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ATLAS SHRUGGED Producer: Not Betraying Ayn Rand Principles

Atlas Shrugged Taylor Schilling Dagny Taggart
Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart, Atlas Shrugged: Part I

The marketplace not only shrugged at, but downright turned its back on Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the widely derided film adaptation of Ayn Rand's 1957 novel about the individual's struggle against collectivism and government forces.

Directed by Paul Johansson from a screenplay by John Aglialoro and Brian Patrick O'Toole, and starring Taylor Schilling as Rand's heroine Dagny Taggart, Atlas Shrugged was supposed to have been – as the title indicates – part one of what would ultimately become a film trilogy like, huh, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings or Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors.

According to reports published in the last couple of days, that was no longer going to happen. Atlas Shrugged co-producer and co-screenwriter John Aglialoro blamed the liberal media and film critics for their willful, politically motivated box office destruction of his opus.

That, however, would be an acknowledgment that the United States' (purported) 11 million Tea Party members to whom Atlas Shrugged was targeted actually read – and believe in – film reviews written by bleeding-heart lefties. (Now, please, Tea Partiers, don't go calling me a bigot or compare me to a Nazi because I'm referring to liberals as “bleeding-heart lefties.”)

So, Aglialoro now says he was misquoted. On the right-wing site Big Hollywood, in addition to singling out Roger Ebert and Peter Travers as enemies of his film and its ideals, the producer claims he wants to do Atlas Shrugged parts II and III, but without betraying Ayn Rand's “principles.” In other words, without losing money.

“This has to be a profitable venture.” Aglialoro explains. “The challenge is in finding a way to overcome the critics and the rest of the establishment, who are united against us.”

In the same piece, co-producer Harmon Kaslow goes on to claim that CNN, CNBC, and MSNBC, for unspecified “editorial reasons,” refused to air a 15-second commercial for Atlas Shrugged.

“This unforeseen censorship effectively puts the brakes on our follow-up marketing efforts where we were trying to reach millions of people unaware of the movie being in theaters now,” Kaslow adds. (Scroll down to take a look at the “censored” ad.)

When Atlas Shrugged opened, Fox News reported that Hollywood executives were “baffled” at its box office performance. If true, they didn't remain baffled for very long.

Atlas Shrugged: Part I had a passable opening for a movie at only 299 theaters, $5,590 per site. The following weekend (April 22-24), the political drama plummeted, losing nearly 50 percent of its business despite screening at 150 (50 percent) more locations. Its average thus dropped to a dismal $1,890 per site. It'll likely soon disappear without a trace.

Also at Big Hollywood, quoting the ever-reliable New York Post, we learn that the New York Times (purposefully?) refrained from reviewing Atlas Shrugged when it came out, which may (once again purposefully?) have led to a major loss of revenue for Johansson's film.

Below is the initial paragraph from Carina Chocano's Times review, which was published yesterday, April 28. I don't know about you, but I get the feeling that Atlas Shrugged: Part I was immensely helped by the fact that the Times opted to ignore it at the time of its debut ten days ago. Seems to me it was an act of mercy, not malice.

Could anyone have guessed, way back when it was published in 1957, that Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's grandiloquent doorstop of a masterwork, would one day reach the big screen as high-camp comedy? Because stilted prose and silly plotting notwithstanding, Rand's unrelentingly popular book has exerted a powerful ideological hold on the culture, an influence that has only intensified in recent years with the emergence of the Tea Party. Still, for unintentional yet somehow boring hilarity, the novel can't touch the cinematic adaptation, which shifts the action to 2016 and presents Rand's ham-fisted fable of laissez-faire capitalism as something C-Span might make if it ever set out to create a futuristic, proto-libertarian nighttime soap. In the 1980s.

And here's Roger Ebert's tweet following the announcement that Atlas Shrugged: Part I would become Atlas Shrugged: Period.

Atlas Shrugged producer cancels Parts 2 and 3, blames critics, not his own lousy film.

Photo: Atlas Shrugged (Rocky Mountain Pictures)

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11 Comments to ATLAS SHRUGGED Producer: Not Betraying Ayn Rand Principles

  1. Zenzation

    The movie was not all that bad, but the premise is implausible. There is no record of the government ever taking the dramatic steps Rand offers as evidence of liberal overstep. Successful scientists and business people don't walk away from their life's work with a conversation. That's just Rand's overblown ego creating an unrealistic world in which her words matter, which they don't. Her notion that unions do things to make a company fail ignores the success many companies enjoy though unionized. Ayn Rand grew up in Russia and hated communism, but to compare America to Russia is just plain ignorant.

