For a film that’s been in the works for 20 years, it’s difficult to imagine anyone was hoping this is how it would end up, however cameras have started rolling on a film version of Atlas Shrugged. Last year the movie was set to star Charlize Theron or Angelina Jolie and it looked like Ayn Rand’s book was finally going to get a decent stab at screen success, but now it’s got a tiny $5 million budget, no stars, and the directing reins have been handed to a man who’s never made a feature before.
It seems the reason for the climb down and rush into production is that John Aglialoro, the man who owns the rights to the book, would have lost them this Saturday if a movie version of the book didn’t start shooting by then. Rather than lose them, he’s put the smallest film possible into production. He doesn’t even have the man who a couple of weeks ago was announced as the director, Stephen Polk. He was replaced at the last minute, and according to Deadline even Polk is unsure why he was bumped and is considering suing. Instead One Tree Hill actor Paul Johansson, who’s never directed a movie before, will be helming and starring.
Although Aglialoro is still saying it’s a real film and is the first part of an envisioned four part adaptation of Rand’s 1,000 page opus, it’s difficult not to see this as being more about trying to keep hold of the film rights than wanting to make a great movie. It’s a similar situation to what happened with Fantastic Four, when a low-budget Roger Corman produced version was made (but never released) in 1994, just so Bern Eichinger could hold onto the screen rights. That certainly worked out for Eichinger, who made a mint from the recent big budget Fantastic Four films, not by being heavily involved in them, but just having kept the rights.
It may well be Aglialoro, who’s inexperienced in film, does think this tiny new movie will work, but it’s just as likely he’s making it and then hoping to mount a bigger production sometime down the line.