After decades in limbo, Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand’s magnum opus about an increasingly collectivist society and corrupt government that punishes the successful business person and industrialist, and thereby causing the world’s producers to go on strike – is finally headed to the Silver Screen.
Rand’s work, published originally in 1957, and which has enjoyed steady sales ever since, has received increased attention in recent years due in large part to massive government bailouts, mounting government debt, and debates over increased taxes – all issues identified more than half a century ago by Rand as factors in the demise of America’s historic free enterprise system and the progress that accompanied it. Signs with the phrase “Who is John Galt?” – a question appearing throughout Rand’s novel – has become a common theme at tea party rallies across the country as concerned Americans protested Big Government, as exemplified by last year’s federal health care law.
Sales of Atlas Shrugged have skyrocketed. Forbes recently noted that 125,000 copies of the book were sold in 2007, but by 2009 sales exceeded 450,000 – putting Rand’s most well-known novel back on the best-seller list more than 50 years after its original publication.
This is not the first time a film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged has been attempted. Rand was first approached with the idea in the early 1970’s by Albert Ruddy, producer of The Godfather. But Rand wanted to ensure that her philosophy promoting individualism and rational self-interest was properly represented in film. Ruddy rejected Rand’s demand, and the project died. A plan to turn the book into a miniseries fell through the cracks in the late 70’s. Rand was working on a screenplay when she died in 1982.
In recent years, there have been rumors of a high-priced adaptation starring some of Hollywood’s most famous actors. However, producer John Aglialoro, who bought an option to make the movie in 1992, has opted to go with a low-budget approach, dividing the more than 1,000 page novel into three parts.
There has been some skepticism about the film among fans of Atlas Shrugged. The film’s main actors are not among Tinsel Town’s most well known – Taylor Schilling will star as Dagny Taggart, the novel’s heroine, with Grant Bowler appearing as industrialist Hank Rearden.
In a July interview with Reason.tv, it was made clear the actors and director Paul Johansson all seem to understand the importance of the message in the new film, is to personify through their performance the nobility of man as a rational being.
Johansson explained the reason it has taken so long to bring Atlas Shrugged to film, is because people either do not understand its message or have been intimidated with prospect of bringing such iconic characters to life. In response to concerns about the lack of big name stars or action sequences, Johansson says, “this movie isn’t about that.”
It is fitting the movie is set to be released on Friday, April 15th, a day synonymous with government coercion, as Americans are traditionally required to file and pay their income taxes on that date.
Rand’s work has helped mold philosophical and political viewpoints for well over half a century. Let’s hope Aglialoro and company got it right in this cinematic depiction of a philosophical celebration of individual liberty and rational thought.
- by Bob Barr, The Barr Code