'High-Rise' Producer: Author J.G. Ballard "Would Have Adored" Film Adaptation

Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

Jeremy Thomas, who was friends with the late British novelist, says he got the same feeling from director Ben Wheatley that he had when David Cronenberg said he wanted to adapt 'Crash.'

Late British author J.G. Ballard would have wholeheartedly approved of Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of his 1975 dystopian thriller High-Rise, which recently bowed in Toronto to strong reviews.

So claims the film’s Oscar-winning producer, Jeremy Thomas, who with High-Rise and Crash has now done twice what many thought impossible, namely bringing Ballard's fictional works to screen.

“I knew [Ballard] very well; he was a very good friend of mine,” Thomas tells The Hollywood Reporter.

The renowned producer behind acclaimed titles including The Last Emperor (1987), Sexy Beast (2000) and Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) had been trying for almost four decades to adapt High-Rise – about a luxury tower block that falls into anarchy – before Wheatley came on board. Much of the time, he says, was spent trying to acquire the rights from others (“even though they’re never going to make it”), but even when Thomas did pick them up around 2003, it still took another 10 years before the wheels truly started moving.

“It’s been a long journey, but we got the right people in the end,” he says. “I’m very thrilled that I got Ben to do it in the end, with Amy Jump doing the script. He’s a real proper filmmaker with his own place, he’s making special films.”

Thomas compares the feeling he had when Wheatley first approached him about High-Rise to how he felt when David Cronenberg said he wanted to adapt William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch and later Ballard's Crash, two iconic books many thought were unfilmable.

“When I met Cronenberg and he said he wanted to do Naked Lunch, I saw immediately the film,” Thomas says. “Because if you understood Cronenberg’s cinema, you can think: ‘Yes, I can see that, I can’t see anybody else doing that, but I can see you doing it.’ You’ve seen his other films and you know the book, you put two and two together in your producer hard drive and think: ‘Yes, I want to see that film because it’s going to be extraordinary.’ With Crash, it was the same thing. [Ballard] adored that film, and I think he would have adored High-Rise.”

Thomas suggests there are other similar works he’d like to bring to the screen that, like Ballard's works, might be against the grain of conventional book adaptations.

“I don’t actually have them in my own store cupboard, but they’re in the store cupboard of my brain,” he says. “In my personal store upstairs, I’ve got a couple of a titles that nobody has even really suggested could be adapted into film. Except me.”