Atlas Shrugged Gets Serious

atlas-shruggedThe Stock Market’s down. Temperatures are rising. Activists are taking to the streets to burn effigies of both bankers and politicians. The time seems right for Hollywood to cash in on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The Hollywood Reporter claims the long-gestating film is switching to development’s fast lane, with Charlize Theron the most likely candidate to play lady boss Dagny Taggart.

Producer Karen Baldwin, who has been helping to shepherd the project for Lionsgate, told the Reporter, “This couldn’t be more timely. It’s uncanny what Rand was able to predict — about the only things she didn’t anticipate are cell phones and the Internet.” With the government moving in on AIG and firing the head of GM, it’s not surprising that many are seeing Rand’s work in a fresh light. One can easily imagine this book being in Peter Chernin’s or Harvey Weinstein’s Kindle. It better be. At 1100 pages, the book is big enough to kill a small animal–and probably has.

Now when it comes to door-stopping novels, Squally is more in the George Eliot camp. So bear with us. In Rand’s 1957 best-seller, Taggart runs a railroad corporation which is suffering due to society’s move towards greater collectivism and altruism. Innovation is beginning to stagnate as funding moves from the private to the public sector. People go around asking, “Who is John Galt?” This is the Rand equivalent of a shrug.

To make matters worse, the great minds of the world are starting to disappear. Making her way through two different lovers, Dagny tracks down and falls for the mysterious Galt. Galt’s idea of sweet talk is a 50-page speech explaining how he’s had it with the apathetic leeching off mankind’s real achievers. So and created a secret enclave where the world’s elitists can exist away from tiny minds. Rand spent the rest of her life turning this Objectivist philosophy into a genuine school of thought. High profile followers of Objectivism include Alan Greenspan, Rush drummer Neil Peart, supreme court justice Clarence Thomas and Spider-Man creator Steve Ditko. (Her philosophy inspired his characters the Question and Mr. A, who in turn inspired Watchmen‘s Rorscarch.)

Although films have been made of The Fountainhead and We, the Living, Shrugged is considered to be unfilmable. Hey, you try to cut down a 50-page speech into three minutes! To do so, the Reporter reports that Randall Wallace (Braveheart) has been lined up to write a script and possibly direct. Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog) was previously attached to the film when it was believed Angelina Jolie would star. Lionsgate would like to get cameras rolling by 2010, before the book rights revert back to the Rand estate.

Our favorite bit of Rand triv is that the Russian emigre was an extra in Cecil B. DeMille’s King of Kings in 1929. So it’s nice that she is coming full circle. But can anything in Shrugged possibly compete with the red-hot lust going on between Patricia Neal and Gary Cooper in King Vidor‘s 1949 The Fountainhead? This project has previously attracted talents like Faye Dunaway, Clint Eastwood, Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway. Come on, all you Objectivists. Who would you like to see in Taggart’s jodphurs?

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