Atlas Shrugged  Movie Update #96874

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Apparently popular opposition to the bailout may help to kickstart the perpetually-approaching-but-never-arriving Atlas Shrugged movie, which is now being pitched as an anti-bailout movie. (Conical hat tip to Stephan Kinsella.)

Roberts as Dagny?That makes a fair bit of sense; for while both its critics (recently, e.g., Stephen Colbert) and its fans (recently, e.g., the loony Objectivist anti-tipping movement) have often read the book as championing the capitalist class against the proletariat, it actually champions the productive (in both classes) against the parasitic (in both classes); several of the book’s chief villains – most notably James Taggart and Orren Boyle – are wealthy industrialists who are eager lobbyists for special government privileges; and one of Dagny’s chief battles is against regulators who are trying to do her company (well, her brother’s company) a favour by putting its rivals out of business. So it’s really an anti-corporatist novel. (That’s not to say that Atlas isn’t still open to criticism from a left-libertarian perspective; sure it is, in various ways. But that’s another story.) So the present political climate would indeed be a great time for the movie.

Another factor moving the project forward is the need to start production before the rights revert to the Rand estate. That’s a major desideratum, since these days the estate probably wouldn’t approve any film version unless Galt’s Gulch was represented as being ringed by thousands of severed Muslim heads on pikes.

Evidently casting ideas for Dagny are now extending beyond Angelina Jolie, which is probably a good thing too. Jolie’s involvement was a plus to the extent that it made the film likelier to get made, but she never struck me as the right type for the role. Others being considered include Charlize Theron (whose name was once assigned to another never-produced Rand film project, The Husband I Bought), Anne Hathaway, and Julia Roberts – none of whom seem quite right either (though I think I could be persuaded re Roberts; I’ll wait until I see Duplicity to decide).

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21 Responses to Atlas Shrugged  Movie Update #96874

  1. Brad Spangler April 1, 2009 at 2:01 pm #

    I’d like to see the role go to Milla Jovovich.

    She could be “Action Dagny” with tight leather outfits, dark sunglasses and lots of guns!

  2. James April 1, 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    I agree with the Batman: the animated series setting, it feels like the 40s, but could be any (quasi-modern) where or time. Something subdued, yet shiny and backlit. I enjoyed the cityscape found in Jackson’s King Kong and the wide screen serenity found in The Assassination of Jesse James…

    If I were casting Dagny, the two scenes that the actor would have to nail would be Dagny’s confidence when instructing the engineer of The Comet to pull through the busted stop light and her desperate need for Dan Conway to know she had nothing to do with “anti-dog eat dog.”


    • Roderick April 1, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

      Note to puzzled readers: James’s reference to Batman is to something I said in the comments section of the L & P version of this post.

  3. John April 1, 2009 at 5:52 pm #

    I always pictured Dagny as looking similar to Jodie Foster. I think Jodie Foster is too old to play her now, but at one point I think she would have been perfect.

  4. Roderick April 1, 2009 at 6:08 pm #

    I can’t think of any actress who seems just right, but Foster used to be on my list of plausible candidates.

    Cate Blanchett is still on my list, not because of her appearance so much as her ability to lose herself in a character (for example, she looks nothing like Katharine Hepburn but did an excellent job as Hepburn in The Aviator).

    I’ve suggested Daniel Craig before for Rearden. The rumor is they’re planning to leave out the character of Francisco (aaaugh! aaugh! yes). I have no idea how to cast Galt.

  5. Chris Baker April 1, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    When do the rights to go back to Ayn Rand’s estate? What will Piekoff and his cronies do if the rights do back to the estate?

    We might see this. However, I also have concerns about what it will look like. I have a feeling that established Hollywood will butcher the story completely. I would rather see it not be made than see a movie which doesn’t respect the novel.

    _Passion of Ayn Rand_ is a classic example of a movie adaptation that should never have been made. I’m surprised it didn’t get any Razzie nominations.

    I stand by my prediction that AS will only become a film or video as a bootleg or after the rights go public. It won’t be a big Hollywood studio with million-dollar actors. And the story doesn’t need that.

    It will be someone like Kevin Smith who made _Clerks_ on a $25,000 budget. You could probably find a good Dagny for $5000 or $10,000. In fact, that kind of person is the kind of person that AS celebrates.

    AS provides a great argument for why all intellectual property should die when its creator dies.

    • Roderick April 1, 2009 at 7:27 pm #

      When do the rights to go back to Ayn Rand’s estate?

