SAN DIEGO — It's a rabidly anti-intellectual world — a world in which literature is destroyed or otherwise censored; the intellectually curious are chastised and punished to the point of distraction by nonstop, insipid programming; and meaningful knowledge and interpersonal relationships are shunted in favor of empty propaganda and personal apathy.
Welcome to Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," where "fireman" Guy Montag burns books while prosecuting, and in one instance killing, those who cling to them.
Welcome to President Bush's America, said director Frank Darabont, a culture that proves that there is more than one way to burn a book.
"There's always somebody who's trying to take away your right to think for yourself or express yourself and call you unpatriotic if you don't believe their bullsh--. That's what's going on now," Darabont asserted at last month's Comic-Con (see "Comic-Con '07: Big News On 'Iron Man,' 'Watchmen,' 'Star Trek,' 'Spidey 4' Amid Carnival Atmosphere"). "Our democracy is tottering on its last thread right now, and people don't really notice because, as Ray Bradbury predicted 50 years ago, they're too frightened or they're too distracted to notice.
" 'Fahrenheit 451' is more relevant today than [when] it was published 50 years ago," he continued. "George Bush has made this the most relevant piece of literature ever written."
Long a fan of the Bradbury novel (originally published in 1953 and adapted for the big screen in 1966), Darabont hopes to begin shooting his film version next summer, he said, "assuming no [writer's] strike. If there's a strike, we'll shoot as soon as the strike's over." It's a long time coming for "The Shawshank Redemption" helmer, who has been working on bringing the story to the big screen for a number of years — years that have only made the story more potent, he pointed out.
But that doesn't mean that the story will get a glossy update or be set in modern times, he insisted. Like the novel, his film adaptation will be set "in the future," he revealed, although in a future that's intentionally nebulous.
"I'm thinking 50 years from today — whenever today is," Darabont said. "It's going to be one of the few future movies where you don't have a year come up. That just never works. Even '2001: A Space Odyssey,' well, we know we never had a big spinning spaceship by 2001. It just didn't happen. We're not going to pin a specific year."
It's his hope, he said, that by not pinning "Fahrenheit" down to a specific year it becomes at once both more peculiar and eerily familiar — set in the future and, yet, absolutely contemporary.
"We don't want to just take all the toys away, for God's sake. We must have our mechanical hound and we must have some very cool stuff," he said, referring to the robotic killing machine that seeks out Guy Montag and all other freethinkers. "[But] I really want to make it look like our world that has happened, that is happening, and not exotic-ize it to the point where there's a separation between us and those characters onscreen. It's going to be not that far from our reality.
"One movie that did it particularly well, the closest in tone, was [2006's] 'Children of Men,' " he continued. "In terms of how the world was depicted, it's like, 'Wow, yeah, we're definitely in the future here but not so far into the future that I can't relate to it.' "
Regarding recent rumors that Tom Hanks would star, Darabont said he "wasn't at liberty" to discuss his cast, but assured MTV News that he already has his Guy Montag lined up and that he should be able to make the casting public soon.
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