Angelina Jolie = Dagny Taggart?

A. JolieJust when you think Hollywood is hopelessly anti-capitalist (artistically, if not in practice), comes this (through A&L Daily). It turns out that Angelina Jolie is an Ayn Rand fan and is lining herself up to play Dagny Taggart in a film version of Atlas Shrugged. The International Herald Tribune reports:

…Rand’s grand polemical novel keeps selling, and her admirers in Hollywood keep trying, and the latest effort involves a lineup of heavy hitters, starting with Angelina Jolie.

Randall Wallace, who wrote “Braveheart” and “We Were Soldiers,” is working on compressing the nearly 1,200-page book into a conventional two- hour screenplay. Howard and Karen Baldwin, the husband-and-wife producers of “Ray,” are overseeing the project, and Lions Gate Entertainment is footing the bill.

Others have tried to bring the book alive on both the big and small screens, but have never quite been able to pull it off. In the IHT’s words:

Until now, at least, no one in Hollywood has figured out a formula that promises both to sell popcorn and to do justice to the original text, let alone to the philosophy that it hammers home endlessly, at times in lengthy speeches. (The final one is 60 pages long.) But Baldwin said he believed that Wallace and the rest of their team were up to the task. “We all believe in the book, and will be true to the book,” he said.

While this news may be interesting to Ayn Rand fans and to some in the movie industry, why should anyone else care? Well, although this movie is a long way from production, the mere fact that it is able to pick up some momentum seems counter to many trends posited by today’s conventional wisdom. Rand’s heroes celebrate industry and cities while we worry about deforestation and global warming. Rand celebrates egoism while the press decries the Bush Administration’s alleged egotism (the two concepts are often confused). Rand writes of capitalism, individual liberty, and free thought while we watch industries beg for protection from world trade and hear politicians speak of the Holy Grail of bi-partisanship (known as decisions by committee in the business world). Is change in the air?

It’s way too early to say, of course. If successful, this movie won’t be out for years and the world will be a different place by then. On the other hand, perhaps this is an early warning sign of a future public mood shift away from the “nanny state” and toward more self reliance and personal responsibility. Judging by actions at the micro level, this certainly seems plausible. Small businesses (or entrepreneurs) have been lauded for years now and they are enabled by capitalism and a healthy sense of personal responsibility. We’re frequently told how today’s youth refuse to rely on corporations to manage their professional lives and define their self worth. That’s an attitude that even John Galt could love!

It will be fun to watch the progress of this film and ultimately see how faithful it is to Rand’s book. In the end though, perhaps it’s best to remember one thing… it’s just a movie!

(Reason picked up on this here.)

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