Friday, November 25, 2022

Daily Wire Secures Exclusive Rights to Atlas Shrugged

The conservative internet news site and media company the DailyWire has announced that it has secured the exclusive rights to Ayn Rand's controversial best selling novel Atlas Shrugged. Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing indicated plans for creating a series based on Rand's novel that would be streamed on the subscription-based DailyWire+. As Boering explained,

When we [i.e., the DailyWire] decided in 2020 to launch into entertainment, my vision at that time was to bring Ayn Rand’s seminal work on the creative power of economic freedom and the terrible consequences of its loss to the screen as a premium series. The obvious problem, we thought, is that we would never be able to get the rights to such a culturally ubiquitous work. I was wrong.”

I suspect Boering was not alone in believing that he would never get the rights to Atlas. So how did he pull it off? As far as can be made out, a deal was negotiated between Leonard Peikoff's and the DailyWire's lawyers, which strongly suggests that Peikoff himself must have signed off on the deal. As the DailyWire explained:

The deal was negotiated by Sonnier and general counsel Joshua Herr on behalf of DailyWire+, Roger Arar and Kaslow on behalf of Atlas Distribution Company, and Tim Knowlton of Curtis Brown Ltd. on behalf of the Peikoff Family Partnership and the Estate of Ayn Rand.
Some orthodox Objectivists (James Valliant for instance) have declared themselves "terrified" by this news. They fear the DailyWire smuggle "conservative" notions into Atlas, particularly religious tropes. Jeremy Beoring insisted that the DailyWire+' version of Atlas would be true to the book’s message, plot, and character archetypes. I suspect being "true" to Rand's novel was part of the deal with Peikoff, although what exactly that will mean in practice remains to be seen. Bear in mind that those in the Objectivist world who wish to see a well-made version of Atlas don't exactly have a lot of choices when it comes to getting Atlas on screen. Hollywood would never deign to make such a series and the DailyWire is about the only film company in the world with first-rate production values willing to take on such a quixotic venture.

Of course it goes without saying that, even with high production values, Atlas remains essentially an unfilmable novel. It will be interesting to see who Boering enlists as the screenwriter for the project. Will Andrew Klavan be asked to try his hand at the business? And who's going to direct and act in this thing? Most Hollywood actors wouldn't dare involve themselves in a DailyWire+ project—let alone one involving the Ayn Rand. Is everyone ready for Gina Carano as Dagny Taggart and Laurence Fox as Hank Rearden? There's a decent chance both those actors, each of whom has suffered cancellation for their political views, will star in the series. Perhaps they can also find a part for James Woods.


Unknown said...

I didn't watch the three part movie and I'm no movie buff, but something tells me some novels, no matter how good, can't be made into good movies. The best approach would be to film it in black & white and set it in the 50s.


Anonymous said...

That actually might not be a bad idea. Kinda like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, with a deliberately retro tone. Only I suspect Rand fans would object to anything even hinting at an ironic take on the story.

Albionic American said...

There are also the problems with Rand's unsubtle anti-family message in the novel; the implicit problem with John Galt's sexual history and sexual experience before he gets lucky with Dagny in the railroad's storeroom; and the conflicts between what the novel shows versus what it says. For a glaring example, why is it morally good for the Chad-looking heroes to destroy industrial wealth like oil fields, steel mills & mines, but it's morally bad when the ugly characters do it?

Anonymous said...

Problems from what standpoint? It's not as if the cinema hasn't produced very popular but thematically bonkers material before. Whether some YouTube commentator can pick apart all the logical flaws in a movie is not, I suspect, going to significantly impact whether the movie entertains the public at large and is thus successful.

I don't know that the "anti-family" thing would be a big deal for Hollywood - certainly it might not play well in conservative America - but even in the book Rand tossed a sop to the concept when she has Dagny observe and talk to one of the Gulch residents, a woman with two sons. I don't think it would be too hard to play some elements down and play others up.

If we're talking about Galt's sexual history, I think Dagny's might be more problematic, considering she's intimately involved with Rearden for much of the book and drops him like hot lava when she meets Galt. And both Rearden and d'Ancoinia are mooning over her at the story's end! I find that weird, but then many a movie has depicted "weird" while still pulling a profit.

