Adaptations of Nineteen Eighty-Four

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George Orwell's dystopian political novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949, has been adapted for the cinema, radio, television, theatre, opera and ballet.

Film adaptations[edit]

1984 (1956)[edit]

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)[edit]

  • The second feature-length adaptation, Nineteen Eighty-Four, was directed by Michael Radford and was released in 1984. It is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the novel and was critically acclaimed. Many of the film's scenes were shot on the actual dates mentioned in the novel. For example, the scene in which Winston Smith writes the date "April 4, 1984" in his diary was filmed on April 4, 1984. The film's soundtrack was performed by the band Eurythmics and a single from it, "Sexcrime (1984)", was a hit in several countries. The film contained Richard Burton's last performance.

Me and the Big Guy (1999)[edit]

Me and the Big Guy is a 1999 short film by Matt Nix that parodies Nineteen Eighty-Four.

1984 (upcoming)[edit]

In March 2012 it was announced that a consortium of Hollywood production companies including Imagine Entertainment was set to reboot and make a new feature film based on the novel.[1][2] Reportedly the consortium secured rights from Orwell's estate. However, no further developments were revealed for some time. In November 2015, Paul Greengrass was attached to direct with Scott Rudin and Gina Rosenblum producing and James Graham writing the screenplay. Rudin and Greengrass had also previously worked together on Captain Phillips. Michael De Luca would oversee production of this version of 1984 film for the studio.[3]

In 2017, Graham began a rewrite of the film in response to the 2016 United States presidential election and Donald Trump's presidency, which had increased interest in the book. He claimed that the film would be released by 2019.[4][5] In 2020, Graham confirmed that the project had been postponed after they had difficulty writing a script, saying "Paul and I got very excited about it and then [we realized] it’s a difficult project. The book is just so bloody perfect, we started going: 'Let’s just pause for a second.' The world of surveillance and tech moves on so quickly, we just needed to have a broader view of it."[6]

Television adaptations[edit]

CBS's Studio One: 1984 (1953)[edit]

The first television version of Nineteen Eighty-Four appeared in CBS's Studio One series in 1953. In it American actor Eddie Albert played Winston Smith and Canadian Lorne Greene played O'Brien.[7]

Sunday Night Play: 1984 (1954)[edit]

The second television version was adapted by Nigel Kneale for the BBC as a Sunday-Night Play in 1954 featuring Peter Cushing as Smith, André Morell as O'Brien, Yvonne Mitchell as Julia and Donald Pleasence as Syme.

The World of George Orwell: 1984 (1965)[edit]

Kneale's 1954 adaptation was produced again by the BBC, with some modifications in 1965, directed by Christopher Morahan. Starring David Buck, Joseph O'Conor, Jane Merrow and Cyril Shaps, it was broadcast in BBC2's Theatre 625 anthology series as part of a season of Orwell adaptations sub-titled The World of George Orwell, on 28 November 1965. Long believed lost, on 12 September 2010 it was announced in the media that a copy had been located at the American Library of Congress, although an approximately seven-minute segment in the middle was damaged and unrecoverable from the NTSC videotape. It was found amongst a hoard of over 80 lost British television episodes dating from 1957 to 1970.

Radio adaptations[edit]

NBC: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)[edit]

The first radio broadcast of Nineteen Eighty-Four was a one-hour adaptation transmitted by the United States' NBC radio network at 9pm. on August 27, 1949 as number 55 in the series NBC University Theater, which adapted the world's great novels for broadcast; it starred David Niven as Smith.

NBC: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1953)[edit]

Another broadcast on the NBC radio network was made by The Theatre Guild on The Air on Sunday April 26, 1953 for The United States Steel Hour starring Richard Widmark as "Smith" and Marian Seldes as "Julia".[8]

MBN (Australia): Nineteen Eighty-Four (1955)[edit]

Vincent Price starred in an Australian radio adaptation produced on the Lux Radio Theatre by the Major Broadcasting Network in Sydney, Australia.[9]

BBC: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1965)[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the BBC Home Service produced a 90-minute version with Patrick Troughton and Sylvia Syms in the lead roles, first broadcast on October 11, 1965.

