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Angelina Jolie as Dagny Taggart?

Variety reports that efforts to bring Atlas Shrugged to the big screen are underway. Randall Wallace ("Braveheart," "We Were Soldiers") is apparently at work on a script and Angelina Jolie has signed on to star in the film. (Link via AICN)

Ian (www):
Parody is now obsolete.
10.19.2006 5:45pm
bob montgomery:
I probably shouldn't write this, but:

I've just started reading Atlas Shrugged; I'm about 250 pages in (my paperback edition is about 1100 pages). Does it get good at some point? All the characters in the book seem so...ugly. And I can't really tell where the book is going.

I'm debating whether to even finish it - there are lots of books to read...

---

For no conscious reason, I've recently been reading political novels from the 1940s and 1950s - Lewis' Space Trilogy, Orwell's 1984, Atlas Shrugged, and others.

It's interesting to read their horror of bureaucracy.
10.19.2006 5:56pm
Paul Sherman:
I read Atlas Shrugged last year because I was worried that if I didn't I'd lose my libertarian "street cred". In retrospect, that was a risk I should have been willing to take. If you find it boring (and large, hundred-page chunks of it are) you shouldn't feel guilty if you decide to put it back on the shelf.

I predict that it will make a horrifically bad movie.
10.19.2006 6:02pm
The Shadow:

I've just started reading Atlas Shrugged; I'm about 250 pages in (my paperback edition is about 1100 pages). Does it get good at some point?


No.
10.19.2006 6:09pm
bob montgomery:
I don't find it boring, though I have been glossing over some passages - it is fairly interesting and a good read.

But the only likeable person so far is Eddie Willers and thus far he is a minor character. Jim Taggart and all the other folks like him in the novel are, I suppose, the antagonists of the book and are fine as such, but Hank Rearden, Francisco d'Anconio, Dagny Taggart...they are the heroes, right? After reading the passages about them I tend to feel dirty.

There's this, after Dagny and Hank sleep together for the first time:
He said:
"What I feel for you is contempt. But it's nothing, compared to the contempt I feel for myself. I don't love you. I've never loved anyone. I wanted you from the first moment I saw you. I wanted you as one wants a whore-for the same reason and purpose. [etc. etc.]"

I read that and thought: WTF? Ok, I liked Hank but now I hate him.
10.19.2006 6:10pm
TomH (mail):
Well, if you skip the repetion of her rhetoric, and pick a few scene that give her position only three or four times (as opposed to the couple hundred times that she gives it in the book) it should end before the "Jason" franchise does.

Also, all you future railroad moguls, remember it is easy to be a libertarian when you start out rich.
10.19.2006 6:13pm
josh:
I'm a liberal democrat and it's one of my favorite books of all time. I'm surprised people found it boring.

The thing about liberterianism and objectivism is wonderful in theory. And it makes sense coming from Rand based on her experiences with communism. Her philosophy is what we should strive for, but, like many in today's partisan world, Rand paints a simplified view of the world to argue a point. She draws hyperbolicly black and white picture of her characters. Roarke is a God, while his opponents are so crudely drawn, the reader can't help but root for meritocracy.

Like I said, the real world is a little more complicated. Meritocracy is the ideal, but determining what that is is often not so easy to determine.

Also, it's wonderful read for architecture fans, particularly those of the Chicago School.
10.19.2006 6:38pm
cirby (mail):
If you want libertarian-infused fiction, read L. Neil Smith's science fiction novels. Much nicer characters, and some actual humor (sorely lacking in the Rand works).
10.19.2006 6:47pm
Chris Bell (mail):

I've just started reading Atlas Shrugged; I'm about 250 pages in (my paperback edition is about 1100 pages). Does it get good at some point?

Yes.

It's a great book and I love it, but I will admit that it takes a bit to get into it. The whole "who is the destroyer" mystery gets pretty good. Rand does go over the top at points, and as much as I like some of her philosophy her idea of love is just strange.

