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Atlas Shrugged: Part I

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Atlas Shrugged: Part I
Atlas Shrugged film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Johansson
Screenplay byJohn Aglialoro
Brian Patrick O'Toole[1]
Based onAtlas Shrugged
by Ayn Rand
Produced byJohn Aglialoro
Harmon Kaslow
StarringTaylor Schilling
Grant Bowler
Matthew Marsden
Edi Gathegi
Graham Beckel
Jsu Garcia
Jon Polito
Michael Lerner
CinematographyRoss Berryman
Edited byJim Flynn
Sherril Schlesinger
Music byElia Cmiral
The Strike Productions
Distributed byRocky Mountain Pictures
20th Century Fox
Release date
  • April 15, 2011 (2011-04-15)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[2][3]
Box office$4.6 million[3]

Atlas Shrugged: Part I (referred to onscreen as simply Atlas Shrugged) is a 2011 American political science fiction drama film directed by Paul Johansson. An adaptation of part of the philosopher Ayn Rand's 1957 novel of the same name, the film is the first in a trilogy encompassing the entire book. After various treatments and proposals floundered for nearly 40 years,[4] investor John Aglialoro initiated production in June 2010. The film was directed by Paul Johansson and stars Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart and Grant Bowler as Hank Rearden.

The film begins the story of Atlas Shrugged, set in a dystopian United States where John Galt leads innovators, from industrialists to artists, in a capital strike, "stopping the motor of the world" to reassert the importance of the free use of one's mind and of laissez-faire capitalism.[5]

Despite near universally negative critical response and commercial failure, grossing just under a fourth of its budget, a sequel, Atlas Shrugged: Part II, was released on October 12, 2012, albeit with an entirely different cast. The third installment, Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who Is John Galt?, was released on September 12, 2014,[6] again with an overhaul on production.


In 2016, the United States is in a sustained economic depression. Industrial disasters, resource shortages, and gasoline prices at $37 per gallon have made railroads the primary mode of transportation, but even they are in disrepair. After a major accident on the Rio Norte line of the Taggart Transcontinental railroad, CEO James Taggart shirks responsibility. His sister Dagny Taggart, Vice-President in Charge of Operations, defies him by replacing the aging track with new rails made of Rearden Metal, which is claimed to be lighter yet stronger than steel. Dagny meets with its inventor, Hank Rearden, and they negotiate a deal they both admit serves their respective self-interests.

Politician Wesley Mouch—nominally Rearden's lobbyist in Washington, D.C.—is part of a crowd that views heads of industry as persons who must be broken or tamed. James Taggart uses political influence to ensure that Taggart Transcontinental is designated the exclusive railroad for the state of Colorado. Dagny is confronted by Ellis Wyatt, a Colorado oil man angry to be forced to do business with Taggart Transcontinental. Dagny promises him that he will get the service he needs. Dagny encounters former lover Francisco d'Anconia, who presents a façade of a playboy grown bored with the pursuit of money. He reveals that a series of copper mines he built are worthless, costing his investors (including the Taggart railroad) millions.

Rearden lives in a magnificent home with a wife and a brother who are happy to live off his effort, though they overtly disrespect it. Rearden's anniversary gift to his wife Lillian is a bracelet made from the first batch of Rearden Metal, but she considers it a garish symbol of Hank's egotism. At a dinner party, Dagny dares Lillian to exchange it for Dagny's diamond necklace, which she does.

As Dagny and Rearden rebuild the Rio Norte line, talented people quit their jobs and refuse all inducements to stay. Meanwhile, Dr. Robert Stadler of the State Science Institute puts out a report implying that Rearden Metal is dangerous. Taggart Transcontinental stock plummets because of its use of Rearden Metal, and Dagny leaves Taggart Transcontinental temporarily and forms her own company to finish the Rio Norte line. She renames it the John Galt Line, in defiance of the phrase "Who is John Galt?"—which has come to stand for any question to which it is pointless to seek an answer.

A new law forces Rearden to sell most of his businesses, but he retains Rearden Steel for the sake of his metal and to finish the John Galt Line. Despite strong government and union opposition to Rearden Metal, Dagny and Rearden complete the line ahead of schedule and successfully test it on a record-setting run to Wyatt's oil fields in Colorado. At the home of Wyatt, now a close friend, Dagny and Rearden celebrate the success of the line. As Dagny and Rearden continue their celebration into the night by fulfilling their growing sexual attraction, the shadowy figure responsible for the disappearances of prominent people visits Wyatt with an offer for a better society based on personal achievement.

