Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, appears to be head to the screen.
Ayn Rand’s dystopian 1957 novel, an epic and apocalyptic sci-fi-tinged mystery about the role of the mind in human existence, has been optioned by The Daily Wire for adaptation.
The conservative-leaning media firm has obtained exclusive film and TV series rights to develop Rand’s novel into a limited TV series.
Once produced, the series will be distributed on the streaming platform Dailywire+.
Daily Wire is approaching series creators and showrunners to find the right creative team to lead the adaptation. No time line has been announced yet for when the series will be cast, shot or released.
Rand’s novel, one of the first two works to be inducted in 1983 into the Libertarian Futurist Society’s then-new Prometheus Hall of Fame for Best Classic Fiction, has sold more than 7 million copies worldwide.
The novel has previously been adapted into a low-budget film trilogy, first released in 2011 and starring Taylor Schilling and Samantha Manthis.
That trilogy, partly because of its low budget and lack of top Hollywood talent, received mixed reviews but was greeted warmly by Rand’s fans and many libertarians, who’ve been waiting to see a film adaptation for far too many years.
Most notably, Hollywood producer Al Ruddy, most famous for producing The Godfather against the odds for Paramount studios in the early 1970s, had tried for years to obtain enough financing to produce a film version of Rand’s novel.
Alas, Ruddy, who later produced the Oscar-willing film Million Dollar Baby, was unsuccessful in his quest.
But businessman and producer John Aglialoro stepped in to option the film rights in 1992 and after many years of struggle, finally produced the film trilogy.
Subtitled Part I (released in 2011), Part II (2012) and Part III (2014), the film trilogy received very mixed to negative reviews (or was largely ignored by most mainstream media) and ended up making just under $9 million at the box office. Each film in the trilogy, perhaps partly because the major casting changed for each film in a blow to continuity, made less than its predecessor.
Given such a track record, the Daily Wire may be facing an uphill battle to produce the new series, not to mention producing it well enough to break through today’s highly splintered streaming marketplace to reach a wider audience.
Interestingly, Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow, who co-produced the film series, are involved with the series as producers for Atlas Distribution Company.
They’re part of a much larger producing team: Jeremy Boreing, Ben Shapiro and Caleb Robinson, producing for DailyWire+; Dallas Sonnier and Amanda Presmyk, producing for Bonfire Legend; with Scott DeSapio, Joan Carter and Danielle Cox as executive producers.
Yet Rand’s massive novel may well have more potential as a limited series than a trilogy of films – especially if stretched out over 8 to 10 hours or more (or perhaps even adapted in three parts, each 6 to 8 hours long, and broadcast over three seasons). That greater length could allow a more faithful reflection of the novel’s intricate plotting and large cast of characters.
Better special effects than the film trilogy was able to afford would also help.
Set in a futuristic but almost alternate-reality version blending aspects of 1930s-1940s America (railroad- and radio-dominated but TV-free) where collectivist and statist policies are running amok and threatening an inexorable and apocalyptic collapse of civilization, the novel incorporates several sci-fi elements – most notably, force fields, a new and stronger super-metal alloy, a mysterious and powerful rumored new motor and a hidden “Atlantis” of prime movers.
One may remain somewhat skeptical about the prospects for a truly good and accurate TV adaptation, though, given one misleading sentence in the Daily Wire press release:
“The sci-fi, mystery and romance novel has long been held up as a canonical work in conservative literature,” the release said.
The problem with that, of course, is that Atlas Shrugged is not conservative in any significant sense – aside from the fact that some conservatives pay lip service to free markets without fully understanding or consistently respecting freedom of choice and its necessary corollary in severely limiting the power of the State to keeping the peace.
Rand herself was a classical liberal, for one thing. And the initial response to the novel’s 1957 publication included a highly negative review in National Review, then the leading conservative magazine.
In reality, Rand’s fiction and nonfiction works embrace individualism and aspects of libertarianism – neither of which fit comfortably into conventional modern liberalism or conservatism.
If the Daily Wire falsely perceives Rand’s novel to be conservative, that may shape what elements of Atlas Shrugged make it into the adaptation – and which don’t.
Yet a more faithful version of the novel than the film trilogy (which tried to update the setting to the near future with mixed results) could appeal more to Rand’s legion of fans. Perhaps treating the novel as a work of alternate history, and setting it in a different 1950s timeline, would be a way to avoid awkward updates, especially now that mainstream audiences are much more comfortable with the alternate-history genre in literature, TV series (such as Fringe and The Man in the High Castle) and films.
Ultimately, if this news turns out to be good news and the adaptation is done right, then Atlas Shrugged may have the potential for a genuine rebirth on the small screen. We’ll have to wait and see.
Stay tuned to the Prometheus Blog for further updates, as we learn more.
Note: In addition to her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was recognized by the Prometheus Awards in 1987, when her first novel Anthem, a poetic and concise classic of dystopian fiction about the rediscovery of the self in a primitive dictatorship, was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Rand also wrote two individualist and anti-authoritarian novels that do not fall within the sf genre – We the Living and The Fountainhead – along with many short stories and screenplays (later collected and published posthumously in the book The Early Ayn Rand).
Her non-fiction essays and columns were later published in more than half a dozen books, with Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution among the books of greatest interest to libertarians, classical liberals (for Rand was more truly a liberal than an “arch-conservative”) and other freedom-lovers.
* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.
* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.
* Watch videos of the 2022 Prometheus ceremony with Wil McCarthy, and past Prometheus Awards ceremonies, Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.
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Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights and differences.
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