      According to the article, rights “would revert to the Rand estate if production doesn’t begin by the end of 2010.”

      I’m surprised it didn’t get any Razzie nominations

      Mirren’s performance would surely protect it from such.

  6. James April 2, 2009 at 12:00 am #

    Sorry to create a puzzle.

    I agree that Cate Blanchett (or Hilary Swank), based on prior performances, could develop the requisite self-assurance and vulnerability to fulfill my test scenes.

    I like the way Dagny is portrayed here.

    “…her posture taut, as if she resented immobility, and unfeminine, as if she were unconscious of her own body and that it was a woman’s body.”


  7. Stephan Kinsella April 2, 2009 at 12:15 am #

    I’ve always envisioned Dagny to look a bit like Pamela Sue Martin, of Dynasty and Nancy Drew fame. Go figure.

  8. William H Stoddard April 2, 2009 at 9:41 am #

    I’ve never had a favorite for Dagny, but I used to think that if I were casting the film I’d try to get Denzil Washington for Hank Rearden. Though he may be getting a bit old for the part. . . .

    *He conveys gravitas as well as any actor currently working.

    *A lot of Hank Rearden’s attitudes . . . particularly his guilt-driven view of sex and his adherence to a traditional masculine work ethic . . . would make sense in terms of black cultural patterns.

    *Think of the symbolic punch of the “chain” motif in a portrayal of a black man, especially if he were married to a liberal white woman.

  9. Bob Kaercher April 2, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    “[T]he estate probably wouldn’t approve any film version unless Galt’s Gulch was represented as being ringed by thousands of severed Muslim heads on pikes.” LOL!!!

    My vote for Dagny is Theron. I just don’t see Hathaway or Roberts in that role. I’ve seen Theron supply some edge before. She could do it. Though I actually think Brad’s suggestion of Milla Jovovich is a good one, too.

    I’d cast a vote for Daniel Craig as Rearden as well.

  10. Matt Meadows April 3, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    I dunno, Demi Moore always came to mind as Dagny (to each his own)

    Ayn Rand’s central premise is often missed (or misunderstood). Her central premise is that Collectivism (i.e. Socialism) can only succeed upon the back of Capitalism. Her story line is that the “Nuclear Option” for Capitalists is to “Shrug”. John Galt is the man who convinces the Capitalists to do it.

    A quote from “Atlas Shrugged” that explains all:
    If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the rest of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders–what would you tell him to do?”
    “I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?”
    “To shrug.”

  11. James April 3, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    @Matt Meadows:

    I don’t know, I guess it depends on your POV and not getting hung up on signs over references. Back foul zaxlebax, back!

    One could, as I prefer, claim that Ayn Rand’s central premise is that Capitalism (as Thomas Hodgskin coined the phrase) can only succeed upon the back of Socialism (in B.R. Tucker’s sense). Her story line is that the “Nuclear Option” for the Industrial Class is to “Shrug” (or General Strike). John Galt is the man who calls for solidarity, “No war, but class war!”

    “There is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.” –Ayn Rand

    At least this is where I am.


  12. William H Stoddard April 5, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    In reference to the quotation about Atlas holding the world on his shoulders, I see over on Liberty and Power that William Marina has objected to this image, saying that what Atlas holds up is not the world but the sky. It’s true that this is how it’s described in the classical legend of the twelve labors of Herakles. But I recently had occasion to look into the history of maps and globes, and I discovered that the first globes were made ca. 150 B.C., and a sculpture dated 140 B.C., the Farnese Atlas, was the first to show Atlas holding up the Earth rather than the sky. So I suppose that Rand, a very visual thinker with a love of classical sculpture, was thinking of the statue more than the older story. I am a bit surprised, actually, that Marina didn’t check into this before posting.

    • Roderick April 5, 2009 at 12:19 am #

      2 sources of the confusion: a) There were also some early representations of Atlas holding up a globe-shaped representation of the sky; b) the Greek word for “sky” is the same as the Greek word for “world” — but “world” in the sense of the entire cosmos, not in the sense of Earth.

      • William H Stoddard April 5, 2009 at 9:23 am #

        Which Greek word do you have in mine? My copy of Liddell and Scott gives “world” or “universe” as meanings of kosmos (and compares Latin mundus) and “sky” or “heaven” or “firmament” as meanings of ouranos (and cites Atlas in the latter context); it doesn’t look as if either word has both meanings. Is there some other word that I’m not thinking of? (It’s hard to search a one-way Greek-to-English dictionary. . . .)

