Vincenzo Natali Shares Why He Brought The Peripheral to Streaming
Dec 21, 2022
The new Prime Video science fiction series The Peripheral has been acclaimed by fans of hard, intellectual sci-fi for its deep themes, bleak yet visionary view of the future, and masterful imagery. However, most fans and critics only highlight one part of its artistic success — writer Scott B. Smith and Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, creators of the equally bold sci-fi show Westworld. For instance, The Guardian writes in their review, “Westworld creators’ new sci-fi is brilliant,” but they don’t mention Vincenzo Natali, the director who actually optioned the rights to The Peripheral novel from William Gibson.
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The filmmaker behind philosophical masterpieces like Cube, Nothing, and Cypher worked with Joy and Nolan before when he directed episodes of Westworld. Now, he’s directing four episodes of The Peripheral, including its ambitious pilot, which introduces the aesthetic and tone of the whole series. Natali, who also executive produces the show, spoke with MovieWeb about his love for Gibson and why he wanted to adapt the novel.
Vincenzo Natali on Adapting William Gibson For Prime Video
The Peripheral is a high-concept sci-fi series about virtual reality and the impoverished future, and a woman named Flynne (Chloë Grace Moretz) who becomes inextricably involved in a fight not just for her family, but for humanity. “I was trying to introduce them to William Gibson,” said Natali, and it’s perhaps as simple as that. “I so desperately wanted the texture of his writing to be realized on the screen. I feel like there have been William Gibson adaptations in the past, but none of them really successfully captured that. I just love his writing. I think it has a quality that feels so textured, and layered, and complicated, and therefore so real.”
Related: The Peripheral Review: Epic Sci-Fi From the Makers of Westworld
Natali’s love for Gibson led him and his producing partner Steven Hoban to pursue The Peripheral. “Shortly after Steve and I optioned the book, I happened to direct my first episode of Westworld,” said Natali. “And I was like, maybe I’ll send the book to them. And within 24 hours, they got back to me and said, ‘Yeah, we want to make this our next thing completely.’ I did not expect it, and it was so wonderful. They’ve been really courageous. I know for a fact there’s no way this would have been made without them […] because the book unto itself is by design somewhat impenetrable.” Natali continued to praise Gibson, Joy, and Nolan:
Gibson’s thing is, he brings you into this world like a tourist without a guidebook or a map and you The reader must find their way, much as if the book had not been written about the future, but was written as if it came from the future, which lends this tremendous sense of authenticity to it, but does not make it easy to read […] So I 100% must thank them for having the foresight and ability to pull it off, and to support bringing that vision to the screen. I think they really wanted to see Gibson properly adapted.
The Long Process of Making The Peripheral
Believe it or not, Natali’s journey to get The Peripheral to the screen began before the first episode of the visually stunning Westworld even aired on HBO. “It was a long process,” admitted Natali. “From the time that my producing partner and I optioned the book to this moment, it’s been about seven years. So there was a lot of time, in a good way, to sort of simulate it and think about the design and the approach.”
“So with the help and support of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy and Scott Smith, who wrote the adaptation, we really tried to give it a sense of lived reality both in the near future that Flynne inhabits and the far future of London.” As a director, in order to accomplish that sense of an organic, naturally developed world, Natali and the crew decided on a few key approaches. He elaborated:
Shoot as much on location as we could, and do a minimum of digital effects work. And not be overly Baroque in our future world-building, and if anything be sort of subtractive in creating these environments, and letting London play London. London is a fascinating place and let Clanton [North Carolina] play Clanton, because it’s also a fascinating place, and find the parallels between these two worlds which are so incredibly different from one another, and yet are somehow kind of a weird twisted mirror reflection of each other.
It may have been a lengthy journey, but the destination is wholly worthwhile; the result is a grand, unique epic with a more realistic and class-conscious view of the future than we often see, and is one of the best Prime Video series this year. Produced by Kilter Films, Amazon Studios, and Warner Bros. Television, The Peripheral is available on Prime Video beginning Oct. 21st.
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