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‘Atlas Shrugged’ ready for screen

Investor shoulders the burden

- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2011

With a strong hero and a plot rich in dramatic conflict, an ardent, ready-made fan base, a script based on a book still racking up huge sales some 54 years after it was published, John Aglialoro never expected "Atlas Shrugged" to be a tough sell in Hollywood.

Nearly 20 years after he purchased the film rights to Ayn Rand's epic fourth and final novel for $1 million, he now knows better.

"It appeared to be an easy task to get a movie made from a book that was selling 100,000 copies a year," said Mr. Aglialoro, a successful corporate executive and a national poker champion making his first foray into the movie business.

It turned out there were no takers. Go figure.

After a number of deals fell through, Mr. Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow decided to produce the movie themselves. The long wait for Rand's legion of fans comes to an end with the film's scheduled release on April 15.

A controversial work since its publication in 1957, "Atlas Shrugged" explores a futuristic society in which top innovators and industrialists, led by a mysterious figure named John Galt, begin to disappear.

The book was the last written by the Russian-born Rand, who also wrote "The Fountainhead," and explores her philosophy of life, which she called "rational self-interest." The tortuous history of efforts to translate the book into a movie or television miniseries constitutes an epic in itself, with Rand herself trying and failing to produce a finished screenplay before her death in 1982.

The conservative Heritage Foundation hosted an advance screening of the movie on Wednesday. Reflecting the enduring legacy of Rand and her "objectivist" celebrations of the individual and the capitalist spirit, the venue for the sneak peek ended up so full that it had to be moved to a larger auditorium.

"I am one of those people whose political thought has been shaped by this book," said Heritage policy analyst Nick Loris, who said he had read Rand's book as a senior in college.

Mr. Aglialoro, who met with bloggers at a separate Heritage event the day before the screening, said he thought that Hollywood's aversion to a film adaptation of "Atlas" was probably caused not by the book's controversial message, but because a movie version simply did not seem profitable enough.

The producers emphasized that their film should appeal to a broad range of moviegoers, whatever their ideological leanings - despite Rand's philosophy that focuses on objective reality, reason, self-interest and capitalism.

"It took a certain amount of courage artistically to make a movie that had this type of message," Mr. Kaslow said.

Mr. Aglialoro, who identifies himself as an objectivist and is a board member of the Atlas Society, which takes inspiration from Rand's philosophy, said he views the book as "the liberation of the human spirit."

"In this movie," said Mr. Aglialoro, "you will not hear left-wing, right-wing, conservative, liberal, progressives. ... You won't hear Democratic Party, Republican Party."

The producers said their first priority was to create a film that would be faithful to the book yet relevant to today's viewers, Mr. Aglialoro said. "You'll see cellphones, you'll hear about the price of oil, there's a comment in there by one of the characters, 'The Middle East has imploded,' " he revealed.

Although the story's setting has been changed - the adaptation begins on Sept. 2, 2016 - the underlying philosophy of Rand's source novel is intact, Mr. Aglialoro said.

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