That said, I think it will be a good movie. The underlying story of a strike by the innovators among us is good fiction, whatever you think about it in real life.
10.19.2006 6:49pm
josh:
oops

confused atlas shrugged with the fountainhead. my bad. still, i love ayn rand's work.
10.19.2006 7:04pm
HLSbertarian (mail):

Also, all you future railroad moguls, remember it is easy to be a libertarian when you start out rich.


It's not that hard for the rest of us either. But thanks for the tip.
10.19.2006 7:23pm
bearmore:
I agree with Chris. The destroyer mystery, "who is John Galt", where are all these people going, and just how bad can things get? All interesting plots. I couldn't get through Galt's radio broadcast - A is A. Got it, thanks. Plus as an engineer, not understanding how the engine was supposed to work really bugged me.
10.19.2006 7:57pm
Ragnar:
Why does this keep coming up? The movie is unmakeable. People have tried and failed repeatedly on this one. The problem is that the text is almost as long as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, but with a lot less action. Now, you could cut the Galt radio address down a lot, but do much more than that and you lose the story. And even if they can manage it, Angelina Jolie as Dagny? No thanks.
10.19.2006 8:27pm
Huh:
Ragnar, "a lot less action" is why people think it can be a movie. I'm inclined to agree that minus all the speechifying and clumsy characterizations and exposition, it can make for a fairly lean, cinematic plot.

As an aside, I thought Pixar's The Incredibles was a very watchable film that did an efficient job alluding to and riffing on some of the same themes.
10.19.2006 9:00pm
Fern R (mail) (www):
Wouldn't one of Rand's shorter books make a better movie? Maybe The Fountainhead or Anthem...
10.19.2006 9:26pm
roy (mail) (www):
Bob,

I loved Atlas Shrugged, but it sounds like you won't. The characters just get more like themselves as the story progresses. And very, very slowly.

Try Anthem. The good guys are much more sympathetic, and it's short enough to gamble on.
10.19.2006 10:36pm
Syme:
Now, it's been some time since I read the book or thought at length about objectivism, but it seems strange that Angelina Jolie-a celebrity who seems to increasingly advocate a duty of social responsibility--would be the central figure of an Ayn Rand novel.

As for the quality of the book itself, I was annoyed by the poor job Rand did presenting her philosophy in narrative. This can be done well, but just having your characters engage in pages long soliloquies seems like cheating.
10.19.2006 10:36pm
roy (mail) (www):
From what I've read, there's nothing particularly anti-Objectivist about Jolie's politics. When she talks about "social responsibility", she talks about what issues mean to her, personally. Trying to make one's self feel good is pretty Randian.

Or maybe they just offered her a bunch of money -- actors don't have to endorse their characters' views.
10.19.2006 11:05pm
AppSocRes (mail):
My take on Dabney Taggart is that she suffered from a severe sexual dysfunction: frigid and unable to accept any form of sexual congress unless it was brutally forced. It's an interesting question whether Jolie is suitably cast for the role ;-)
10.19.2006 11:31pm
jvarisco (www):
Picturing Atlas Shrugged in movie form, the only thing that comes to mind is a ten hour black and white marathon with a bland story and some philosophical nonsense mixed in...why exactly would they do this? The Fountainhead, as flawed a novel as it was, might actually be remotely interesting.
10.20.2006 12:09am
Mark Field (mail):

The Fountainhead, as flawed a novel as it was, might actually be remotely interesting.


There already is a movie of The Fountainhead.
10.20.2006 12:56am
BRL:
Fern R

To add to Mark's comment, the movie isn't very good, but would you have cast a then 48 year old Gary Cooper as Roark?
10.20.2006 1:07am
Lev:

it seems strange that Angelina Jolie-a celebrity who seems to increasingly advocate a duty of social responsibility--would be the central figure of an Ayn Rand novel.


That's why it is called acting.

I kind of see Dagny Taggart as being the sister of the network executive female in Network, played by, Faye Dunaway?
10.20.2006 1:28am
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
I started off poor and I have had a pretty easy time adopting libertarianism.

I dont think it should be hard for the average american to accept that people in a supposedly free country should be allowed to do whatever they want so long as they dont harm non-consenting others.

