While numerous big name producers and actors have, in the past, expressed interest in adapting Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged for the big screen, nothing has ever materialized. Shortly before his rights to the film were set to expire, however, producer John Aglialoro began filming the first in a trilogy of movies based on the epic novel. The crew wrapped up the principal photography phase of production yesterday. Yet, with a budget of only $5 million and a relatively inexperienced cast and crew, there are questions about whether they can produce a quality adaptation. It appears as though Hollywood has shrugged, once again. Big Hollywood recently payed a visit to the set to get the inside scoop:
Big Hollywood has enjoyed two visits to the film's set, which our own Charles Winecoff will be writing more about soon, but due to the fact that much of what we're reading in the media regarding the film's production doesn't coincide with what we've seen and heard for ourselves, I asked producer Harmon Kaslow to help set the record straight.
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." […]
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." […]
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.
So will the film live up to expectations despite limited resources? *Shrugs* Who is John Galt?
For more on Rand, be sure to check out Reason's extensive archive.