The next morning, Dagny and Rearden begin investigating an abandoned prototype of an advanced motor that could revolutionize the world. They realize the genius of the motor's creator and try to track him down. Dagny finds Dr. Hugh Akston, working as a cook at a diner, but he is not willing to reveal the identity of the inventor; Akston knows whom Dagny is seeking and says she will never find him, though he may find her.

Another new law limits rail freight and levies a special tax on Colorado. It is the final straw for Ellis Wyatt. When Dagny hears that Wyatt's oil fields are on fire, she rushes to the scene of the fire where she finds a handwritten sign nailed to the wall that reads "I am leaving it as I found it. Take over. It's yours."

Wyatt declares in an answering machine message that he is "on strike".


Taylor Schilling starred as Dagny Taggart.
Taylor Schilling starred as Dagny Taggart.



John Aglialoro (left) and Harmon Kaslow (right) produced the film.
John Aglialoro (left) and Harmon Kaslow (right) produced the film.

In 1972, Albert S. Ruddy approached Rand to produce a cinematic adaptation of Atlas Shrugged. Rand agreed that Ruddy could focus on the love story. "That's all it ever was," Rand said.[9][10][11] Rand insisted on having final script approval, which Ruddy refused to give her, thus preventing a deal. In 1978, Henry and Michael Jaffe negotiated a deal for an eight-hour Atlas Shrugged television miniseries on NBC. Jaffe hired screenwriter Stirling Silliphant to adapt the novel and he obtained approval from Rand on the final script. However, in 1979, with Fred Silverman's rise as president of NBC, the project was scrapped.[12]

Rand, a former Hollywood screenwriter herself, began writing her own screenplay, but died in 1982 with only one third of it finished. She left her estate, including the film rights to Atlas Shrugged, to her student Leonard Peikoff, who sold an option to Michael Jaffe and Ed Snider. Peikoff would not approve the script they wrote and the deal fell through. In 1992, investor John Aglialoro bought an option to produce the film, paying Peikoff over $1 million for full creative control.[12]

In 1999, under Aglialoro's sponsorship, Ruddy negotiated a deal with Turner Network Television for a four-hour miniseries, but the project was killed after the AOL Time Warner merger. After the TNT deal fell through, Howard and Karen Baldwin, while running Phillip Anschutz's Crusader Entertainment, obtained the rights. The Baldwins left Crusader, taking the rights to Atlas Shrugged with them, and formed Baldwin Entertainment Group in 2004. Michael Burns of Lions Gate Entertainment approached the Baldwins to fund and distribute Atlas Shrugged.[12] A two-part draft screenplay written by James V. Hart[13] was re-written into a 127–page screenplay by Randall Wallace, with Vadim Perelman expected to direct.[14] Potential cast members for this production had included Angelina Jolie,[15] Charlize Theron,[16] Julia Roberts,[16] and Anne Hathaway.[16] Between 2009 and 2010, however, these deals came apart, including studio backing from Lions Gate, and therefore none of the stars mentioned above appear in the final film. Also, Wallace did not do the screenplay, and Perelman did not direct.[1][17] Aglialoro says producers have spent "something in the $20 million range" on the project over the last 18 years.[2]


In May 2010, Brian Patrick O'Toole and Aglialoro wrote a screenplay, intent on filming in June 2010. While initial rumors claimed that the films would have a "timeless" setting—the producers say Rand envisioned the story as occurring "the day after tomorrow"[18]—the released film is set in late 2016. The writers were mindful of the desire of some fans for fidelity to the novel,[18] but gave some characters, such as Eddie Willers, short shrift and omitted others, such as the composer Richard Halley. The film is styled as a mystery, with black-and-white freeze frames as each innovator goes "missing". However, Galt appears and speaks in the film, solving the mystery more clearly than in the first third of the novel.


Though director Johansson had been reported as playing the pivotal role of John Galt, he made it clear in an interview that with regard to who is John Galt in the film, the answer was, "Not me."[7] He explained that his portrayal of the character would be limited to the first film as a silhouetted figure wearing a trenchcoat and fedora,[8] suggesting that another actor will be cast as Galt for the subsequent parts of the trilogy.


