By Steven Zeitchik
NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Ridley Scott is going back to the futurism.
The "Blade Runner" director is joining forces with Leonardo DiCaprio to take on one of the most highly regarded dystopian works of literature, Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."
Both are producing the Universal project, which DiCaprio would tentatively star in and Scott direct. The studio has brought on "Apocalypto" scribe Farhad Safinia to write the script; he's expected to be working shortly.
Scott has mentioned casually in interviews that he's interested in the 1931 novel, whose film rights are owned by DiCaprio's Appian Way production company, prompting a flurry of rumors on sci-fi and other blogs over the past year. But the studio details as well as DiCaprio's personal involvement always have been murky.
Now, with a writer on board and production executives meeting frequently during the past six months, the project has more momentum, though several people familiar with it emphasize that it remains at the development stage.
Much of the timing going forward will depend on the script. Scott is not committed to direct anything beyond "Robin Hood," which is in post-production. DiCaprio is shooting the Christopher Nolan adventure tale "Inception," but does not have a movie lined up after that.
"Brave" has had several go-rounds on television, including a Leonard Nimoy-Peter Gallagher picture on NBC in 1998. But Huxley's idea-rich novel hasn't had a shot on the big screen.
Huxley sets his book in a seemingly perfect 26th century world that has achieved harmony by tightly controlling birth, which takes place mainly in laboratories, and outlawing family. The world is populated by a series of five castes, each with its own defined roles.
Characters who figure in are Bernard, a lower-caste member, and Lenina, the woman with whom he is infatuated. DiCaprio would likely play Bernard, who is persecuted when the leaders of the society find his behavior antisocial.
Dystopian stories have sometimes proved difficult to film. George Orwell's "1984" has had several theatrical turns, including Michael Anderson's Columbia version in 1956 and the somewhat better regarded John Hurt vehicle 25 years ago.
Scott is considered one of the few who can pull it off. The director took the Philip K. Dick novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and turned it into the 1982 futurist pic "Blade Runner." While the movie divided critics and didn't enjoy a great theatrical run, it has had a long life on video and become a cult classic.
Scott directed DiCaprio in last year's Middle East thriller "Body of Lies," and the two are also producing dark thriller "The Low Dweller" at indie filmmaker Relativity.