These are my comments on the news from Variety that Angelina Jolie has signed to play Dagny Taggart in Howard and Karen Baldwin’s movie version of Ayn Rand’s great novel “Atlas Shrugged”. Can Angelina Jolie do the role justice?
Ihave only seen Angelina Jolie act in one movie, “Girl, Interrupted”. She won an Oscar for her supporting role as Lisa Rowe, a patient at a mental hospital who knows all the angles, in order to manipulate the staff so things go her way. For example, she finds ways to repeatedly escape the mental hospital, view secret files, get away with forbidden activities.
I read Susanna Kaysen’s original, short nonfiction book dealing with her bout with “borderline personality disorder”, and the film expanded rather than condensed the story. In the same way, Angelina Jolie had to create her character’s attitude and mannerisms by studying and integrating the clues from the script, and I think she did an outstanding job with that. There is very little in the original memoir about Lisa.
Some may say Jolie was playing herself, but whatever she did, it is a memorable and vivid performance. Within the mental hospital’s patient society, she is their leader, by being aloof and focused on her own needs (rational or irrational). I can see within this characterization, that Jolie has the potential to be the personification of nonconformity, of individualism, in a rational character as well. I believe what draws her to play Dagny is that aloof independence and driving ambition, that passion to pursue what she wants.
In the character of Lisa in “Girl, Interrupted”, Angelina Jolie was able to convey a type of selfishness, a driven pursuit of what Lisa would consider her values, and also a total disregard for the opinions of others. Yes, the character of Lisa is mentally disturbed, but it is what Angelina Jolie found within that character that I believe motivates her to play Dagny, and shows that she is capable of playing Dagny.
To sum up, based on viewing “Girl, Interrupted,” I can see that Jolie is able to show a driven, selfish pursuit of values, as well as total independence/nonconformity, a complete disregard for the opinion of others.
She isn’t the physical type I would have chosen for Dagny, but she is far from “wrong” for the role.
I’m not saying I expect the movie to be good; I will wait and see. But there is reason to believe it may be decent, even thrilling and worthy of the book, as the screenwriter James Hart wrote the film version of Carl Sagan’s “Contact”, which I thought was a good screenplay, and the producers Howard and Karen Baldwin were involved with “Ray” which I didn’t see yet, but have heard from reliable sources was very good. Both are thought to be films respectful of their source material–in the case of “Ray”, the facts of Ray Charles’ life.
Also, I have heard that the Baldwins are planning to produce “Atlas Shrugged” as a trilogy. This will allow it to have a chance of suggesting the scope of the story. No movie or trilogy will recreate the book word for word, as the book is too long, and no one should expect that.
The only film that I know of that recreated a normal-length novel almost word for word, was the 12-episode miniseries of Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited”.
(To contact Zigory please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org )