Waaay back in the day (circa 2008), Alexander Payne was mounting a new ambitious socio-political satire with sci-fi-ish elements called “Downsizing.” It was set in a not-too-distant future world where scientists had learned to shrink human beings down to miniature size in hopes that all of society would follow and that the depletion of Earth’s natural resources would slow down for millions of years (everything would be small, the carbon footprint included).
The cast of that early iteration was to star Paul Giamatti, Sacha Baron Cohen, Meryl Streep, Gong Li and one Reese Witherspoon from Payne’s “Election.” Fast forward almost seven years and Payne made two movies in the interim, “The Descendants” and “Nebraska.” Of course, now he’s back on the hill making “Downsizing” again, this time with Matt Damon in the lead. But at least one actor named in the original cast is back. Deadline reports that Reese Witherspoon, having a comeback year with “Wild,” appearances in “Inherent Vice” and other smaller dramas in 2014, has rejoined the fold.
Here’s a kind of long form synopsis we wrote when we read “Downsizing” eons ago.
“Downsizing,” after all, starts off in Norway and takes place in a not-too-distant future where humans are now able to shrink themselves to 1/8 their size as a means to battle over-consumption and the rapid depletion of earth’s natural resources, thanks to enlightened hippie-like Scandinavian scientists. “Smalls” get small, then become members of small cities (the main characters moves to a city called Leisureland) protected by large nets (keeps the bugs out) and built like Disney‘s Celebration Town (all planned, all pre-fabricated). Small people cash-in their savings and retire small; 1 big dollar equals 500 small dollars. Smalls live on less food, less land, and produce less trash. As the story progresses, Americans are free to get small, but in Europe, where resources are beginning to truly run out, legislation arises suggesting 40% of the population get shrunk (whether they like it or not). For the big, the world grows smaller and scarier; for the small, the world grows bigger and scarier.
Romance and drama ensue. In the original version, Witherspoon was the lead’s romantic interest and presumably she’ll take on that same role again. Payne shelved “Downsizing” — a project he once described as his “epic masterpiece,” by the way — for years because of the learning curve, prep and the “time suck of pre-visualization and visual effects and all that kind of stuff.” “Downsizing” might be coming back, but it still sounds a ways off. Damon has to shoot the next ‘Bourne‘ movie first and last we heard production wouldn’t commence until the fall of this year.
1/8/15 Update: Megan Ellison‘s Annapurna Pictures has come aboard as producers (a surefire sign this movie’s going to get made). New cast members include Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Sudeikis. [Deadline]