You do not find many flops in my Special Movies section... and this is the biggest failure. A $15m movie earning earning a mere $4.6m... Hence this fighting talk from American independent producer John Aglialoro. “I’ve got to give it to the critics. They won this battle. But they will not win the war. The message has been told in Part 1, and it will be told in Parts 2 and 3...”
"Let's just say it is to give you the words you will need for the time you will need them"
ATLAS SHRUGGED: PART 1
Paul Johansson . 2010
There has not been an Ayn Rand novel made into a movie for some 60 years. That’s when Gary Cooper played architect Howard Roark in The Fountainhead - and fell for his 25 years younger leading lady, Patricia Neal.
Then again, there has not been a new Rand novel since her fourth, final and longest book in 1957. The magnum opus has been tossed about in Development Hell ever since. Not an easy venture. The bloated book is built upon Rand’s Objectivism philosophy (expounded in a 50-page speech by one character!) and was called by critics both sheer junk and polarising masterpiece - for detailing economic carnage caused by big government.
Atlas is called the second most influential book in America after the Bible. It’s given lots of politicians their philosophical ideas, including the 2012 vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The 1,100 pages attracted such A Listers as Faye Dunaway, Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Julia Roberts and combines like Baldwin Entertainment, Lionsgate, NBC and Relativity Media.
First producer in the frame was The Godfather’s Al Rudy, in 1972. His project imploded when he refused Rand’s insistence upon script approval. Six years later, Henry and Michael Jaffe had NBC keen on an eight-hour mini-series adapted by Oscar-winning scenarist Stirling Silliphant.
Ayn Rand began her own scenario -
far from finished when she died in 1982.
She left everything, including the Atlas screen rights, to her friend, the Canadian-American philosopher Leonard Peikoff. As her executor, he sold an option to Michael Jaffe (with Ed Snider this time) but true to his mentor, Peikoff did not approve what emanated from their scriptorium. By 1992, it was investor John Aglialoro’s turn to buy an option - paying Peikoff $1m-plus for full creative control. Showing he meant business, Aglialoro set up Atlas Productions and called producer Albert R Ruddy back where he’d been more than 20 years before - this time for a four-hour mini for Ted Turner’s network. Never happened.
Next came Howard and Karen Baldwin (producers of Ray) at Phillip Anschutz's Crusader Entertainment. When they formed their Baldwin Entertainment Group in 2004, their main asset was the Atlas rights. Lions Gate Entertainment offered to back their version, penned by James V Hart and re-written in 127 pages by the Braveheart scribe Randall Wallace - also due to direct, until that chair was handed to Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog)?.
By May 2010, Aglialoro, himself, and Brian Patrick O'Toole hammered out a script desigend to cut the novel to the bone - and safeguard Aglialoro's rights due to expire on June 15, 2010. Stephen Polk was signed as director - only to be replaced nine days before filming began on June 13 by another actor Paul Joahnasson. His cast was just as unknown. Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, anyone?
Best known as Nick Wolfe in Highlander: The Raven, 1998-99, the personable Johansson was barely known as a director, although winning a Daytime Emmyh nomination for his 2004 helming debut, The Incredible Mrs. Richie, starring Gena Rowlands (he won Best Script).
Dagny Taggart . Rand’s central character - she disliked the term, heroine - is her ideal woman. The female version of her ideal man, The Fountainhead’s Roark. His lady, Dominique Francon, was Rand, she said, in a bad mood, “good, but not ideal.” Dagny was also Rand “without my tiredness, without my chronic, slightly, anti-material feeling.” Taylor Schilling became the railroad executive after Dagny had been aimed at Faye Dunway, Farrah Fawcett (Rand voted for her), Maggie Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie (in 2007, when she about to make The Changeling for Clint Eastwood, once a potential Hank), Julia Roberts - and Charlize Theron in a second mini-series project in 2009.
Hank Rearden . The steel tycoon was considered perfect for Russell Crowe and Clint Eastwood, But this was low budget so Grant Bowler got it. The Australian-trained New Zealander looked like a clonme of the Aussie from Moulin Rouge and Rake star, Richard Roxburgh - and arrived fresh from seven episodes as Cooter the werewolf leader in True Blood, HBO’s biggest smash since The Sopranos.
Instead, Aglialoro made the film sans stars - with $10m of his personal fortune - and was hung out to dry by American critics. “It was a nihilistic craze,” Aglialoro said. “Not in the history of Hollywood has 16 reviewers said the same low things about a movie. They’re lemmings. What’s their fear of Ayn Rand? They hate this woman. They hate individualism. They’re revitalising me with their outrageousness.
Despite Roger Ebert, Peter Travers & Co, Aglialoro promised to plough on (now that he, indisputedly, owned the rights and re-make rights) and promised to release Part 2 on April 15, 2012 - Part 3 on April 15, 2013. If he can find any actors...
“The critics killed it so badly
that agents may tell their clients
they shouldn’t be associated with this thing.”
Nor should, perhaps, the production combine. It’s DVD spiel referred to “Ayn Rand's timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice.” Er, self-interest.
ATLAS SHRUGGED II: THE STRIKE
John Putch . 2012
To everyone’s surprise, after the film’s abject failure on-screen and disc, Part II arrived in 2012 - purposely before the presidential election. “No accident.,” said producer Harmon Kaslow. “This is the most important election of our lifetime and we intend on shining a light on Ayn Rand’s ideas.”
Part 1 cost $8m and brought less than $5m. Part II cost $20m and grossed possibly $10m after being met with much the same general disdain for the first. Despite a new (and worse) director, John Putch (son of actress Jean Stapleton of All In The Family TV fame, he was actor turned average TV helmer) and a fresh cast of such demi-names - such familiar TV players as Arye Gross, Richard T Jones, Esai Morales, Robert Picardo, Ray Wise… Samantha Mathis succeeded Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart and as her steel tycoon lover Henry Reardon, Jason Beghe replaced Grant Bowler… who, alone of the first cast, had gone on to win some better roles, including Richard Burton in Liz & Dick, 2012.
“Rather than refresh the cast with new actors,” said Mary Jenkins in the Washington Post, “the producers would have done better to just digitally reanimate Patricia Neal and Gary Cooper, the stars of the 1949 adaptation of Rand's The Fountainhead.”
Citing its production values from a 1986 porno and special effects possible to cook up on a Mac, the New York
Post’s Kyle Smith best summed up the sad sequel. “Saw the film and shrugged."
ATLAS SHRUGGED III:
Brave but fundamentally bad news on my 75th birthday - March 26, 2013 Oh no, not again. It notched less than $8M in box office with 2011?s Part I and 2012?s Part II combined. But the Atlas producers John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow shrugged that it off and somehow raised more cash to funnel into a final installment of the critically panned series. … for a summer 2014 release.