The Island of Dr. Moreau was a significant landmark in the history of both science fiction and horror, drawing on Frankensteinesque themes of body horror and human interference with nature. H.G. Wells’ classic story of a shipwrecked man who finds himself trapped on an island full of half-animal, half-human abominations created by an obsessed scientist has been adapted for the screen several times, first with the Bela Lugosi and Charles Laughton in Erle C. Kenton’s 1932 film The Island of Lost Souls, and most recently in a 1996 movie starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, which was set in the crazy sci-fi future of… 2010.
Needless to say, it’s probably not too soon for an updated screen version of Wells’ story, especially since it’s such a downright creepy tale. Now it’s time to start pulling together dream casting from the current pool of acting stars, as Hollywood is taking another trip to the island.
Deadline reports that Django Unchained star Leonardo DiCaprio is producing a new adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau with his partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran, through their company Appian Way and a deal with Warner Bros. Hemlock Grove producer Michael Connolly is also attached to the project as a producer, and Hemlock Grove writers Lee Shipman and Brian McGreevy have been tapped to write the script.
One potential red flag is that the current plan is apparently to make The Island of Dr. Moreau “a sci-fi film with a topical ecological message,” which could lead to the adaptation becoming a little preachy, but nonetheless fits in fairly well with the story’s themes. Note that the message is specifically ecological rather than environmental, which suggests that we’ll see the larger impact of taking an island’s wildlife, transforming them into half-humans and causing them to form their own pseudo-religion.
The journey from animal to man was recently the subject of sci-fi prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which did a pretty fantastic job of telling the story of genetic interference from Caesar’s own perspective, and will continue the story of the early days of ape evolution in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. If another installment of the Apes franchise comes after that, it could well end up competing directly with The Island of Dr. Moreau.
It’s not yet known whether or not DiCaprio will choose to star in The Island of Dr. Moreau himself; generally speaking, he tends not to act in the films that he produces, but he is playing the lead in the Appian Way-produced Martin Scorsese crime drama The Wolf of Wall Street, so perhaps we’ll see him in the role of either Edward Prendick or even Moreau himself. Tell us who you would cast in this update of Wells’ story, and what you think of the talent attached and the details available so far, in the comments.
The Island of Dr. Moreau is still in the early stages of development, but we’ll keep you updated on any further news.