And the Fountainhead got made. Which answers the last question: It's okay for the Chads to wreck things if it keeps the moochers and parasites from having them; one presumes that the latter wrecking things potentially keeps them out of the hands of deserving and good-looking Chads, therefore bad.

gregnyquist said...

Problems from what standpoint? It's not as if the cinema hasn't produced very popular but thematically bonkers material before.

It's not really a question of whether Atlas is thematically bonkers. The theme of the book could be seen as it's strong point — depending, of course, on one's ideological point of view. It's the realization of the theme where you it gets challenging, especially if you're trying present the material seriously, which is presumably what the DailyWire will attempt. Wooden characters presented in heavily politicized story-making is incredibly challenging to pull off. Atlas will not actually be a movie, it will be a series which could easily last over fifteen hours. In that time span, how do you make the characters real?

I don't know that the "anti-family" thing would be a big deal for Hollywood. This will not be a Hollywood production. It will be featured behind the paywall of a conservative website. Now there does exist a contingent of conservatives (often of more libertarian cast mind) who like Atlas and think it's great work. There's also, on the other side, a long tradition of conservative dissenters on Atlas going back to Whittaker Chambers. It will be interesting to know what kind budget the DailyWire will invest in this thing. They have only about a million subscribers. Will that be enough to pay for it? How many libertarian types will pay for a subscription (and for how long?) to see the series? I know the DailyWire would like to do more "mainstream" (i.e., non-woke) type entertainment. Well, Atlas may not be woke, but it's certainly not mainstream.

Anonymous said...

In that time span, how do you make the characters real?

As someone who writes, I think having more time to work with would make it easier to flesh out a character. That Rand couldn't do it with the incredible page count of Atlas says more to her characterization skills than anything else. The problem is going to be: how much leeway to adapt the material will the producers be given? If the answer is (as is implied) "not much", then sure, it's not going to get much further than the previous trilogy of films.

But I was referring more to the "problems" brought up by Albionic American, which I don't really see as being much of a problem. The things he describes are and have been in mainstream cinema and TV before, and apart from some grumbling from notable critics, don't really affect what does well or flops in the public sphere. It's difficult to succeed in those arenas without a certain cross-cultural tolerance, which suggests that at least some part of the conservative sphere watches movies that they might ideologically object to if really pressed on the issue.

Sexual mores? Who really cares? Anti-family? As long as they don't have Dagny openly spouting off about all the fetuses she aborted, I don't think it's going to be that much of an issue. And while Rand herself certainly was staunchly atheist, I don't recall Atlas spending much time explicitly denouncing the church - there's an awful lot of material to forget in that book, so I might well be wrong on that score.

I think, just as conservatives rallied around Trump despite his history of some very un-conservative actions and viewpoints, that many conservatives could easily see fit to tolerate the parts of Atlas they might object to if it serves them up enough of what they do like - the anti-socialist, anti-communist and pro-capitalist messages. Rush Limbaugh used to hold Atlas up from time to time as a great book - but he just never talked about any of Rand's opinions he might have disliked. DailyWire, I suspect, will similarly play down or outright ignore as much of Rand's message that they find problematic in some way, to as much of an extent as they can get away with, leaving it up to outside commentators to write long blog posts about how "conservatives are fawning over a pro-choice atheist's work" or the like.

And for good or ill, these aren't the days of Whittaker Chambers. Partisan sentiment is high, and so is the desire to see "the other side" punished or destroyed. The train tunnel sequence, which Chambers saw as eagerly ghoulish on Rand's part, might well become a favorite part of that portion of today's conservative audience that wants to "own the libs", so long as the victims are portrayed mostly as those very libs they detest. One era's flaw may be another's selling point.

I could be wrong! I may have totally mis-read the heart of modern conservatism and misjudged their potential appetite for such fare. On the other hand, here's DailyWire volunteering to sink a very large amount of money into this project - even if it's a low-budget affair, it'll eat up a lot of wealth in its production - so unless this is some exec's passion project, they at least think there's something there they can sell.