I also think that the government shouldnt be punishing economic success with high taxes and rewarding failure with handouts. So long as the wealthy cannot purchase tyranny over their fellow man, who cares how much money they have?
10.20.2006 1:34am
Happy-lee (mail):
Bob: Keep reading. When a college freshman I devoured the book in a couple of days. It's all I did, except sleep, eat and poop. Reading a chapter at a time might not do it. Also, if you are older, it might not flow the same as it does for younger readers. Gosh, I can still feel the magic now. And I don't even particularly like Rand anymore. But, dang, she could write.
Read on, and be amazed.
10.20.2006 2:00am
bigchris1313 (mail):
There will be a monologue. It will be 60 pages. It will be a terribly repetetive grind. But everything else is great.

Rand's theory of sex is a little bizarre, but the story is pretty good. I loved it. Except for those 60 pages. Good God.
10.20.2006 2:20am
David W. Hess (mail):
bob montgomery:
I've just started reading Atlas Shrugged; I'm about 250 pages in (my paperback edition is about 1100 pages). Does it get good at some point?


I enjoy reading it once or twice a year but that is probably as atypical. Then again, I do the same with Lord of the Rings. That said, even I have trouble reading Galt's speech which takes place near the end.

bob montgomery:
All the characters in the book seem so...ugly. And I can't really tell where the book is going.

But the only likeable person so far is Eddie Willers and thus far he is a minor character. Jim Taggart and all the other folks like him in the novel are, I suppose, the antagonists of the book and are fine as such, but Hank Rearden, Francisco d'Anconio, Dagny Taggart...they are the heroes, right? After reading the passages about them I tend to feel dirty.


Hehe. Of the characters you just listed only one is a hero for purposes of the book but you do not discover that until the last third. Jim Taggart is certainly one of the villains but the others except Eddie Willers and one other really are the antagonists. That may seem backwards but it will become clear well before the end.

bob montgomery:
There's this, after Dagny and Hank sleep together for the first time:

He said:
"What I feel for you is contempt. But it's nothing, compared to the contempt I feel for myself. I don't love you. I've never loved anyone. I wanted you from the first moment I saw you. I wanted you as one wants a whore-for the same reason and purpose. [etc. etc.]"

I read that and thought: WTF? Ok, I liked Hank but now I hate him.


This becomes clear later in the book and Hank's statement is definitely part of his characterization. Every character is there to illustrate a specific strength or weakness and for Rand this is also tied into their sexual relationships.

cirby :
If you want libertarian-infused fiction, read L. Neil Smith's science fiction novels. Much nicer characters, and some actual humor (sorely lacking in the Rand works).


Rand does tend to be pretty serious. While I do enjoy L. Neil Smith's work, I consider Victor Koman and Vernor Vinge even better.

Ragnar:
Why does this keep coming up? The movie is unmakeable. People have tried and failed repeatedly on this one. The problem is that the text is almost as long as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, but with a lot less action. Now, you could cut the Galt radio address down a lot, but do much more than that and you lose the story. And even if they can manage it, Angelina Jolie as Dagny?


I disagree only insofar as with rare exception, Hollywood is known for butchering books when turning them into movies. Cut the book down to the essential points, resist adding superfluous scenes, hire actors who understand the parts well enough to participate at a higher level in production, and find an appropriate composer for the soundtrack.

I could see Angelina Jolie playing Dagny Taggart but I am not clear how serious she could be.

Huh:
As an aside, I thought Pixar's The Incredibles was a very watchable film that did an efficient job alluding to and riffing on some of the same themes.


"I never look back. It distracts from the now."

None of the interviews I have read admitted to the character Edna Mode being based on Ayn Rand though.

AppSocRes:
My take on Dabney Taggart is that she suffered from a severe sexual dysfunction: frigid and unable to accept any form of sexual congress unless it was brutally forced.


There are a couple of places where I believe Rand was completely wrong and one was the generation and purpose of emotion. I can not hold this against her though since a complete understanding would have required science that had not developed during her lifetime. Even given that, considering Dagny's adolescent history her actions with Rearden may not be completely out of character.

