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Update: "Atlas Shrugged" Movie Project

May 13, 2002

A new project to film Atlas Shrugged has just been launched

April 2, 2002

Atlas Shrugged is an epic novel, the story of a society in mysterious decline, of the heroes who fight to preserve their world, and of the secret enemy who becomes their savior. Adapting the novel for the screen has proved to be a challenge of equally epic proportions. Since the 1970s, when Ayn Rand herself took up the challenge, three distinct projects have made it as far as the contract stage. At least six complete screenplays have been drafted. But so far none have even been cast, let alone filmed and released.

The current project, a TV miniseries for Turner Network Television, recently entered an uncertain phase when its contract expired in March, and "the making of Atlas" may now continue under several different plot-lines.

The project was a three-way collaboration. John Aglialoro, CEO of UM Holdings (and a trustee of The Objectivist Center), holds the film rights on the novel. Two years ago he signed with TNT's Originals division to produce a five-hour miniseries, with Al Ruddy of the Ruddy-Morgan Organization as executive producer. By the fall of 2000, Ruddy's team had completed the screenplay; anticipating an actors' strike the following summer, they were eager to line up the director and cast and complete the filming by June of 2001.

Then entropy set in. Prospective leads either were not interested or were otherwise committed. The economy hit the skids, making the projected $25 million cost of the film seem riskier. And TNT went through a wrenching process of reorganization when its parent company, Time-Warner, merged with America Online. Two executives involved with the project left, and Variety reports that half of the TNT Originals staff has been laid off.

In quick succession last summer, TNT first cut its financial commitment to $10 million, then withdrew from the project altogether. That left the project in Ruddy's hands, with nine months left to get it off the ground. He reconceived it as a feature film rather than a TV miniseries, and condensed the script accordingly, but was not able to line up the talent or the financing by the March deadline.

What happens now? Ruddy is still working to find those missing ingredients. Aglialoro says he would consider a new contract with Ruddy, but he will also be exploring other possibilities. He agrees that a full-length feature film is now a better approach than a TV miniseries.

"I am looking at all the options in terms of how to structure the story as well as the project. After half a dozen scripts that tried to tell the whole story, it may be time to consider spinning out the core plot of the strike, which conveys Rand's essential message, and not trying to include all the subsidiary plot-lines, relationships, and consequences of the strike."

Stay tuned….

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