In the summer of ’08, I took part in an ecoinformatics internship for
Oregon State University. This means that I spent two and a half months
in the middle of a forest in Nowhere, Oregon, with twelve strangers as
my only company. I knew that I’d have a lot of time to kill, so I picked
up “Atlas Shrugged” in advance, one of the longest novels ever written
in the English language at roughly 1,100 pages. Flash forward to a month
ago, when I was taking classes five days a week, with two hours on
public transit going either way. Once again, I turned to “Atlas
Shrugged” to pass the time. At present, I’m roughly two-thirds through
this second reading.

For those who haven’t read it, the book was written solely to
illustrate the philosophy of author Ayn Rand, known as “Objectivism.”
The story is very repetitive and blunt as a bulldozer about describing
those ideals that Rand despises or praises and I’m not exaggerating when
I say that Objectivism has an answer for everything. Be it
money, lying, the nature of reality, love, government, personal safety,
art or anything else you’d care to think of, “Atlas Shrugged” addresses
it through an Objectivist lens in great detail.

But while I respect “Atlas Shrugged” for how thorough its arguments
are (though I certainly don’t agree with all of them), I love the book
for its scope and its characters. Rand does an outstanding job of
illustrating her alternate America, describing its past, detailing its
present and taking us through the causes leading to its future. It helps
that “Atlas Shrugged” has an immense cast, almost all of whom carry the
burden of making the world function — for good or ill. While the
characters are all painted in stark black-and-white terms, I find it
impossible not to cheer for Dagny Taggart, care for Hank Rearden or sit
in awe of Francisco d’Anconia or John Galt.

You may be wondering why I’m discussing a book in a blog devoted to
movies. Well, it shouldn’t exactly come as a shock that efforts have
been made to adapt this book for quite some time.

According to Wikipedia, “Atlas Shrugged” has been in development hell
for thirty-five years. Countless talents in Hollywood
have attempted to make a movie or a TV miniseries out of the book. Ayn
Rand herself was working on a television adaptation when she died.
Angelina Jolie was once attached to play Dagny Taggart and not even her
box office clout could get the project going.

But now, Variety
is reporting
that an “Atlas Shrugged” adaptation is finally
underway. And it’s already a beautiful farce.

Back in 1992, a man named John Aglialoro (now the CEO of an exercise
equipment manufacturer, by the way), bought the rights to an “Atlas
Shrugged” adaptation for $1 million. Nearly two decades later, Aglialoro
pushed the adaptation into production solely to avoid losing the
rights. And it only gets better.

The project will be directed by Paul Johansson, a television actor
with a resume going back to 1989. Unfortunately, his only directing
credits are a couple of movies Wikipedia doesn’t recognize and some
episodes of “One Tree Hill,” in which he’s currently acting. But the
real cherry on this sundae is that Johansson has cast himself as John
Galt. I will repeat that: The director has cast himself as John Galt.
Arguably the most pivotal character in the book, the character that
Rand presents as the perfect, ideal man… and the director cast himself
in this role. I don’t know if this was done out of egotism or
desperation, but it doesn’t bode well either way.

The rest of the cast isn’t much better. Dagny Taggart — one of the
greatest female protagonists in the history of American literature —
will be played by Taylor Schilling, whose sole credit is for a show
called “Mercy” that got cancelled after one season. Grant Bowler is
another TV actor, with a few episodes of “Lost,” “True Blood” and “Ugly
Betty” under his belt, but I’m looking at pictures of the guy and I
can’t imagine him playing Hank Rearden. Notably missing from the
announcement is Francisco D’Anconia, and I can’t wait to see who gets to
bungle that part.

But if you’re not yet convinced that absolutely no competence or
effort is going into this project, just consider the budget: $5 million.
Five million dollars. I’ll grant that they’re only shooting the first
part of this adaptation (out of a reported three), but still. This is a
story with all of America as its setting. A novel that demands multiple
sets, elaborate costumes and a recreation of a time before cell phones
or the internet (which would shoot the story full of plot holes if they
were available). And they’re doing it all with the budget of a TV
commercial. At this point, I’m not entirely sure that we’ll ever see it.
This could be a production made purely to maintain the rights and
unintended for public viewing, like the infamous Fantastic 4
movie made by Roger Corman.

Nevertheless, I’m blogging about it because this is one to keep an
eye on. It’s a classic David vs. Goliath match… if David was in a
wheelchair and had both arms in plaster. In the best case scenario, this
team defeats all the odds and delivers a superb onscreen telling of an
epic story. In the worst case scenario, we get a messy backstage tale of
incompetence that will go down in movie and television infamy. Either
way, it’s gonna be fun to watch.

No release date has been announced yet. In fact, I’m not even sure if
this is going to be in theaters or on TV screens. Keep your ears to the
grindstone, folks.