A new adaptation of the classic Czech play R.U.R. is in the works from acclaimed filmmaker Alex Proyas (Dark City, The Crow, Knowing). Casting is currently underway in Australia for R.U.R., which will be an independent production that conforms to SAG-AFTRA waiver agreements and able to shoot despite the ongoing actors’ strike, the director writes on social media.
Originally written by Czech author Karel Čapek, R.U.R. or Rossum’s Universal Robots famously introduced the word ‘robot’ to the world. Taken from the Czech term robota, meaning labor, the word was first invented by Čapek’s brother Josef, himself a famed painter, and made its way into the global lexicon shortly after R.U.R. premiered in then-Czechoslovakia in the early 1920s.
Čapek’s play is based at a factory that produces synthetic organic matter to be used in the creation of robots, and is staffed by the robots themselves. Initially happy to serve mankind, however, the robots revolt with devastating consequences.
While everyone throughout the world is familiar with the word robot, however, few have read Čapek’s original play or seen it performed. R.U.R. has only rarely been staged since the 1920s, and has never been officially adapted into a feature film. Until now.
Proyas, whose previous feature was 2016’s Gods of Egypt, will direct R.U.R. from a screenplay he has adapted from Čapek’s play. His version is a musical that involves a young woman named Helena Glory who visits Rossum’s island-based factory and aids the robots in their revolution.
Writing on social media, Proyas describes the film as “Singin’ in the Rain meets Rocky Horror.” He released an A.I.-generated image of his lead character to assist with her casting, and is seeking a performer who can act, sing, and tap dance.
Australian actor Lindsay Farris (Ash vs Evil Dead), who will play Rossum’s Universal Robots general manager Harry Doman, is the only confirmed cast member of R.U.R. to date.
R.U.R. will be an entirely virtual production, with actors performing not in front of green screens but a virtual backdrop projected on state-of-the art monitors at Heretic Foundation Studio in Alexandria, Australia. John Curran‘s Mercy Road, which stars Toby Jones and Luke Bracey and releases in Australia this week, was the first feature to be shot in this manner by Proyas’ production company Mystery Clock Cinema.
“I draw full of stuff I work on, which all filmmakers do, where you can park [projects] and tinker with them a few years later,” Proyas told Australia’s IF Magazine, adding that he had been familiar with Čapek’s play for a long time.
“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.”
“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.”
The director is aiming for a 2025 release date for R.U.R.
Lead photo: A.I. generated conceptual artwork for R.U.R. Photo: Instagram / Alex Proyas