Is 'Self/less' Based On A True Story? Not Quite, But It Bears A Striking Resemblance To A Certain Kurt Vonnegut Story

One of my nerdier qualities is my love of psychological science fiction thrillers. So when I saw the trailer for Self/Less, Tarsem Singh's new film starring Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds, I was as excited as a little kid on Christmas morning. This movie has everything that makes my little heart geek out: awesome futuristic technology, the opportunity to see Ryan Reynolds shirtless, and explorations on the idea of consciousness, based around the transplantation of one's consciousness into another's body. The concept is incredibly fascinating, and may prompt some to wonder: is Self/less based on a true story? 

No, you guys, it's not. We haven't quite gotten to that level of medical technology yet (although neuroscientist Dr. Sergio Canavero has proposed that the first head transplant could be performed as early as 2017). So what are the origins of the plot of Self/less? While not officially a remake/adaptation of any one work, the movie bears resemblance to multiple other films. The most notably similar work is the 1966 science fiction film Seconds starring Rock Hudson. Like Self/lessSeconds is about a man who undergoes surgery to obtain a new body (and therefore a new life), although the given circumstances are different. 

The previews of Self/less have provoked some online chatter about the originality of the film since its premise is so close to that of Seconds (which, interestingly, is itself based on a novel). That being said, Singh's film is also reminiscent of several other science fiction/dystopian pieces. For example, Michael Bay's The Island also took place in a future where healthy, youthful bodies were created and maintained in order to *spoiler alert* be harvested for their organs for wealthy individuals. And that movie was also claimed by many parties to be based on a variety of different dystopian films, such as Logan's RunClonusThe Island of Dr. Moreau, and more.

Self/less also, in my opinion, bears a striking resemblance to the Kurt Vonnegut short story "Unready to Wear," and many other Vonnegut stories, for that matter. So the moral of the story is that, while Self/less is definitely not based on any extreme medical experiments currently being performed in the real world, it draws inspiration from decades of science fiction and dystopian films and literature.

Here's where Self/less differs from the others, though. The film revolves around Damian (Kingsley), a super-smart, super-successful billionaire living in New York. He's dying of cancer, however, and his prognosis seems bleak until he's offered the chance (by a suspiciously smooth British professor in rimmed glasses, obviously) to undergo a procedure that will make him immortal. The operation involves the transplantation of Damian's consciousness from his failing body into a younger man's healthy body — which the professor assures him is an "empty vessel." In his new physical form, Damian experiences life in a way he hasn't been able to in years (cue montage of fast cars, palatial views, hot sex, etc). Things are picturesque — that is, until memories start to resurface that lead Damian to suspect that the body wasn't an empty vessel after all, but may have in fact belonged to another conscious being. 

Pretty cool, right? No matter its inspiration, it's clear that Self/less (out Jul 10) is a must-see for sci-fi fans everywhere.

Images: Focus Features (2); Giphy

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