – Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace – are roughly the same age.
Rapace is working non-stop since announcing herself as the original Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She’s in the imminent Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, learns that in space no-one can hear you scream in Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus, and joins Jude law and Ben Kingsley in the horror film The Last Voyage of the Demeter, which follows Dracula’s coffin on an ill-fated ocean journey from Transylvania to England. She’d probably be great as Molly, the more than capable minder from Neuromancer, but that’s probably too simple an outcome for a movie in its 27th year of development.