For almost two decades Hollywood has failed to adapt Ayn Rand’s 1,100 page epic Atlas Shrugged, which tells the story of Dagny Taggart, an industrialist struggling in a dystopian America where society’s most enterprising innovators, led by the enigmatic John Galt, are disappearing in response to an increasingly centralized, socialist government. Despite attracting a number of potential big stars over the years – Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, the list goes on – the project has continually stalled.
However, entrepreneur John Aglialoro, who bought the rights to the book back in 1992 for one million dollars, now plans to begin work on the film himself, though he still has no cast. Aglialoro, who helped pen the script with writer Brian O’Tool, is reportedly moving ahead with novice director Stephen Polk. Though Aglialoro claims he’s working to court Charlize Theron or Maggie Gyllenhaal for the role of Taggart, neither is yet confirmed.
Undeterred, Polk says they plan to push ahead with production even if they can’t attract A-list talent. “For more than 15 years, this has been at studios and there has been a whole dance around who’ll play the iconic roles,” said Polk. “Everybody is saying, how can you shoot this movie without a star? We’re shooting it because it’s a good movie with great characters. We’ve been in pre-production for months, but kept it a mystery.”
Of course, it is not unheard of for independent films to get off the ground in this manner. But the parallels between Aglialoro’s uncompromising gusto in undertaking this project independently and the individualist ethos of Rand’s work make this quixotic endeavor particularly intriguing. Still, the rush to begin production could just be a ploy to keep an option on the material from expiring.
Although Rand’s Atlas Shrugged has been lauded by a diverse readership since its publication in 1957, it’s interesting timing in liberal Hollywood for a story that has historically appealed to conservative and libertarian readers. Even if the film flops, one wonders if the story’s message could be co-opted by the burgeoning ‘tea-party’ movement. Stay tuned.