Who Should Be John Galt?

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That’s

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.”

As

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.

One

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?)

Producer

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.

Here’s

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.

We’ll

leave the big choice for last, appearing at the climatic apex of

the casting call, just as his fictional counterpart does in Atlas

Shrugged.

Jodie

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.

The

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

this role?

Most

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.

As

John Galt’s mentor, Hugh Akston, the great philosopher of reason,

Leonard Nimoy has all the credentials and maturity.

Anthony

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.

How

about Rick Schroeder as Dagny’s right arm, the wide-eyed innocent,

Eddie Willers?

If

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.

So,

who is John Galt?

The

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?”

John

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.

ARI

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.

It

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.

If

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.

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