“Atlas Shrugged” Movie To Go Into Production?
For almost two decades, Hollywood has tried unsuccessfully to turn Ayn Rand’s 1100 page classic Atlas Shrugged into a feature film with actresses ranging from Angelina Jolie to Charlize Theron to Faye Dunaway. John Aglialoro, the entrepreneur who 17 years ago paid $1 million to option the book rights, is tired of the futility and is taking matters into his own hands. He’s announced that he is financing a June 11 production start in Los Angeles for the first of what he said will be four films made from the book.
Aglialoro, who had a hand in writing the script by Brian O’Tool, is taking on this ambitious plan with an unproven director, and is weeks away from production without stars to play Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden, John Galt and the other roles. He’s moving forward despite the conventional wisdom that without stars, it could ultimately be the audience that shrugged.
Atlas Shrugged will be directed by Stephen Polk, an actor/producer whose father, Louis Polk, was once MGM chairman. He considers Atlas Shrugged to be his feature directing debut, though Polk acknowledges he stepped in and helmed the 2008 indie Baggage. Aglialoro was unavailable to speak directly, but sent a missive indicating that he’s courting actresses like Theron and Maggie Gyllenhaal to play Taggart. Sources in the camps of both actresses were aware of the project, but neither is planning to go to work on Atlas Shrugged next month.
Normally, when there is such a rush to begin production, it’s to keep an option on material from expiring.
That is exactly the situation here, actually, since the rumors (unconfirmed as always) are that the current movie rights granted by the Rand estate expire sometime before the end of 2010. If they start production on the movie, they will have preserved their option.
We’ve seen all this before, many times. Back in 1972, the man who produced The Godfather approached Rand about bringing the book to life on the screen. Rand reacted to the offer in a manner that can only be described as strange. Three years ago, I wrote about the reports that Atlas would come to the screen as a Lord of the Rings-type trilogy. One year later, it was clear that the project was not getting off the ground. Then, we learned that the project might be off the ground with a new director, only to learn a month later that maybe it was a the trilogy that was moving forward.
So, personally, I still stand by what I wrote four years ago:
The time has come to face it. There will never be a movie, miniseries, or DVD. Atlas Shrugged is a novel of ideas, and novels about ideas do not translate well to the big, or small, screen. To the extent that there is value in the message of Atlas Shrugged, I fear it would be diminished by any effort to bring the novel itself to life.
Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong, but I doubt it.