When I last checked on the project to turn Ayn Rand’s mammoth Atlas Shrugged into a feature film, Stephen Polk was excitedly discussing how he would realize a dream by coming out of nowhere to direct the film on June 11th. Well, the movie made its start date, but Polk is on the outside looking in. It’s One Tree Hill star Paul Johansson directing and starring among a low-wattage cast, considering that Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron each seriously flirted with playing protagonist Dagny Taggart. (Now that role will be played by Taylor Schilling.)
Polk tells me he was devastated to be replaced just two weeks before production started, and even more so when a Variety announcement today omitted him completely, even as a producer. Polk isn’t shrugging this off. He has hired an attorney and predicts litigation in the near future. He said he could tell things were going awry when the budget began climbing as he tried to do justice to the book. “I had some real names seriously interested, but it had to be a real feature film, and I feel like I had the rug pulled out from under me,” Polk said. “When we talked about cast, even B-list cast, they were like, ‘we don’t need names.’ It was great material, people were interested, but there were red flags. It’s devastating to me. They replaced me with a TV actor, this has TV written all over it. They’ve fired other people. I was trying to embrace the spirit of Atlas Shrugged, and it will be interesting to see if they can still pull it off.”
It’s the first of what’s envisioned as a 4-film adaptation of the iconic book that Hollywood has been trying to film for decades. Maybe this will be a fine movie, but it would not be the first time a producer made a cut-rate placeholder version with hopes of doing a more ambitious film later.
It’s the first of what’s envisioned as a 4-film adaptation of the iconic book that Hollywood has been trying to film for decades.