Books Movies

Origins of Chaos Walking

Patrick Ness’ celebrated first book in his Chaos Walking trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go, was published in 2008, and immediately drew attention for its central conceit – an inventive extrapolation of our world under siege from information overload. “It felt like we were already loud, especially if you’re a sensitive soul,” says the author, who also penned the best-selling novel A Monster Calls, as well as its film adaptation. “We now use technology and media to shout at each other and at the world. So, I thought, what if the next logical step was that you couldn’t get away from the shouting. It’s a terrifying idea because the brain is a messy place and The Noise is the living, breathing face of that mess.

“When teenagers read the Chaos Walking books, and when they see the film, they aren’t seeing a distant future. They’re seeing an emotional representation of their daily lives,” Ness sums up.

Among the books’ legions of fans was one Daisy Ridley, fresh off her turns as the heroic Rey in the recent Star Wars Trilogy, who says she “devoured” them upon being asked to portray Viola. “Like the books, our film is an amazing action-adventure, as well as a compelling look at gender politics,” Ridley notes. “What happens if something drastic happens to one gender and not the other? How does that affect the dynamics within a community? Viola and Todd are on a big adventure, but there is so much underneath that they’re figuring out.”

Moreover, Ridley appreciated how the story presents “a kind of emotional dystopia and an extension of today’s social media landscape, where people put things out into the world without perhaps thinking of the repercussions. The film reflects our current states of information overload and oversharing.”

Ness, in turn, appreciated Ridley’s enjoyment of his work, and was delighted when the actress approached him on the film’s set to discuss the books and her role. “That was a cool thing,” he recalls with a laugh.

The visionary filmmaker taking on these bold ideas and characters is Doug Liman, who brings a unique sensibility and perspective to building the world of Chaos Walking. He is well known for breaking the rules, and that, says Ness, “works perfectly for this story.”

Producer Erwin Stoff, who previously collaborated with Liman on Edge of Tomorrow, says that the filmmaker sought to make the friendship between Todd and Viola believable, as well as surprising and unconventional. “Doug is perfect for this film because he loves being challenged by relationships, and the Todd-Viola relationship is at the center of the story.”

Liman equally impressed his cast members, who admired his sometimes unconventional methods and collaborative spirit. “Doug likes to jump off the cliff without a safety net, and he takes that to a different level,” says Bichir. I admire his bravery.”

Oyelowo notes that the principal reason he wanted to work with Liman was his unique style in “brining intelligence to epic scale. There’s something going on beyond the spectacle. Also, he’s a true collaborator and a very instinctive filmmaker, with a high BS monitor. If something doesn’t feel right to Doug, he’ll change it in the moment.”

Christopher Ford, whom Liman brought in to co-write the script, calls Choas Walking, “a heightened sci-fi adventure about what happens when humans arrive on a planet, and due to some incredible circumstances, they fall from the high level of technology of Earth in the 26th century. But it’s really about a boy and girl trying to figure out how to interact with one another. It’s such a relatable theme, and that’s why it’s grabbed so many readers, especially young people, who are beginning to try and figure out all those things.”

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