Exclusive: `Atlas Shrugged' Producer Sets Record Straight On Upcoming Trilogy
by John Nolte
If there's a production with a longer and more colorful history behind its
troubled march to the silver screen than Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged," the
story of that particular episode of development hell has not yet been told.
Published in 1957 and a perennial bestseller ever since (the novel sold a
half-million copies just last year), the struggle to realize Rand's sprawling
and epic dramatization of her theory of Objectivism as told through a dystopian
tale of the world's best and brightest, feeling they've been exploited by an
ungrateful society, putting their talent on strike, eluded even the author
Much has been made of the film's reported budget of $5 million, especially for a
project major studios have shied away from out of budgetary concerns. Like most
smart producers, Kaslow won't talk specifics, but there's more to the story than
the $5 million:
"The amount expended on the movie is far north of $5 million. The movie is
based on Part 1 of the book (the book has 3 parts)
so the film is based on
about 27% of the book."
This is the first I've heard that this production is only the first of three
films, and while I haven't read "Atlas Shrugged," those who have tell me a
trilogy is the perfect way to tell the story on screen. Like "Lord of the
Rings," the natural breaks in Rand's novel practically demand it be told in
three parts, and a single feature film, even a long one with a hefty studio
budget behind it, would almost certainly short-change the novel's legion of
faithful fans who, regardless of budget, are most concerned about seeing an
adaptation that doesn't compromise Rand's philosophy. To that end, Kaslow
assures the Randians:
"The movie is a direct `adaptation' of the book included using much of the
dialogue written by Ayn Rand."
Assuming we're talking in the area of $15 to $20 million to film the entire
novel, with no big star salaries that's still a low budget but not a
ridiculously low budget. As far as the casting of unknowns, as is the case with
any film, budget constraints are a reality and when you're working in the arena
of millions as opposed to hundreds of millions, you're not going to get a
Charlize Theron or Angelina Jolie.
Kaslow told me, "The talent cast in the movie was selected on the basis of the
director's and producers' belief in their acting skills without taking on the
`distractions' often associated with `A-List" talent.'"
I'm sure that doesn't mean they would've turned down the distraction of an
Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron or another A-lister, but as we've seen many
times before, acting ability, screen presence and the chops necessary to deliver
a memorable performance can come from unknowns. After all, like all great
actors, at one time Jolie and Theron were unknowns.
In any case, like "Harry Potter" and the "Narnia" films, the real star here is
the project itself, Ayn Rand, and Objectivism. If the performances rise to the
occasion no one's going to care that there's no familiar name above the title.
In a Sunday piece for Daily Finance, Bruce Watson took some pretty hard shots at
the production claiming it's nothing more than a desperate and cynical rush job
using an inexperienced director in order to allow Aglialoro to hold onto the
film rights, which were set to expire last month had filming not begun. I asked
Kaslow about this directly:
"John Aglialoro finally decided to marshal the production because it was
apparent that a studio would not
"While the rights would revert back to the estate if production did not
commence by June 14, 2010, the goal of the producers is to produce a film worthy
of epic nature of the novel that will satisfy the millions of persons who have
read the book, but also appeal to a wide audience (so as to introduce them to
the Ayn Rand's work).
"During the course of Aglialoro's efforts to get the film into production,
the project had definitely attracted a number of very reputable directors
however, given Johansson's passion for the material and desire to execute a
faithful cinematic vision of the book, the producers believe they found a
director that most will believe is a diamond in the rough."
Kalsow also took exception to Watson's description of Johansson's directing
experience as mostly confined "to the set of the teen-oriented soap opera."
Director Paul Johansson's inaugural feature film (The Incredible Mrs. Richie
2004) won a [Daytime] Emmy as Outstanding Family Special, plus he has
experience directing a substantial amount of television.
Johannson did win a Daytime Emmy for writing the "Mrs. Ritchie" screenplay and
was nominated for his direction that won Gena Rowlands an Emmy and James Caan a
No one, including the "Atlas" producers, can predict how a project will
ultimately turn out, and that's true whether your budget is $5 million or $200
million. And no one would argue that the challenges involved in bringing such an
ambitious and epic story to the screen aren't made that much more difficult with
with limited resources, including taking a chance on a director making his
theatrical feature debut. However, from all we've seen and from our discussions
with the producers, director, and cast, there's no doubt that everyone involved
is passionate about telling this story and most importantly, dedicated to
remaining true to Ayn Rand's philosophical vision which would've likely have
been compromised bigtime by a major studio.
As of now the plan is to release part one of "Atlas Shrugged" in theatres
sometime during the second quarter of 2011 and start production on the second
part the following fall.