the question USA Today columnist Jeannie Williams put to
her readers and the results appeared in her column of November 12.
Readers of the great American novel, Atlas
Shrugged, know the answer. They probably also know that
this is the pr event of the millennium, a public poll on the work
of an author who thought consensus should be spelled with four letters.
A TNT (Turner Network Television) production of Ayn Rand’s epic
novel is slated for completion just before the commencement of the
new millennium late in 2000. The date is appropriate, since any
attempt to film Atlas Shrugged will probably result in a
cinematic debacle of apocalyptic proportions while redefining the
phrase “disaster film.”
a bibliophile enamored of this book, I have to plead, “Please
don’t do this!” This is probably the only novel in the universe
that should never be filmed. Its sweep, its grandeur, its depth,
its intellect, and most of all, its integrity, can never leave the
printed page without tearing away its heart and its soul.
might think that Hollywood’s search for the consummate egoist would
be like looking for a needle in a needle stack. But John Galt is
a different type of egoist and not that normally associated with
Hollywood, or even Ted Turner. Still, some of the calls were right
on. Harrison Ford as Hank Rearden; Jodie Foster as Dagny Taggart;
Antonio Banderas as Francisco D’Anconia, were all pretty much on
the money and just as accurate as others were ludicrous. (Arnold
Schwarzeneger as Ragnar Danneskold, Johnny Depp as John Galt! Sure,
and why not Michael Meyers as Hank Rearden?)
Albert S. Ruddy would probably do better to emulate the casting
coup so successful in his masterful “The Godfather.” Virtual
unknowns were used. (Remember Sly Stallone as a gangster extra?)
Today the cast members are household names, but the only luminary
at that time was Marlon Brando. Repeat that idea with one perfectly
cast talent as John Galt, and the whole absurd concept might just
fly — a few feet, anyway.
a really desperate solution. Let me cast it! Like others swept up
in the madness of this fantasy, I’m obviously the only person with
a grasp on the situation. If the job requires finding the supreme
egoist and his entourage, who is better qualified than a scribe
whose motto is, “Hey, it takes one to know one!” So I
venture these choices from the critics’ row in the balcony, a section
reserved for one-legged men who teach running.
leave the big choice for last, appearing at the climatic apex of
the casting call, just as his fictional counterpart does in Atlas
Foster can provide the courage, intelligence, and beauty (no acting
required on that last one) required for Dagny Taggart. Jim Taggart,
Dagny’s brother and Ayn Rand’s greatest argument against genetic
determinism, belongs to John Lithgow. (Don’t be misled by his buffoonery
on television’s Third Rock From The Sun. He’s one of the most accomplished
dramatic actors around and he’s the sniveling image of Taggart.)
Harrison Ford as the older, steel-skinned, terribly rich (again
no acting required) Hank Rearden is a must in my version. The part
of Rearden’s treacherous wife, Lillian, was written for Glen Close.
USA Today poll leaned toward Zorro himself, Antonio Banderas
for Francisco D’Anconia and they’re preachin’ to the choir here.
Although careful readers of the novel will recall that Francisco
was not Latin in the contemporary definition of the word, but in
the imperial Roman sense, couldn’t we make a concession to (shudder)
political correctness in deference to the panache called for in
dashing among the novel’s towering characters, Ragnar Danneskold,
needs only to have a countenance of Valhallan perfection and be
able to read Aristotle as he swashes a few buckles. He is described
as having a smile reminiscent of “..the first green of spring
on the sculpted planes of an iceberg.” This describes Matt
Damon and his million-dollar grin that could be used to sell toothpaste
to an octopus.
John Galt’s mentor, Hugh Akston, the great philosopher of reason,
Leonard Nimoy has all the credentials and maturity.
Hopkin’s ability to breath life into psychos and losers of incomparable
magnitude (Silence of the Lambs, Nixon) suit him for Galt’s arch-nemesis,
the gelatinous head of state, Mr. Thompson.
about Rick Schroeder as Dagny’s right arm, the wide-eyed innocent,
you don’t know who any of these people are, you haven’t read the
book. Do it now, before it is forever mummified in four hours of
videotape. If you don’t read it before seeing the upcoming production,
you incur the risk of projecting the video version into its pages,
an experience which would undoubtedly be similar to viewing the
Mona Lisa as reflected in a carnival funhouse mirror.
who is John Galt?
answer appeared on the same page as Jeanne Williams’ USA Today
column. But it wasn’t suggested by anyone involved in the poll.
More than likely, it was given to us by a brilliant publicist or
delightfully ambitious talent manager. To believe it was purely
serendipitous is not possible. Check that issue and you’ll see a
full quarter page ad with the implacable, intelligent eyes of John
Galt gazing confidently at America. It is an ad for the television
series Stargate, with (the envelope please!) Richard Dean Anderson
(McGiver) answering the question “Who should be John Galt?”
Galt possesses the kind of quiet, confident self-esteem that doesn’t
require compensation through bragging, or other self-aggrandizing
behavior. He’s a quick-witted inventor who never picks up a gun
and inspires life-risking devotion from his friends. He also has
to be tall, slim, and just downright pretty. Using Anderson would
be perfect typecasting, a valuable tool when a director has to characterize
in a few valuable frames.
recently criticized Bill Gates for failing to stand up to federal
regulators. The ball is in their court now and it will be interesting
to see how successful they are in standing up to a similarly powerful
adversary. Here’s hoping they prevent a dual travesty against art
and property rights.
may well be that Ted Turner is willing to run the risk of an easily
affordable lawsuit in an effort to add this “classic”
to his collection, along with any resulting publicity. The really
scary part is that Turner does have the resources to buy this kind
of cast. Just the thought of his money, his wife and their politics
intertwined with the making of this film is chilling.
at the turn of the millennium in 2001 you feel the ground shaking
under you, it probably won’t be due to the footsteps of an apocalyptic
beast. It’s more likely to be the real Atlas, doing everything but
shrugging in her grave.
Thomas Kelly is a writer and graphic designer in Encinitas, California.