Though Stephen Polk was initially set to direct,[19] he was replaced by Paul Johansson nine days before filming was scheduled to begin. With the 18-year-long option to the films rights set to expire on June 15, 2010, producers Harmon Kaslow and Aglialoro began principal photography on June 13, 2010, thus allowing Aglialoro to retain the motion picture rights. Shooting took five weeks, and he says that the total production cost of the movie came in on a budget around US$10 million,[20] though Box Office Mojo lists the production cost as $20 million.[3]


Elia Cmiral composed the score for the film.[21] Peter Debruge wrote in Variety that "More ambitious sound design and score, rather than the low-key filler from composer Elia Cmiral and music supervisor Steve Weisberg, might have significantly boosted the pic's limited scale."[22]


In a lot of ways, this project reflects the ethos of the Tea Party. You had both Republicans and Democrats who felt rejected by the establishment, and the same process is going to happen with Atlas Shrugged: We're going to build a constituency of people who believe in limited government and individual liberty.

Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks[23]

The film had a very low marketing budget and was not marketed in conventional methods.[24] Prior to the film's release on the politically symbolic date of Tax Day, the project was promoted throughout the Tea Party movement and affiliated organizations such as FreedomWorks.[23] The National Journal reported that FreedomWorks, the Tea Party-allied group headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, (R-Texas), had been trying to get the movie opened in more theaters.[23] FreedomWorks also helped unveil the Atlas Shrugged movie trailer at the February 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference.[23] Additionally, it was reported that Tea Party groups across the country were plugging the movie trailer on their websites and Facebook pages.[23] Release of the film was also covered and promoted by Fox News TV personalities John Stossel and Sean Hannity.[25][26]


The U.S. release of Atlas Shrugged: Part I opened on 300 screens on April 15, 2011, and made US$1,676,917 in its opening weekend, finishing in 14th place overall.[27] Producers announced expansion to 423 theaters several days after release and promised 1,000 theaters by the end of April,[28] but the release peaked at 465 screens. Ticket sales dropped off significantly in its second week of release, despite the addition of 165 screens; after six weeks, the film was showing on only 32 screens and total ticket sales had not crossed the $5 million mark, recouping less than a quarter of the production budget.[29]

Home media

Atlas Shrugged: Part I was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on November 8, 2011 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.[30] More than 100,000 DVD inserts were recalled within days due to the jacket's philosophically incorrect description of "Ayn Rand's timeless novel of courage and self-sacrifice".[31] As of April 2013, 247,044 DVDs had been sold, grossing $3,433,445.[32]


The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 12% based on 52 reviews, with an average score of 3.8/10. The site's consensus was: "Passionate ideologues may find it compelling, but most filmgoers will find this low-budget adaptation of the Ayn Rand bestseller decidedly lacking."[33] Metacritic gives the film a "generally unfavorable" rating of 28%, as determined by averaging 19 professional reviews.[34] Some commentators noted differences in film critics' reactions from audience members' reactions; from the latter group, the film received high scores even before the film was released.[35][36][37]

Let's say you know the novel, you agree with Ayn Rand, you're an objectivist or a libertarian, and you've been waiting eagerly for this movie. Man, are you going to get a letdown. It's not enough that a movie agree with you, in however an incoherent and murky fashion. It would help if it were like, you know, entertaining?

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, April 14, 2011[1]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film only one star, calling it "the most anticlimactic non-event since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone's vault."[1] Columnist Cathy Young of The Boston Globe gave the film a negative review.[38] Chicago Tribune published a predominantly negative review, arguing that the film lacks Rand's philosophical theme, while at the same time saying "the actors, none of them big names, are well-suited to the roles. The story has drive, color and mystery. It looks good on the screen."[39] In the New York Post, Kyle Smith gave the film a mostly negative review, grading it at 2.5/4 stars, criticizing its "stilted dialogue and stern, unironic hectoring" and calling it "stiff in the joints", but also adding that it "nevertheless contains a fire and a fury that makes it more compelling than the average mass-produced studio item."[40]

Reviews in the conservative press were more mixed. American economist Mark Skousen praised the film, writing in Human Events, "The script is true to the philosophy of Ayn Rand's novel."[41] The Weekly Standard senior editor Fred Barnes noted that the film "gets Rand's point across forcefully without too much pounding", that it is "fast-paced" when compared with the original novel's 1200-page length, and that it is "at least as relevant today as it was when the novel was published in 1957."[42] Jack Hunter, contributing editor to The American Conservative, wrote, "If you ask the average film critic about the new movie adaptation of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged they will tell you it is a horrible movie. If you ask the average conservative or libertarian they will tell you it is a great movie. Objectively, it is a mediocre movie at best. Subjectively, it is one of the best mediocre movies you'll ever see."[43] In the National Post, Peter Foster credited the movie for the daunting job of fidelity to the novel, wryly suggested a plot rewrite along the lines of comparable current events, and concluded, "if it sinks without trace, its backers should at least be proud that they lost their own money."[44]


