No Books Were Harmed in the Making of the Fahrenheit 451, Except the Ones That Were

By May 18, 2018Adaptations, News

Way back in 2016, it was announced that HBO had begun developing a film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic book Fahrenheit 451. Fans eagerly anticipated the film and earlier this year we got to see the first official trailer. There has been plenty of buzz for the film since then and now we’re only hours away from the film’s release.

The film stars Michael B. Jordan as protagonist Guy Montag and Michael Shannon has been cast as Captain Beatty. Fahrenheit 451 is set in a dystopian future where ‘firemen’ collect books and then incinerate them. The idea of burning books is every bibliophile’s nightmare, but it had to be done in order to shoot certain scenes from the book.

“Sadly, we had to burn several hundred books,” said director, writer, and producer Ramin Bahrani, “They were real books; there was no way around [burning them]. We had to do it for the film.”

The New York Post reports that Bahrani went on to state that the books burned were from a number of different cultures, and weren’t just American classics. “I grew up speaking and reading Persian before English, and I think a lot of people read and speak various languages,” he said. “We live in a world where people are intersecting language and cultures on a daily basis. If the firemen control things, they should control everything — not just books written by American men in English.”

He went on to explain how they had to create their own covers for various books as they couldn’t obtain permission to feature covers created by real artists.

“We had to design the covers for a lot of the books ourselves. That became a bizarre problem in pre-production. We could get the rights to the books to burn them, but we could not get the rights to most of the covers, because they were very complex: There was an artist, there was a graphic designer, there was a typographer. Tracking all these things down proved impossible.

“It was an unexpected challenge because we were so busy, we ended up having to hire two new designers for the art department just so that they could focus on making all these books.”

This new adaptation features scenes of classic books being burned, as well as more contemporary titles. Media such as music and computers are also burned given today’s digital technology.

“I thought it would be a chance to modernize and re-imagine it for a world that includes the Internet and technology,” said Bahrani. “Because if I came to your home and burned all your physical books, I’m sure you would not be happy about it, but you could just download them again from the cloud.”

Bahrani went on to say how, during one shoot, a certain book they were filming close up burned in a very aesthetically pleasing way, similarly to how Bradbury describes the books burning in his novel. The book in question was actually Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, which Bahrani took as a good sign.

“Oddly, Bradbury [writes in ‘Fahrenheit 451’] about pages burning in a hypnotic or seductive way, how they curl up on each other. But the only time this actually happened [during filming] was actually Martian Chronicles. We were shooting a close-up of it burning and the page kept curling up, one page after the other.

“And it kept curling up by chance on the name ‘Bradbury’ over and over again, so we were filming his name burning one after another. It seemed like a good omen somehow, that he was watching over the shoot.”

The HBO adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 is set to be released tomorrow on May 19 and will be available on HBO GO.

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