The Atlas Shrugged Movie – Galt’s Curse

Will the Atlas Shrugged movie ever get made? That’s the question people have been asking for years. But there seems to be a curse, which is supremely ironic for a work that presents the atheistic philosophy, Objectivism.

There’s certainly no lack of interest in an Atlas Shrugged movie, especially during these times of looming recession and increasing government takeover of the economy. Sales of this 1957 book started jumping off the shelves in 2008, landing it on bestseller lists ever since.

Images of Tea Party small-government low-tax demonstrations, which started at the beginning of 2009, always display signs with pictures of Ayn Rand (the author) and her famous catchphrase, “Who is John Galt?”. So why not make the movie?

John Galt must have cast a curse. He’s the book’s hero. His main action was to convince the country’s best minds to go on strike. From the looks of things, that included Hollywood. His curse is where fiction encounters reality and nothing gets done.

Albert S. Ruddy was twice cursed. He got the first dibs on the screen rights in 1972. Rand even announced the deal back then and she was excited due to Ruddy’s success with The Godfather. But she wanted final script approval, which meant she could refuse to allow the film to be released if she didn’t like it. That is one Atlas Shrugged movie that didn’t happen. More recently, in 1999, Ruddy brokered a four-hour TV miniseries project with Turner Network Television. Then the merger between AOL and Time-Warner killed it.

This wasn’t the first TV production to succumb to Galt’s Curse, either. Henry and Michael Jaffe put together a deal with NBC in 1978 for an eight-hour Atlas Shrugged miniseries. In 1979, Fred Silverman became president of NBC and one of the first things he did was cancel it. Probably the worst victim of Galt’s Curse was Rand herself. She decided to write her own TV miniseries, but she died in 1982 when it was only about one-third finished.

Her heir is her former student, Leonard Peikoff. He sold the Atlas Shrugged movie option to Michael Jaffe and Ed Snider right after she died, but he retained script approval, or script disapproval as it turned out.

Then in 1992, an investor and high-profile poker player, John Aglialoro got the film rights for a cool million. He tried for years to get Peikoff’s script approval, but one after another kept being rejected. As it stands, if production does not start by the end of 2010, the Atlas Shrugged movie rights will revert to Peikoff.

Aglialoro, thankfully, now has negotiated full creative control. After the Ruddy and Turner deal fell apart, Howard and Karen Baldwin hooked up with him while at Crusader Entertainment. Crusader fell to Galt’s Curse and the Baldwins set up their own shop with Aglialoro in tow.

They recently had a deal with Lionsgate. Angelina Jolie was to be the heroine Dagny Taggart, the free-market individualist railroad executive. But Jolie walked and joined Galt’s list of other actresses who wanted to play Dagny like Barbara Stanwyck, Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch, Farrah Fawcett and Sharon Stone, with Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway waiting in line.

The Baldwins are still hooked with Lionsgate. Heavy-hitting Relativity Media has been circling to jump on board. Randall Wallace, whose credits include Braveheart, Pearl Harbor and other blockbusters, wrote the best screenplay adaptation to date and he’s still with them.