CATEGORIES Features
'Atlas Shrugged' Paperback Cover"Who is John Galt?" Not even the team that claims to be about to shoot the long-gestating version of Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' seems to know the answer to the book's famous question.

According to Deadline New York, entrepreneur John Aglialoro, who has held the option on the film rights for 17 years, plans to begin shooting the project on June 11, even though there's no cast to speak of yet.

It's only the latest twist in the long history of attempts to turn Rand's 1957 novel into a movie. There have been daunting obstacles (not least the book's forbidding length and its dense chunks of Rand's Objectivist philosophizing that bring the plot to a crashing halt). Top stars, including Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron, have been close to signing to play 'Atlas' heroine Dagny Taggart, only to drop out of consideration for the role.

'Atlas' is one of many literary monsters long thought to be unfilmmable, either because of development difficulties (rights issues, casting, money) or because of the book's own complexity, or both. Then again, such "unfilmable" works as William S. Burroughs' 'Naked Lunch' and Alan Moore's 'Watchmen' ultimately did get made. Certainly, Aglialoro's determination to start shooting 'Atlas' next month, cast or no cast, seems to echo the grand, obstinate, rules-be-damned behavior of Rand's industrialist heroes.

What are the odds that Aglialoro will successfully bring to the screen a novel that's resisted adaptation for 53 years? Here's our handicapping of the chances we'll ever see a movie of 'Atlas Shrugged' as well as several other novels that have long languished in development limbo. 'Atlas Shrugged' Paperback Cover"Who is John Galt?" Not even the team that claims to be about to shoot the long-gestating version of Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' seems to know the answer to the book's famous question.

According to Deadline New York, entrepreneur John Aglialoro, who has held the option on the film rights for 17 years, plans to begin shooting the project on June 11, even though there's no cast to speak of yet.

It's only the latest twist in the long history of attempts to turn Rand's 1957 novel into a movie. There have been daunting obstacles (not least the book's forbidding length and its dense chunks of Rand's Objectivist philosophizing that bring the plot to a crashing halt). Top stars, including Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron, have been close to signing to play 'Atlas' heroine Dagny Taggart, only to drop out of consideration for the role.

'Atlas' is one of many literary monsters long thought to be unfilmable, either because of development difficulties (rights issues, casting, money) or because of the book's own complexity, or both. Then again, such "unfilmable" works as William S. Burroughs' 'Naked Lunch' and Alan Moore's 'Watchmen' ultimately did get made. Certainly, Aglialoro's determination to start shooting 'Atlas' next month, cast or no cast, seems to echo the grand, obstinate, rules-be-damned behavior of Rand's industrialist heroes.

What are the odds that Aglialoro will successfully bring to the screen a novel that's resisted adaptation for 53 years? Here's our handicapping of the chances we'll ever see a movie of 'Atlas Shrugged' as well as several other novels that have long languished in development limbo.

• 'Atlas Shrugged'
Development History: Rand's novel is 1,100 pages long, its characters are less flesh-and-blood humans than mouthpieces for various philosophical points, and its climax is a 60-page speech by the mysterious hero, who doesn't even show up until near the end of the book. None of that has stopped Hollywood from wanting to film it. Those who've tried over the last 40 years to make it fly include 'Godfather' producer Albert S. Ruddy; NBC (which planned an eight-hour miniseries in the late 1970s); Rand herself (who was at work on a screenplay before her death in 1982); TNT (whose plans for a four-hour miniseries fell apart in 2000); 'Braveheart' screenwriter Randall Wallace; Lionsgate (which returned to the eight-hour miniseries idea)/ and Jolie, who reportedly called it "a once-in-a-lifetime project."
Odds for Success: Eh. Aglialoro plans to break the book up into four feature films. He has a director (newbie Stephen Polk) and a screenplay (which Aglialoro co-wrote with Brian O'Tool). Again, no cast, but since John Galt doesn't show up until the fourth film, maybe that's not an insurmountable problem.

'The Catcher in the Rye' Paperback cover• 'The Catcher in the Rye'
Development History: Throughout his lifetime, J.D. Salinger refused to sell the film rights to his 1951 novel about preppy teen delinquent Holden Caulfield, fearing that the book's chief virtue -- Holden's unique, profane, petulant voice -- would be lost in translation. That hasn't stopped Hollywood power brokers, from Billy Wilder to Stephen Spielberg, from spending more than 50 years trying to change the author's mind. Salinger hinted in a 1957 letter that he might let his heirs sell the rights after he died, so his passing in January 2010 has prompted new speculation that 'Catcher' might finally go before the cameras.
Odds for Success: Doubtful. Even if the rights become available, there's still the problem of finding a young actor both callow and worldly enough to play Holden, much less a filmmaker who could come up with a cinematic equivalent for the book's tone and voice. (Though Wes Anderson, whose 'The Royal Tenenbaums' was thoroughly Salinger-esque, could do it.)

