HBO adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian trilogy MaddAddam won’t shy away from graphic elements

The author says the TV adaptation will tackle even potentially tricky details like "the naked people who turn blue", and that signing up director Darren Aronofsky was what finally persuaded her to go ahead with the project

imagenotavailable1

Fans of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian MaddAddam trilogy will be pleased to hear that the HBO TV adaptation, set to be helmed by director Darren Aronofsky, will aim to fully capture the author’s future world and will not shy away from some of the novels’ more graphic subject matter.

Advertisement

Addressing an audience at Cheltenham Literature Festival yesterday, the grande dame of Canadian letters said it was Aronofsky – the director behind Black Swan, Noah and Requiem for a Dream – who finally won her over.

“We always knew that it would take somebody with a particular sense of style, so that was a big consideration. My agent and I had had other approaches [but ] you don’t want to give it to somebody that you don’t think can do it.

“I didn’t want to give it to somebody who thought they could make a film… because the canvas is too big for a film.” She was also tickled by the name of Aronofsky’ production company: Protozoa, which denotes a single-celled organism.

HBO’s adaptation will not dodge the more fantastical scenes in the books – such as the naturist tribe whose reproductive organs turn blue during mating season. “The question that is at the front of everybody’s mind – but that they’re sometimes afraid to ask – is ‘how are you going to do the naked people who turn blue?’ ‘Do you use a bit of shrubbery?'” said Atwood.

When she put the question to Aronofsky’s team, she was assured the cable channel behind Game of Thrones would not be sparing viewers’ blushes and would “do it straight” – “So no shrubbery!”

Since the first instalment, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003, the trilogy has proved eerily prescient. Within five years, for example, geneticists in Japan hope to be farming Atwood’s “pigoons”: pigs implanted with human stem cells that grow into human organs. 

Atwood explained this is because her post-apocalyptic vision was written with one eye on scientific developments. “People thought I had made them up [but] the goat that makes spider silk in its milk that’s made into bullet proof vests…that was already in existence then. The luminous rabbit had already been done.

“Although they hadn’t made the breakthroughs that they now have, they were working on growing organs in various ways even then. People have created viruses from scratch in test tubes.”

Advertisement

It’s not the first time Atwood has been heralded as a prophet rather than a science-fiction writer. Placards declaring “The Handmaid’s Tale is here” – referring to her 1985 novel set in a totalitarian Christian theocracy – were seen at recent pro-choice demonstrations in Texas.