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Ben Wheatley reveals six objects that inspired the look of 'High-Rise'

The director chooses six objects that inspired his dystopian drama starring Tom Hiddleston

With his adaptation of JG Ballard’s dystopian sci-fi novel ‘High-Rise’, director Ben Wheatley heads back to the future. Specifically, the future as seen from the mid-1970s, a time of shag carpets, sleek skyscrapers and galloping social strife. Without wallowing in nostalgia, Wheatley nails the mood of the era: if you were born after 1979, this might be the closest you’ll get to time travel. We asked the director to select a handful of objects that inspired the film’s unique look.

Trimline Phone

Trimline Phone

‘We gathered a lot of props for the film, and many of them really resonated with me. This was the phone that was on my Mum’s bedside table – the angular, ’70s model specifically. When you hold an object like this in your hand, something you haven’t seen for a long time, it can provoke a lot of memories. I was quite misty-eyed!’

S.O.S. by Abba

S.O.S. by Abba

‘I’m a massive Abba fan. I don’t have a room full of memorabilia or anything, but I listen to them a lot. They’re not an ironic hipstery joke to me, I have a heartfelt love for their music and I wanted to hear it in my film. They stood out as artists from the rest of the crap in the charts, and the lyrics are incredibly sad and grown up. My memories of Abba are tied to memories of ‘Eurovision’. I only went to Europe once as a kid, to Dieppe for a day trip. It was all very exotic.’

Stag car

Stag car

‘My Dad had one of these. In a world of Ferraris and Mercedes, this British effort really stands out. Cars now are all just one shape, but this was a snubby, sawn-off beast, the E-type Jag’s untrendy brother. Someone moaned that we should have used more colourful cars in ‘High-Rise’, but there weren’t that many colours! You had brown, orange, white, black… that was basically it.’

Public Health Films

Public Health Films

‘In the ’70s, the atmosphere of fear was all-pervading. There was the threat of nuclear apocalypse, bombings and hijackings and terrorist carryings-on. And there were public health videos about being killed by everything. If you had any fun at all, if you flew a kite or threw a Frisbee or went near a building site something would fall and crush your skull. If you went near a railway you’d be eviscerated. If a stranger looked at you funny you’d be dead. Whenever I think back I feel a twinge of terror.’

Action Comic

Action Comic

‘Not to be confused with the American comic where ‘Superman’ started. This was the British precursor to 2000AD. It was a boy’s comic that was eventually banned – the tabloids called it the “seven-penny horror”. They had a strip called Kids Rule OK, in which kids took over and rampaged about. They had one about football hooligans. You can see a kid reading it in “High Rise”. It’s so anarchic. I’ve been reading comics with my son, and you realise how anodyne culture for kids is now.’



‘Kaleidoscopes were a legitimate toy for children in the ’70s. A wondrous bit of magic you could hold in your hand! Which seems a bit naïve today, in a world where kids are straight on an ipad as soon as they can use their hands. But I found them amazing as a kid, you’d look into it and you’d see something incredible. We use a prism lens in the film, to try and recreate the look of the kaleidoscope.’

Read our review of 'High-Rise'


3 out of 5 stars

Ben Wheatley's beautifully-crafted JG Ballard adaptation is deliciously retro but tough to connect with.

Read more

Read an interview with Tom Hiddleston