• 'A Confederacy of Dunces'

Development History: Like 'Catcher,' John Kennedy Toole's comic masterpiece is built around its hero's singular consciousness and antisocial personality. Producer Scott Kramer has been trying to get the film made since the book was published in 1980. The chief obstacle has been finding someone to play its 300-pound, bellowing, erudite, ne'er-do-well antihero. John Belushi, John Candy and Chris Farley all died before they could play Ignatius J. Reilly. Will Ferrell was attached for a long time, but he seems wrong for the part. Steven Soderbergh and David Gordon Green ('Pineapple Express') have both been attached to direct, but so far, no dice
Odds for Success: Slim. Even if its script and casting difficulties could be solved, there's still the problem of selling Ignatius J. Reilly to a movie audience. No wonder Ferrell has said, "It's the movie everyone in Hollywood wants to make but doesn't want to finance."

'Infinite Jest' Hardback cover• 'Infinite Jest'
Development History: David Foster Wallace's gargantuan, futuristic satire would be pretty hard to adapt, in part because of its length and its unusual structure (many of the 1996 novel's key passages come in the form of extensive endnotes). Still, in 2008, 'In Treatment' scriptwriter Keith Bunin was reportedly working on a screenplay, with documentarian Sam Jones ('I Am Trying to Break Your Heart') attached to direct.
Odds for Success: Infinitesimal. It's not clear what effect, if any, Wallace's 2008 suicide had on the project, or whether Bunin and Jones ever solved issues of length, structure, casting and financing. In any case, it seems the right director for the job would, again, be Wes Anderson, given his demonstrated fondness for dysfunctional families, irresponsible patriarchs, and tennis, as well as his mastery of a comic, profoundly wistful tone.

'Neuromancer' Paperback cover• 'Neuromancer'
Development History: William Gibson's pioneering cyberpunk novel is sprawling, digressive, and full of jargon and slang. That didn't stop Gibson himself from trying to adapt it into a screenplay in 2000 for video artist Chris Cunningham to direct. That version fell through, as did a more recent incarnation that would have had 'Torque's' Joseph Kahn directing, with Hayden Christensen starring. (Thank the Force that's not happening.)
Odds for Success: Good. Sci-fi horror-thriller director Vincenzo Natali ('Cube' and this summer's upcoming 'Splice') has just been signed to write and direct, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Natali tells Cinematical that Gibson's prophetic ideas about cyberspace, which were mind-blowing back in 1984, are much easier to visualize on screen today in the age of the Internet, 'The Matrix' and 'Avatar.'

• 'On the Road'
Development History: Jack Kerouac's landmark Beat novel has left filmmakers beaten since 1957, perhaps because of its loose, meandering narrative and its jazzy, poetic language. Francis Ford Coppola has been trying to get a version out of the garage for 30 years, For a while, it looked like Gus Van Sant would direct a version that played up the homoerotic elements of the bromance between Dean Moriarty (the book's version of Neal Cassady) and Sal Paradise (its narrator and Kerouac stand-in). Russell Banks wrote a screenplay for Coppola that was never used. Leonardo DiCaprio was attached to star for a while.
Odds for Success: All but certain. A Coppola-produced version is finally set to start shooting this summer. Behind the camera will be Walter Salles and José Rivera, the director and screenwriter behind the similar road movie 'The Motorcycle Diaries.' Cast includes Kristen Stewart as Dean's wife, Garret Hedlund as Dean, and Sam Riley as Sal. Kirsten Dunst is also on board.

• 'The Sandman'
Development History: Neil Gaiman's 74-issue comic series, a meditation on dreams and mortality, would seem to make a better miniseries than movie. (Indeed, there's been talk of HBO taking it on.) That hasn't stopped some people from trying to make a big-screen version, including Gaiman himself. He told Wired last year about a meeting he had about it with Warner Bros., in which he gave an elaborate visual presentation with artwork and toys, only to be shot down because the tale lacks a well-defined villain.
Odds for Success: Marginal -- though after the success of the stop-motion animation adaptation of Gaiman's 'Coraline' last year, someone is bound to try. "If anybody is going to make a 'Sandman' movie, it will probably be a kid in film school right now to whom 'The Sandman' was the most important thing ever," Gaiman told Wired. "It will take the amount of commitment, dedication and madness that Peter Jackson brought to 'Lord of the Rings' to get it on the screen. Honestly, it could happen after I am dead."

• Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.