It’s perhaps understandable that all of the increased attention being paid to Atlas Shrugged has led to another round of speculation about a movie adaption:
Hollywood could soon be going Objectivist.
After decades in development hell, Ayn Rand’s capitalism-minded “Atlas Shrugged” is taking new steps toward the big screen — with one of the film world’s most prominent money men potentially at its center.
Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media is circling the Baldwin Entertainment project and could come aboard to finance with Lionsgate, which got involved several years ago.
Rand’s popular but polarizing book — it’s derided by many literary critics but has a huge public following — tells the story of Dagny Taggart, a railroad executive trying to keep her corporation competitive in the face of what she perceives as a lack of innovation and individual responsibility.
A number of stars have expressed serious interest in playing the lead role of Taggart. Angelina Jolie previously had been reported as a candidate to play the strong female lead, but the list is growing and now includes Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway.
Although it was written a half-century ago, producers say that the book’s themes of individualism resonate in the era of Obama, government bailouts and stimulus packages — making this the perfect time to bring the 1,100-page novel to the big screen.
“This couldn’t be more timely,” said Karen Baldwin, who along with husband Howard is producing, with film industry consultant John Logigian advising on the project. “It’s uncanny what Rand was able to predict — about the only things she didn’t anticipate are cell phones and the Internet.”
The article goes on to note that producers would like to start before next year due to the fact that the movie rights will revert to Rand’s estate at that point, and they have been notoriously picky about what an Atlas movie would look like:
An “Atlas Shrugged” movie has gone through endless development fits and starts. Faye Dunaway and Clint Eastwood had been attached to earlier versions — if that doesn’t give you an idea of how far back it goes, we don’t know what will — but with both Rand and the Rand estate very particular about how the story was handled, those iterations didn’t get traction.
This decade, Howard Baldwin and Philip Anschutz were on board to produce at their Crusader Entertainment banner, but that effort didn’t take flight. The Baldwins took the project with them when the “Ray” producers split from Anschutz several years ago and pacted with the high net-worth figure, who is said to especially like the timeliness of the book’s message.
The Rand involvement on earlier versions — along with the verbiage-heavy sections — is probably why there hasn’t been a Rand project on the big screen in 60 years, not since Gary Cooper played Howard Roark in Warner Bros.’ “The Fountainhead.” With some big-time entrepeneurs potentially coming board, there now may be a lot less shrugging and a lot more shooting.
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, you know, pardon me for being skeptical now.
For the moment I still stand by what I wrote three 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.