Happy-lee:
When a college freshman I devoured the book in a couple of days. It's all I did, except sleep, eat and poop.


I read it this way the first couple of times in high school. Except for the first time I have read certain thrillers, only Victor Koman's Kings of the High Frontier and John Ross' Unintended Consequences have been like that for me.
10.20.2006 3:13am
steve (mail):
"But, dang, she could write."

What was that school you went to?

The movie would vie with Travolta's film of
Hubbard's masterpiece. Come to think of it,
the aliens would fit right in to an AS movie.

steve
10.20.2006 7:48am
Bjartur:
I'm about 500 pages into it and it still pretty much sucks at that point. I haven't picked it up in about a month and I'm still debating whether I will or not. And it's not that the story isn't interesting; it's that the writing is so horribly melodramatic, simplistic, and disconnected from reality. I honestly can't remember the last time I read such lousy writing (in novel form that is; it is better then the Internal Revenue Code). And this is coming from a fairly hard-core libertarian. That said, I'm looking forward to a movie version of it: condensing and re-writing is exactly what it needs.

If you're looking for a massive, 1000+ page book that's worth the effort I'd suggest Independent People or Infinite Jest.
10.20.2006 11:05am
Mark Field (mail):

would you have cast a then 48 year old Gary Cooper as Roark?


I don't know if I'd have done that, but I damn well know I'd never have let Ayn Rand write the script.

In fairness to the producers, though, I know something they didn't: I've read Atlas Shrugged and they hadn't.
10.20.2006 1:14pm
buddingeconomist:
"Does it get good at some point? All the characters in the book seem so...ugly. And I can't really tell where the book is going. "

I found it really hard to get into too. I just felt like she was a terrible writer - but I pushed on. I never got over my disgust with her love/sex scenes, but I did begin to enjoy the plot and the ideas and the diatribe. Around p. 700 I got annoyed again because I felt like I had already gotten the point and now it was just going on and on for no reason - but I pushed on. I am glad that I did, the ending was still worth it and the last couple hundred pages are full of good quotes about the philosophy. There is a lot in there -- obviously -- and its worth the read.

Finally, if you wonder why her characters are so cardboard, I highly recommend watching the film based on The Fountainhead. It turns out that her character style is pure traditional Romanticism, and it makes a lot of sense in black &white.

Not sure how they will pull off Atlas today, if they do. Been hearing these rumors for a long time.
10.20.2006 2:44pm
buddingeconomist:
"If you're looking for a massive, 1000+ page book that's worth the effort I'd suggest Independent People or Infinite Jest."

Are you kidding? Infinite Jest was awful. What a waste! Been written a thousand times, nothing new, tired old hippie, irresponsible leftism. If you are already libertarian, you may not have the rush of the usual reader of Atlas but at least Atlas is intelligent, unique and makes a worthy theoretical point.
10.20.2006 2:47pm
happylee:
Steve: I went to Dang U.
One of the reasons I like Atlas Shrugged is because it has this curious effect on people. Those predisposed to respecting reason, justice and life tend to get a high reading the book. Those folks who are not predisposed to respect reason, justice and life just absolutely hate it. It's very similar to holding up a Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater glossy photo up to a test subject while monitoring his reaction. Pinkos will start foaming at the mouth. A very effective litmus test. Taps right into the hardwired part of the mind.
And you are right, aliens would fit into the movie quite well. Rand makes a point of seperating the truly human from the formerly human; kind of like CS Lewis seperating the humans from the formerly human in the Great Divorce. To drive the point home, we can have a character say "i see aliens all the time...they think they are human...but they are not..."
Cheers.
10.20.2006 3:34pm
markm (mail):
I like AS, but it's not a novel. It's a 1100 page polemic, with an overlay of plot that rather strains your "suspension of disbelief". Even Marvel Comics does a better job of making it's characters believable.