        • Roderick April 8, 2009 at 1:18 am #

          I meant ouranos — which Aristotle, e.g., uses sometimes to mean the outer sphere that contains everything, and sometimes to mean the outer sphere plus everything it contains.

  13. Sarah April 7, 2009 at 10:53 pm #

    I picture Dagny as looking like Jennifer Connelly. (Cate Blanchett is a great actor and could probably do a wonderful job too.) Daniel Craig is the only possible choice for Rearden.

    (I never thought Rand’s books worked well as philosophy; I think she was a good didactic fantasist. It’s excellent wish-fulfillment for a lonesome math-geek girl. The funny thing is, I developed “personal style” by deciding to walk into clothing stores and ask myself “What would Dagny Taggart wear?” I’ve gotten compliments from friends on looking “sharp” — little do they know I’m just channeling an Objectivist heroine.)

    Anyhow, it’s too much to hope for, but I’d like a sort of retro-futuristic aesthetic for the movie; sort of like WPA posters, red lipstick and trench coats, trains like bullets made of mercury, hulking skyscrapers.

    • Roderick April 8, 2009 at 2:07 am #

      Agree on the aesthetic. Also, Edward Hopper’s paintings (like these) always remind me of Atlas.

  14. John Galt April 12, 2009 at 11:15 pm #

    Ok, where to start?

    I need to say first, that I actually have read Atlas Shrugged. I, also, agree this would be better served as a series of films, like the Lord of the Rings. Randall Wallace did a great job with Braveheart, but not to many people will be willing to sit through a four hour movie about Railroads. However, stranger things have happened. I’d love to have Peter Jackson direct this. He did such a great job with LOR and he has a mind to look at power as being evil. He is capable of doing a multi part series and making it profitable! After all it is about the money first and the message next!

    I have to agree with others here that Angelina Jolie doesn’t strike me as a Dagny Taggart type, neither does Roberts. Cate Blanchet is much to austere. Jennfier Connley, does she appear to be the strong I’m gonna control a huge corporate entity type? Anne Hathaway might be able to, but from what I remember Dagny was lithe and brunette with a great mind. I believe only two individuals in the list fit that characterization (not to say Blanchet, Connley, Jolie or Roberts do not have great minds!). Charleze and Anne. While I really do like Anne, my vote is for Charleze! The first thing to remember here is, it does not matter what the actor/actress politics are, all that matters is do you think they are good enough thespians to do the job right? After seeing some of Theron’s work, i believe she is the right person to play Dagny. She has all the right traits, she’s smart, she’s lithe, she can be brunette and she is stunningly beautiful. Now a bit of regression, if this picture was being made 10 years ago, i’d nominate Valerie Bertinelli, have you seen this woman recently? O M G! she’s 48 and looks 38. Sheesh, I really do hope she never comes to Memphis, I’d get in sooooo much trouble!

    Russel Crowe as Hank Rearden would be perfect. Daniel Craig does not have the mind to play this role. he is British and is a SUBJECT TO SLAVERY TO THE CROWN OF SAID GOVERNMENT and in my opinion doesn’t have the thespian ability to play a man bucking against tyranny. after all he is the NEW GOVERNMENT LICENSED KILLER BOND KILL YOU BOND. I think that Vigo Mortensen would be perfect as John Galt. But what about Francisco d’Anconia? or Ellis Wyatt? I have in mind for D’Anconia, Enrique Iglesias, it would be a great opportunity for him and maybe prove his acting ability. That along with making the film popular in the Latin American nations! My vote for Wyatt would be Kevin Bacon and Ragnar Danneskjöld.? Why not have Christian Bale? John Travolta would be great as Wesley Mouch! O M G! i can see the budget of this film getting grossly expensive! HAHAHAHA! Lastly I’d like to see Christian Slater play Eddie Willers. What a great cast this would be on the Liberty side!

    Oh as a post script, i think Johnny Depp would be great as James Taggart!

    Sigh, so many ideas so little time.

    Anyway these are my suggestions for casting. I’d like to see a place for Hallie Berry, Don Chedle and others. I wish i had the cash to finance this myself. Dag Nabbit!

    Darn! I nearly left out an important part! John Galt’s speech! I needs to be cut! cut! cut! A short explanation to the moochers and thugs is all that is needed. I fall asleep listening to speeches! And let us face it! a speech as part of a movie doesn’t work unless the speaker is getting shot at! HAHAHA! Ok, i’m joking….


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