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HomemoviesBringing a beloved Aussie book to the screen | Boy Swallows Universe | Netflix

Bringing a beloved Aussie book to the screen | Boy Swallows Universe | Netflix

Bringing a beloved Aussie book to the screen | Boy Swallows Universe | Netflix

The limited series Boy Swallows Universe brings to life one of Australia’s most beloved stories from author Trent Dalton. 

Loosely based on Dalton’s own childhood, the coming-of-age story shines a spotlight on 80s Brisbane suburbia and explores the harsh realities of adulthood. “I’ve swallowed that story for 20 years,” Dalton says. “The moment I spat that fear out in the form of a 400-page book, the universe came back to me and said, ‘This is why you’re here.’”

Dalton’s publishers at Harper Collins told him of the serious interest in adaptation rights for his book and connected him to actor and filmmaker Joel Edgerton. A two-hour conversation over coffee sealed the agreement, and the screen adaptation of Boy Swallows Universe was underway. 

Series director Bharat Nalluri adds, “Trent Dalton is our North Star. If we can capture just 10% of his hope, his joy and his light, we’ll have a fantastic TV show.” 

Recreating Dalton’s universe

Produced by Brouhaha Entertainment, Chapter One, and Anonymous Content, the show depicts both the madness and magic of Dalton’s text in a grounded but colorful way, with ripped-from-the-words sets, costumes and dialogue.

Production designer Michelle McGahey took a tour of Brisbane with Dalton to ensure the authenticity was reflected on screen. “What’s so exciting about this project is that it is quintessentially Australian, of a certain period, in a certain part of Australia,” she says. 

Many scenes take place at real-life locations mentioned in the book, including Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane City Hall Clock Tower, and Que Huong Restaurant, a Vietnamese establishment Dalton frequented throughout his life. Other sets were constructed to near-perfect likeness of those in Dalton’s life or how they are described in his novel. 

“[Trent] got quite emotional. We were more or less recreating his childhood, down to the school uniforms that the boys were wearing,” says Phoebe Tonkin, who plays Frances Bell.

A story as dark as it is hopeful, the name of the series and book encapsulates it all. Explaining how he came up with the title, Dalton says, “Boy Swallows Universe—the double meaning of that is you swallow the good stuff and you swallow the bad stuff and then you’ve got to spit it out as fireworks.” 

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