‘Man in the High Castle’ turns history

Alternative history is always fascinating to consider. What if JFK hadn’t been assassinated? What if someone had killed baby Hitler?

Or what if the Allies had lost World War II? What would the United States be like in the aftermath?

That’s the question raised by science-fiction great Philip K. Dick in “The Man in the High Castle,” written and set in 1962. Dick imagined the war having lasted until 1947, with the Axis powers ultimately victorious. Fifteen years later, they rule a divided United States, with Japan controlling the west and the Nazis most of the east.

That chilling story took more than 50 years to come to the screen, but it arrives Friday on Amazon, adapted by Frank Spotnitz (“The X-Files”), with Ridley Scott as an executive producer. The ensemble cast includes Rufus Sewell, Rupert Evans, Alexa Davalos, Cary Tagawa, DJ Qualls and Luke Kleintank.

Isa Dick Hackett, Philip Dick’s daughter, was a driving force in bringing “The Man in the High Castle” to life. She and producer David W. Zucker approached Scott nine years ago, citing “an obvious association to ‘Blade Runner.’”

American TV initially wasn’t interested. “We took it around town,” Zucker told TV critics this summer in Los Angeles. “Obviously, eight or nine years ago, Amazon wasn’t even an option.”

The producers’ nine-year option on the book was about to expire when Amazon stepped in. By then, Spotnitz had written a two-hour premiere for “The Man in the High Castle” for Syfy, which ultimately passed.

Morgan Wandell, head of drama development for Amazon, asked Spotnitz, “Do you have anything you love that you haven’t gotten made?” And, Spotnitz concluded, “Here we are.”

Rather than just following the book, “The Man in the High Castle” will expand the scenario for a possible longer run.


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