The poor critical reception of Atlas Shrugged: Part I initially made Aglialoro reconsider his plans for the rest of the trilogy.[45] In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he said he was continuing with plans to produce Part II and Part III for release on April 15 in 2012 and 2013, respectively.[46] In a later interview with The Boston Globe, Aglialoro was ambivalent: "I learned something long ago playing poker. If you think you're beat[en], don't go all in. If Part 1 makes [enough of] a return to support Part 2, I'll do it. Other than that, I'll throw the hand in."[47]

In July 2011, Aglialoro planned to start production of Atlas Shrugged: Part II in September, with its release timed to coincide with the 2012 U.S. elections.[48] In October 2011, producer Harmon Kaslow stated that he hoped filming for Part II would begin in early 2012, "with hopes of previewing it around the time of the nominating conventions". Kaslow anticipated that the film, which would encompass the second third of Atlas Shrugged, would "probably be 30 to 40 minutes longer than the first movie." Kaslow also stated his intent that Part II would have a bigger production budget, as well as a larger advertising budget.[49]

On February 2, 2012, Kaslow and Aglialoro, the producers of Atlas Shrugged: Part II, announced a start date for principal photography in April 2012 with a release date of October 12, 2012.[50] Joining the production team was Duncan Scott, who, in 1986, was responsible for creating a new, re-edited version with English subtitles of the 1942 Italian film adaptation of We the Living. The first film's entire cast was replaced for the sequel.

The sequel film, Atlas Shrugged: Part II, was released on October 12, 2012.[51] Critics gave the film a 4% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 23 reviews.[52] One reviewer gave the film a "D" rating,[53] while another reviewer gave the film a "1" rating (of 4).[54] In naming Part II to its list of 2012's worst films, The A.V. Club said "The irony of Part II's mere existence is rich enough: The free market is a religion for Rand acolytes, and it emphatically rejected Part I."[55]


