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Philip K. Dick’s Daughter on Terror, Xenophobia and Why We’re Living in a ‘High Castle’ World

Philip K. Dick’s Daughter on Terror, Xenophobia and Why We’re Living in a ‘High Castle’ World: Amazon

Amazon

Even if you’ve never read the science fiction of Philip K. Dick – novels such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or short stories like “Adjustment Team” or “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” – you know his work if you’ve seen Blade Runner, The Adjustment Bureau or Total Recall. With Amazon Studios’ long-form adaptation of Dick’s The Man in the High Castle novel both a critical and commercial hit, there are more Hollywood adaptations ahead.

Dick’s daughter Isa Dick Hackett is the cofounder of Electric Shepherd Productions with her sister Laura Leslie. The company produced the Matt Damon vehicle The Adjustment Bureau in 2011, but nothing prepared them for the nine years it would take to adapt The Man in the High Castle – an alternate history novel set in 1963 America after the Nazis and Japanese have won World War II. Getting Ridley Scott and his Scott Free Productions interested was the easy part; it was getting Hollywood to commit that proved the challenge. But Castle’s 2015 release as an Amazon series worked out better in many ways. Here, Hackett talks about the show’s present-day relevance and her father’s posthumous success.


Why did you decide to explore long-form narrative for the first time with The Man in the High Castle?

Amazon

Amazon

The goal was always to create a serialized show, rather than a two-hour movie, because this story of Americans secretly fighting invaders on their homeland was well-suited for long-form storytelling. In addition to the characters from the book, we added new characters to expand the story, including Inspector Kido (played by Joel de la Fuente). All of the actors were just terrific, but Mr. Tagomi (played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) in particular was one of my dad’s favorite characters that he wrote. So it was very moving to be on set the first day and find Mr. Tagomi throwing the sticks, which was such a quintessential scene and visual from the novel.

Do you feel that today’s world climate feels better suited for the subject matter of this show?
The Man in the High Castle feels strangely more relevant every day now in light of the politics both in the States and other countries, and the debate around fascism and democracy and freedom and what all those things mean. As I watch the news and I listen to people, politicians in particular, talking about terrorism and the xenophobia and things that we’re hearing every day, it makes me feel much more like I’m living in a High Castle world.

How do you think your father would react to the United States today?
I think he would be disheartened by some of the rhetoric around religion in particular, just based on who he was as a person and his own values. I think some of us are asking ourselves, “What is real?” And that was a major theme of his work. But there are things that are happening now that you wouldn’t think would be happening in our world.

Do you have any memories of stories he’d tell you when you were growing up?
We talked a lot about religion and philosophy and politics, which were all things he was interested in. We talked a whole lot about his particular views of technology. But what impressed me most when I was a kid was going over to his apartment and seeing all of these copies of his books. Because you couldn’t find his books in libraries or book stores, or on that Scholastic Book form schools gave you. I didn’t see them anywhere except in his apartment.

Isa Dick Hackett

Isa Dick Hackett

That’s something that people today would probably find surprising.
He was very much a niche writer. There weren’t a lot of people who knew about him. He was far, far from mainstream. When he passed away [in 1982], the only book that was in print was the tie-in for Blade Runner. So that was exciting, but it really wasn’t until years later that people started to get hip to the work. And now people are catching up to the ideas. They’re so far ahead of where people were back in the day that we’re all still catching up to it. I’m so proud of him, and it’s pretty astounding to see where this has all gone through the years.

What do you feel people connect with today about his work?
The draw around what he was writing about has to do with a couple of things. There’s the nature of reality, but there are universal themes that come through about what it means to be human, especially in an inhumane world. And the heroes in his stories were really average, everyday people just trying to get by. While some heroes in the movies are not every day Joes, when you read the work you understand that this is the average person’s struggle. And so maybe that resonates with people as well.

His heroes also have flaws.
Lots of flaws, like all of us. And that’s what’s great about them: they feel real. It is really amazing talking with fans of his work, because people have become emotional about it. It touches people in a certain way. Once they start to read it, they really get hooked. They go through the entire thing and they’re very, very fond of these characters.

What’s next for Hollywood adaptations of your father’s work?
We have a Blade Runner sequel that’s filming in 2016 that we’re really excited about because Ridley [Scott] and writer Hampton Fancher [who cowrote the 1982 film] are both involved. There are two long-form television projects we’ve been working on with partners that are quite along in development, but they haven’t been announced yet. The novel I would most like to adopt next is Ubik. That is my goal. We have a screenplay that we’re continuing to work a bit on, but I hope that we get that set up in the coming year or two. That is another very unique world.

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