Pacifica Radio: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1975)[edit]

Between January 2 and February 7, 1975, the book was read over the air in its entirety by blacklisted writer and Pacifica Radio host Charles Morgan and legendary voiceover artist June Foray, with bridge music and some sound effects.[10] On June 27, 2017, the original recordings were simultaneously rebroadcast in a 15-hour marathon over all five Pacifica-owned stations.[11][12]

BBC: Nineteen Eighty-Four (2005)[edit]

In April and May 2005, BBC Radio 2 broadcast a reading of the novel in eight weekly parts.

BBC: Nineteen Eighty-Four (2013)[edit]

As part of the 2013 The Real George Orwell season, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a two-part adaptation starring Christopher Eccleston as Smith, Pippa Nixon as Julia and Tim Pigott-Smith as O'Brien on February 10 and 17.

Theater adaptations[edit]

The novel has been adapted for the stage several times, including by playwrights Alan Lyddiard and Michael Gene Sullivan. In 1976, a theater version of "1984" was produced in Teatar &TD, from Zagreb, former Yugoslavia. The performance, which also included CCTV monitoring system, was adapted and directed by Nenad Puhovski. It created some political controversies, but was never banned.[13]

A 2013 adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan for the Headlong theater company, which took the novel's Newspeak appendix as its starting point, has toured the UK extensively, as well as played commercially in the West End. A Broadway production began previews 18 May and opened on 22 June 2017 at the Hudson Theatre,[14] while an Australian production began a six-city limited tour from 13 May 2017.[15]

An early unproduced Jonathan Larson musical, Superbia, was loosely based on 1984.[16]

Operatic adaptation[edit]

The opera 1984 was composed by Lorin Maazel and directed by Robert Lepage. The libretto is by Tom Meehan, who worked on The Producers, and JD McClatchy, professor of poetry at Yale University. The opera premiered on May 3, 2005 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Ballet adaptation[edit]

In 2015 Leeds-based Northern Ballet commissioned choreographer Jonathan Watkins to create a ballet version of the George Orwell novel.[17] In 2016 the ballet was filmed for television and streaming online by The Space[18] and it was broadcast on BBC Four on 28 February 2016.[19] Music for the production was by Alex Baranowski, sets & costume designs were by Simon Daw, and lighting was by Chris Davey[20] (which was nominated for a Knights of Theatre Award).[21]


  1. ^ "Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four forecast for Hollywood remake". The Guardian. 22 March 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  2. ^ "George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' film adaptation on horizon". The Telegraph. 22 March 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  3. ^ "Paul Greengrass Eyes George Orwell's '1984'; 'Finding Neverland's James Graham To Write Script". Deadline. 19 November 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Trump hanging over it, the new 1984 film adaptation gets a rewrite". Independent. 4 April 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  5. ^ "In Trump Era, '1984' Is the Hottest Literary Property in Hollywood". The Hollywood Reporter. 3 April 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  6. ^ Kanter, Jake (2020-02-28). "James Graham Adapting Rupert Murdoch Play 'Ink' With Bron; Parks '1984' Collaboration With Paul Greengrass". Deadline. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
  7. ^ "The Bootleg Files: "1984″". Film Threat. 17 September 2004. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  8. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. Vol. 41 no. 2. Spring 2015. pp. 32–41.
  9. ^ "2UE: Lux Radio Theatre: Nineteen Eighty-Four (starring Vincent Price)".
  10. ^ "1984 / by George Orwell; read by Charles Morgan and June Foray; produced by Paul Vangelisti. | Pacifica Radio Archives".
  11. ^ "1984 on KPFA". June 14, 2017.
  12. ^ "Episodes".
  13. ^ " - Teatar &TD". Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  14. ^ Paulson, Michael (3 February 2017). "'1984,' the Hot Book of the Trump Era, Is Coming to Broadway". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  15. ^ Blake, Jason (4 May 2017). "1984: Learning to love Big Brother". Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  16. ^ "mtishows". Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  17. ^ "George Orwell's 1984 is not 'too dark' to be made into a ballet". The Independent. August 28, 2015.
  18. ^ "It's 1984. But not as you remember it". The Space. April 8, 2016.
  19. ^ "BBC Four - Northern Ballet: 1984". BBC.
  20. ^ "1984 Creative Team". Northern Ballet.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-01-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]