Netflix’s Boy Swallows Universe is Based On An Interesting Semi-Autobiographical Novel

By Louie Fecou
Published: December 13, 2023 (Last updated: January 11, 2024)
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What is Netflix's Boy Swallows Universe based on?
Boy Swallows Universe | Image via Netflix

Boy Swallows Universe is a coming-of-age story, set in Brisbane in 1985, that follows young Eli and his brother Gus, as they try their best to navigate their way through a world filled with terrible role models, drug dealers, domestic abuse, and poverty. The eight-episode series was filmed in Australia and stars Felix Cameron and Lee Tiger Halley as the two brothers. Boy Swallows Universe is an adaptation of a semiautobiographical novel, and the author, Trent Dalton, was also involved in the series.

What is Netflix’s Boy Swallows Universe based on?

The series was written by John Collee, but it is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Trent Dalton. Dalton was a former journalist that has dabbled in film and TV before. The novel was written in 2018 and is a semi-autobiographical book that features some recollections from Dalton’s own experiences as a child.

By May 2019, the TV rights to adapt the story for Boy Swallows Universe were acquired by Anonymous Content, Chapter One, and Hopscotch Features. In March 2022, it was announced that Netflix was commissioning an eight-episode series based on the book, and in August of the same year, the cast was announced and production began.

Is Boy Swallows Universe based on a true story?

The novel, and by extension the TV series, is semi-autobiographical, meaning that there may be instances in the story that are based on author Dalton’s own experiences, growing up in Brisbane in the 1980s.

However, the actual story is more of a work of fiction. In interviews, Dalton pretty much admits that the story as it plays out is fiction. However, there are no doubt many characters and events that have been inspired by things that the writer lived through as a child.

Who is Trent Dalton?

Trent Dalton, author of Boy Swallows Universe

Trent Dalton | Image via The Times

Dalton was born in Australia in 1979 and became a journalist and writer. He was the youngest of four brothers, and lived in a dysfunctional family situation, with his mother and stepfather both becoming heavily involved with drugs. When his mother was incarcerated, he would go to live with his father and take steps to make a better life for himself, studying to be a journalist.

With this knowledge of his younger life, it is easy to see where the inspiration for the novel, and show, came from. Dalton is now married and has two daughters.

What else did Trent Dalton write?

In 2011 Dalton would publish a collection of profiles that he had written that focused on homeless people. After this collection, entitled Detours: Stories from the Street, he would work on Boy Swallows Universe, which would see print in 2018. His output increased after this, releasing All Our Shimmering Skies in 2020, his second novel, and in October 2023, he published his third book, Lola in the Mirror.

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