The summer seminar of The Objectivist Center is now over, and reports are coming in about what the moviemakers working on a film version of Atlas Shrugged have to say about their progress. Filming has not yet begun, but a script has been drafted, and the plan is to shoot the epic as a trilogy. (No word yet on whether there will be a ten-hour Part II-b for Galt's Speech.)
LFB author Robert Bidinotto, the editor of TOC's New Individualist magazine and the man who scripted The World of Atlas Shrugged, has the scoop at the Bidinotto Blog:
* The final go-ahead "deal" was signed on June 29. The film is well-capitalized, with Lionsgate -- the studio that produced the most recent Oscar-winning film, "Crash" -- investing $40 million or more for initial production effort.
* The plan is for the film to be shot and shown in three parts, as a trilogy, like "Lord of the Rings." Only that length, they said, would give sufficient scope to tell Ayn Rand's long, complex story. (The initial $40 million would go mainly to Part I.)...
* The first draft of the script for Part I has been completed by James V. Hart, a veteran screenwriter among whose major credits are "Contact," "Hook," and "Tuck Everlasting."
* Philosopher David Kelley -- founder, past executive director, and now Senior Fellow of The Atlas Society (formerly The Objectivist Center) -- has worked closely with Hart to insure the screenplay's philosophical fidelity to the novel.... [Kelley] rates the screenplay about an "8" out of a possible "10." (The screenplay is likely to undergo additional changes -- we hope that means "improvements" -- during production.)
* Howard and Karen Baldwin of the Baldwin Entertainment Group -- which produced the outstanding Oscar-winning hit film "Ray" -- are co-executive producers, along with John Aglialoro, who holds the screen rights to the Ayn Rand novel on which the film will be based.... They are absolutely committed to a film that does justice to Rand's novel.
* The Baldwins similarly insisted that they wanted a great film, one that in no way undermines or does a disservice to Rand's ideas or characters. They clearly love the novel. Karen Baldwin declared that the novel's heroine, Dagny Taggart, may well be the greatest female character in all of literature. In selecting a director, they said, one of their first questions is: "When was the last time you read Atlas Shrugged?"... Another thing that impressed everyone is that the Baldwins were clearly there to listen to devoted fans of the novel, and to get our input. They opened up a long Q&A session with the admonition to us not simply to tell them what we wanted to see in the film, but also what we didn't want to see. Satisfying the dedicated Rand readers appeared to be a big priority, and audience members gave a great deal of excellent input.
* The Baldwins revealed that they have been deluged with major stars who want to play in the film. While they were eager to hear our suggestions for various characters, the only name they emphasized, repeatedly, was Angelina Jolie for the Dagny role. They made it very clear that Jolie wants to play Dagny very, very much -- and that other actresses (e.g., Ashley Judd), while possibly excellent for the part, might not have the stellar box-office appeal that would allow the film to be a huge success, especially abroad....
* One personally gratifying anecdote. According to Karen Baldwin, when Jolie showed up for a meeting with them to discuss the film, she had in hand a copy of the "Celebrity Rand fan" issue of The New Individualist (edited by Yours Truly), whose cover featured herself and Brad Pitt. Baldwin told me that Jolie really enjoyed it....
To repeat, the entire audience was terribly excited by the presentation, and even many long-time skeptics and doubters attested to becoming converts. Bottom line: It looks like this grand tale will be made, at long last; and more important, it looks as if everyone connected with the production is dedicated to doing it right.
Relative star status is probably being overstressed in the minds of the moviemakers. If the movie is done well, it's going to be a box-office juggernaut no matter, world-wide (and even if the script includes the phrase "the American Way," conspicuously omitted from the new Superman flick "Superman Returns").
Here's some information that Bidinotto probably doesn't have, but which we were able to glean thanks to our global contacts: the daughter of LFB owner Kathleen Nelson, Jennifer, "hates the idea" of Jolie as Dagny. Jennifer wants to play Dagny and thinks the moviemakers should hold off production until she's ready to take on the role. "Maybe the producers 'get it,' but the actors they apparently want to cast do not. They're going to have a hell of a directing job on their hands...ugh."
With everything about the production, as it seems, right on the cusp, further delay doesn't seem too likely, especially given the fact that everybody has been waiting breathlessly for an Atlas Shrugged movie since 1973, when word of an imminent production was first announced. If an Atlas movie project falls through at this point, all hope of its ever being done is likely to be swallowed up in the most pitiless cinematic black hole.
Jennifer will graduate with a degree in theatre from the University of Montevallo in December, so if she's not old enough to play Dagny perhaps the producers can audition her for another role.