  1. ^ a b c d Ebert, Roger (April 14, 2011). "Atlas Shrugged". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on April 16, 2011. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  2. ^ a b David Weigel (March 3, 2011). "Libertarians Shrugged". Slate. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "Atlas Shrugged: Part I". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on April 27, 2011. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  4. ^ Britting, Jeff (2009). "Bringing Atlas Shrugged to Film". In Mayhew, Robert (ed.). Essays on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (PDF). Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-7391-2780-3. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 26, 2011. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  5. ^ LaSalle, Mick (April 14, 2011). "'Atlas Shrugged Part 1' review: A dystopian tale". SFGate.
  6. ^ "'Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt?' Sets Sept. 12 Release Date". The Hollywood Reporter. March 26, 2014. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Murty, Govindini (July 21, 2010). "EXCLUSIVE: LFM Visits the Set of Atlas Shrugged + Director Paul Johansson's First Interview About the Film". Libertas Film Magazine. Archived from the original on August 1, 2010. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 – Official Movie Trailer". YouTube. February 8, 2011. Archived from the original on December 14, 2021.
  9. ^ Dowd, Maureen (April 17, 2011). "Atlas Without Angelina". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
  10. ^ McConnell, Scott (2010). 100 Voices:An Oral History of Ayn Rand. United Kingdom: Penguin Books/NAL Trade. p. Ruddy. ISBN 978-0451231307.
  11. ^ Interview Transcript (1999). "The Making Of The Atlas Shrugged TV MiniSeries". Prodos Institute Inc. Retrieved August 3, 2012. Interview with Albert Ruddy, Susan Black, and Bill Collins.
  12. ^ a b c Brown, Kimberly (January 14, 2007). "Ayn Rand No Longer Has Script Approval". The New York Times. Retrieved June 21, 2009.
  13. ^ McClintock, Pamela (April 26, 2006). "Lionsgate Shrugging". Variety. Retrieved June 21, 2009.
  14. ^ Fleming, Michael (September 4, 2007). "Vadim Perelman to direct 'Atlas'". Variety. Retrieved June 21, 2009.
  15. ^ "Angelina Jolie set to star in Atlas Shrugged". September 21, 2006. Archived from the original on June 20, 2010. Retrieved September 12, 2009.
  16. ^ a b c Fischer, Russ (July 21, 2009). "Charlize Theron Could Topline Atlas Shrugged Mini-Series". Retrieved September 12, 2009.
  17. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (April 1, 2009). "Shrugs over 'Atlas' are ending". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 30, 2011.
  18. ^ a b Atlas Shrugged DVD, Directors' commentary audio channel
  19. ^ Fleming, Mike (May 26, 2010). "'Atlas Shrugged' Rights Holder Sets June Production Start Whether Or Not Stars Align". Archived from the original on May 29, 2010. Retrieved May 28, 2010.
  20. ^ Zader, Joshua (November 23, 2010). "John Aglialoro on the Atlas Shrugged Movie". Retrieved March 30, 2011.
  21. ^ Atlas Shrugged Movie: The First 10 Minutes
  22. ^ Debruge, Peter (April 7, 2011). "Variety Reviews – Atlas Shrugged: Part I". Variety.
  23. ^ a b c d e Tea Party Groups Push Atlas Shrugged Movie by Catalina Camia, USA Today, March 23, 2011
  24. ^ Persall, Steve. Film about big government bypasses Hollywood, St. Petersburg Times.
  25. ^ "Will Hollywood Let You See 'Atlas Shrugged'? – Fox News Video". Fox News. June 3, 2011.
  26. ^ Stossel, John. "Atlas Shrugged Hits the Silver Screen", Fox Business Network. April 15, 2011. The Atlas Society was also involved with the film and held a premiere in New York City on April 14, 2011.
  27. ^ "US Movie Box Office Chart Weekend of April 15, 2011". The Numbers.
  28. ^ Weigel, David (April 25, 2011). "Audiences Shrugged". Slate. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  29. ^ "Atlas Shrugged: Part I (2011) – Daily Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo.
  30. ^ Calkins, Lou Gaul (November 7, 2011). "Video View: Beginning of the end for Harry Potter fans". The Beaver County Times.
  31. ^ Atlas Shrugged Producers Hope Their Delightful Mistake Will Sell DVDs, New York Magazine
  32. ^ "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 (2011)". The Numbers.
  33. ^ "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  34. ^ "Critic Reviews for Atlas Shrugged: Part I at Metacritic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive.
  35. ^ Shea, Christopher (April 15, 2011). "Atlas Shrugged Is Upon Us". The Wall Street Journal. giving the movie five stars, some also admit they haven't actually, you know, seen it yet.
  36. ^ Gibson, Megan (April 15, 2011). "Sorry, Objectivists: Atlas Shrugged Movie Gets Pummeled By Critics". Time.
  37. ^ Condon, Stephanie (April 15, 2011). "Atlas Shrugged film adaptation banking on conservative support". CBS News.
  38. ^ Young, Cathy (April 19, 2011). "Atlas Mugged". The Boston Globe.
  39. ^ Steve Chapman, 'Atlas Shrugged,' the movie, Chicago Tribune, April 14, 2011.
  40. ^ Kyle Smith, Rand old time for Ayn adherents, New York Post, April 14, 2011.
  41. ^ Mark Skousen, To Protest Tax Day, Go See "Atlas Shrugged" The Movie Archived April 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Human Events, April 15, 2011.
  42. ^ Fred Barnes (April 14, 2011). "This Is John Galt". The Weekly Standard. The Blog. Retrieved April 19, 2011.
  43. ^ Jack Hunter, Atlas vs. Avatar, The American Conservative, April 18, 2011.
  44. ^ Foster, Peter (October 28, 2011). "Shrug it off: Ayn Rand's ideas still hold". National Post. Canada. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  45. ^ "'Atlas Shrugged' producer: 'Critics, you won.' He's going 'on strike.'". Los Angeles Times. 24 Frames. April 26, 2011. Archived from the original on May 4, 2011. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
  46. ^ Paul Bond (April 27, 2011). "'Atlas Shrugged' Producer Promises Two Sequels Despite Terrible Reviews, Poor Box Office". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 30, 2011.
  47. ^ Jenn Abelson (May 8, 2011). "John Algialoro is Ayn Rand's Biggest Fan". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  48. ^ Keegan, Rebecca (July 1, 2011). "'Atlas Shrugged' heads to DVD this fall – and a sequel won't be far behind". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
  49. ^ Patrick Gavin (October 12, 2011). "New 'Atlas Shrugged' film on the way". Politico. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  50. ^ Paul Bond (February 2, 2012). "'Atlas Shrugged Part 2' Starting Production in April". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  51. ^ "Atlas Shrugged Movie (Official Website)". October 12, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  52. ^ "Atlas Shrugged: Part 2 (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  53. ^ Baldwin, Danny (October 12, 2012). "Review: "Atlas Shrugged: Part II – The Strike"". CriticSpeak. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  54. ^ Smith, Kyle (October 12, 2012). "Saw the film & shrugged". NYPost. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  55. ^ The worst films of 2012, The A.V. Club, December 20, 2012, accessed December 20, 2012.

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