And putting it in the hands of a Hollywood scriptwriter? (Shudder)
10.20.2006 6:27pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
One interesting point about Atlas Shrugged is that all of the characters are adults who seem to have no children and no interest in having children. In fact, the only children that I can recall in the novel are in the segment about the Twentieth Century Motor Car Company in Rome, Wisconsin (Picket Fences, anyone?), and IMHO her writing in this section projects a vague sense of distaste for them as little parasites.

I suspect that Rand either (1) knew that her philosophy broke down if you factor into the equation the existence of incompetent human beings that you nevertheless love and are responsible for and who someday will be competent, or (2) she
10.21.2006 6:34am
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Whoops! Truncated that, somehow ...

I suspect that Rand either (1) knew that her philosophy broke down if you factor into the equation the existence of incompetent human beings that you nevertheless love and are responsible for and who someday will be competent, or (2) she just didn't understand or like children very much.
10.21.2006 6:37am
Steve D (mail):

...all of the characters are adults who seem to have no children and no interest in having children. In fact, the only children that I can recall in the novel are in the segment about the Twentieth Century Motor Car Company in Rome, Wisconsin (Picket Fences, anyone?), and IMHO her writing in this section projects a vague sense of distaste for them as little parasites.


When Dagny is meeting all of the different people in Galt's Gulch the first time she encounters a woman with children who are represented in a positive light. My paperback edition has the passage start on the bottom of pg 719 and it continues to midway through pg 720.
10.21.2006 6:43pm
anon y anon:
Bob,

I found the book very bo-o-oring and tedious in the beginning, so did my wife. It's common to do so. By the time I was halfway through I couldn't put it down, I read it every free moment until finished. There's a tipping point in there somewhere as the characters and situations develop.

Francisco's monologue at the Taggart wedding is a masterpiece.
10.21.2006 9:23pm
Syd (mail):
A prediction: Jolie will be surprisingly good, but the movie will stink.
10.22.2006 1:40am
David W. Hess (mail):
After reading the responses where people did not enjoy or like Atlas Shrugged, I begin to wonder if I read the same book they did and to question my own sanity. The far end of a normal curve as exists at The Volokh Conspiracy allows for considerable individual variation which adds to the discussion.

Mike G in Corvallis:
One interesting point about Atlas Shrugged is that all of the characters are adults who seem to have no children and no interest in having children. In fact, the only children that I can recall in the novel are in the segment about the Twentieth Century Motor Car Company in Rome, Wisconsin

The beginning includes Francisco, Dagny, Jim, and Eddie as children. You could also add the children on the Comet as it enters the tunnel but they are very peripheral. I would agree that the novel is diminished for the lack of children since they are fundamental to human existence.

A cursory search turned up:
It was a responsibility that she was not interested in assuming. When she was writing Atlas [Shrugged], she would sometimes say that she was "with book." The only children she wanted were her books. - Barbara Branden

I suspect the main characters, both good and evil, reflect Rand in this among other things which happens to a lot of authors.
10.22.2006 2:15am
Allison (mail):
Yeah, and Barbara Branden is Nathaniel Branden's wife, right? And he was Rand's lover-shrink, so that's a great little example of Rand, ain't it?

Rand was a mess. She certainly never lived up to the women-freaks she wrote as characters, no matter how hard she tried. Her characters don't reflect her as much as her most passionate desire--to be free of her own infirmities.

A movie about a bunch of rich and or elitist people who opt out and abandon the country, and one crazy terrorist. Hey, maybe they'll find a way to make it an anti-bush screed. He is a freedom fighter, after all....
10.23.2006 2:26am
bob montgomery:
Thanks for all the responses; I've had an experience similar to this:
I found the book very bo-o-oring and tedious in the beginning, so did my wife. It's common to do so. By the time I was halfway through I couldn't put it down, I read it every free moment until finished. There's a tipping point in there somewhere as the characters and situations develop.

I'm near the end now; maybe 100-200 pages to go.

Hank has become somewhat redeemed; I loathed him too quickly, I suppose.

For me, the part that is hardest for me to buy into is how everyone is in love with her. Francisco, then Hank, and Eddie, then Galt. The giant love...square?...encompassing every major sympathetic male figure in the book seems a bit too contrived.
10.23.2006 8:01pm