Fresh from helping create Australia’s first fully virtual production shoot for John Curran’s psychological thriller Mercy Road, director and producer Alex Proyas will again use the techniques to build the world for a feature adaption of classic sci-fi play R.U.R..
Considered the origin of the word robot in English and science fiction, the story from Czech writer Karel Čapek, first published in 1920, centres on a scientist that works out how to create human-like machines, leading him to create a factory that produces and distributes the mechanisms, only for the robots to end up revolting, killing all but one engineer.
The upcoming film adaptation will follow a young woman who visits the island factory of Rossum’s Universal Robots to emancipate the robots from capitalist exploitation, with catastrophic results.
Proyas has written the script and will direct, while also producing via his company Mystery Clock Cinema alongside Adam Krentzman and Morris Ruskin, with Cathy Rechichi on board as co-producer. Composer Michael Lira has also been confirmed as part of the creative team.
So far, the only role that has been cast is that Rossum’s Universal Robots general manager Harry Doman, who will be played by Lindsay Farris.
Filming will take place across six weeks at a bespoke virtual production space within the Heretic Foundation Studio in Alexandria this December, with VFX artists in the process of creating environments for the production, which will receive support from US company Mojo.
Speaking to IF, Proyas said he had been wanting to make the project for a “very long time”, having become familiar with Čapek’s story as a child.
“I have a draw full of stuff I work on, which all filmmakers do, where you can park [projects] and tinker with them a few years later,” he said.
“Eventually, they align with other production factors and this one probably reached that point late last year when we went, ‘Hey this can work great as a virtual production film’, and so we jumped into it.”
Proyas is no stranger to sci-fi, having made his feature debut with 1987’s Spirits of the Air: Gremlins of the Clouds, about a brother and sister that navigate lonely existence together in a post-apocalyptic Outback until the sudden arrival of a stranger.
He has since gone on to explore the genre further as a director through titles such as Dark City, I,Robot, and Knowing.
In adapting R.U.R., Proyas said he wanted to “supercharge” the satirical aspect of the original story within a modern setting.
“I’ve substantially rewritten the play to make it contemporary because it talks about what’s happening today in terms of AI, but through the lens of this wonderful, classic tale, so a lot had to change,” he said.
Proyas is aiming for an early 2025 release for the R.U.R., which will be distributed in Australia and New Zealand through Rialto.
All other sales are being held back, with the director aiming to make deals “down the track” that will provide the greatest benefit to the independent film’ many investors.
“A lot of the people involved with the film, including the actors, producers, and other people, are a part of this new arrangement of how movies can be made and they are all investing in the project,” he said.
“It gives them an opportunity to obviously, you know, make a dollar down the track when the film sells so everyone’s on the same team, which is a really unique way of doing things as opposed to the old broken model of you know the Hollywood studios or US sources coming in and anointing us Aussie independent filmmakers to make our movie.”