First published as a novel in 1954, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies has appeared numerous times on stage, screen, radio and required high school reading lists. It’s a frequent inclusion on lists of the best English-language novels of all time, and it’s title is a shorthand descriptor for men giving into their baser instincts and running amok. So, while it may not be as poppy as say a popular comic book superhero or beloved cartoon fairytale, Hollywood can’t seem but to help to see it as hot intellectual property with the potential to be a box office (and potentially awards season) hit.
Indeed, Warner Brothers acquired the rights to the movie back in 2017, but has had some bumps along the way in trying to get a remake off the ground. Now comes the latest news: Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria director Luca Guadagnino is apparently circling the project as his next movies (or at least one of his next movies—you never know if that CMBYN sequel is actually happening or not).
The story, about British boarding school boys who wind up on a abandoned island and promptly devolve into barbarous tribalism, has been made twice before as English-language films: Peter Brook’s 1963 version being generally held in better regard and noted for holding truer to the themes of the book, while Harry Hook’s 1990 version, starring a young Balthazar Getty, obtaining some cult fandom for its visual flourishes despite mixed reviews. It seems like every thirty years or so, we need a new version, so perhaps it was inevitable Hollywood have interest.
However, when Warner Brothers first secured the rights to the story they promptly announced that the team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel would write and direct a version that replaced the school boys with school girls. This promptly upset the internet who noted that the story is inherently about the toxicity of the male gender, and that if anyone was going to attempt to carry over the film to a women’s perspective it should, at least, be women. Warner never officially announced that they had backed off the project, but today’s announcement indicates that they’ve moved on.
Somewhat ironically, early reports of Guadagnino’s involvement signaled that he would be sticking with the all-female concept (however, this time with female writers penning the script). The Hollywood trades, however, have since reversed course, with Variety noting, “Insiders say that plan has been scrapped, with the plot to instead follow a group of school boys.” The Hollywood Reporter echoes that the version, “will follow more closely to Golding’s text.”
Whatever the case, the film’s themes do certainly seem to be resonating at the moment. Perhaps there’s no coincidence that interest in the story was revived after both the Fyre Festival (which famously devolved into a Flies situation) and the development of the Alt-Right and other troubling communities of internet trolls, who through a certain lens can resemble a digital version of those unruly school boys on the island.
Indeed, while WB has tried to get the project in order, other properties have taken the central idea and updated it. Netflix’s surprise hit The Society, which imagines a group of teens waking up in a world without adults, certainly owes a debt to Golding’s novel. Lily-Rose Depp, meanwhile, is attached to Voyagers, which has been described as “Lord of the Flies in space,” as well.
Luca Guadagnino certainly seems like an inspired choice for the film. While CMBYN showed he can convey the emotional sensitivities of youth, other projects like Suspiria and Melissa P. prove that not all his youthful characters are as prone to gently crying in front of a fire as Elio. Indeed, the only thing the boys in Flies do in front of a fire is some ritualistic dancing and attempted murder.