  2. Johnh2o

    The movie was mediocre at best. I am an ardent Ayn Rand lover and capitalist in the definition that Ayn Rand states in all of her works. The movie did a decent job of prompting people I have been suggesting the book to finally sit down and read it. They, like me and others, believe that the book is a 1000 times better than the movie but will say that at least they were prompted to start the journey thru the 1000+ pages because of seeing the movie. Whether the media stumped its sales or not, I hope that the producers will spend more time and effort filming the next part. The music was horrible and the actors did not transmit the roles as well as they could have. It was as if they had never read the book. Did they? That would be a great question to have answered. I can't tell if they did.

  3. bassboat

    Sorry you did not enjoy the movie. Could you name a movie espousing the ideas of Ayn Rand? Of course not, so on that fact alone it is the best movie ever made celebrating the individual, capitalism, and the evils of government. Will part 2 be better? Yes.

  4. Pete

    Ayn Rand's works and her philosophy impact my life enormously to the good, but I will not follow the pollyannish who want this movie to be a true condensed reflection of her masterpiece. It is not. The music is mediocre, the actors are mediocre, hard to believe, because they do not seem to understand their characters and the main theme, nor do screenwriter and producer.
    This bad movie is not a good tool to market Ayn Rand's ideas. It misrepresents those and does therefore discourage reading her works by the people for whom ideas matter.

  5. Tand

    I am not political just an independent who loves the free market compared to where I moved from. The movie was good and the message was good. All the makers, in my mind, came here to America. Well.. all the takers.. you can find them anywhere outside America. But the last 3 year, I have seen how the Democrats have acted and I'm against most of what their ideas for this country are. Even though I read all the liberal leaning critic's article, I still found the movie to be enjoyable.

  6. DeAnn

    I have been a major fan of Rand's works for 40 some years. Like many in that category, I was anxious at the first viewing hoping you would get it right. You did. I think Rand would be very pleased with getting her message across. When all the readers of Atlas Shrugged around the world get to see this film you will get the support you deserve. Perfect casting (not sure about Galt based on his promo photos).

    When you think about it, Roger Ebert and other critics mentality and slant is exactly the message in her work.

  7. bassboat

    Interesting the overwhelming approval that the people gave the show of those who attended. Dan of course has the right to pan the movie but he is in the minority. I think John's complaint was the bias of the critics in panning the movie. It was a done deal before they came to see the movie because of their collectivism bent. This bent resulted in people not coming. The critics were not doing their job.

  8. Dan

    Letter the John Aglialoro,

    I am a huge fan of Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged for me is the most important book I have ever read. However we have to be honest with ourselves here. Listen John. Part 1, isn't the world's Readen Metal. These people aren't saying to not see the movie because it's dangerous to society. It's not being legally censored, so there is no censorship. You are complaining about the very system that the book espouses the virtues of, the free market. If a film cannot cut it in the market, usually there is a reason and in the case of Part 1, it's because the movie is awful.

    If you cared you should have done a better job in the first place.


  9. To my mind, Ebert's review damaged his own credibility more than anything. It sums up as “I predicted I'd hate it, didn't understand it, and then decided I'd hate it.” But the fact that he's able to make a career of reviews does indicate that people actually listen do them.

    I was predisposed favorably since I liked the book, but didn't expect much for a “Part 1” that doesn't contain much action. When I finally saw it (having to travel an hour to do so) I was overwhelmed. It was quite moving. But I'm not a typical moviegoer either since I never see movies opening weekend and that's apparently the only one matters.

    I do doubt that MSNBC commercials would have boosted the audience significantly. But I also suspect that reviewers like Ebert have a non-specific effect once it turns into “oh I heard it wasn't very good” word-of-mouth. Even friends I saw it with, who liked it (though perhaps not as much as I), were given this expectation.

    So yes, you can probably argue that died-in-the-wool Objectivists would know better than to listen to Liberal media. But that's nothing compared to the number that could like it, if given the chance, but weren't so convinced they'd pass 5 nearby theaters to get to the one showing it.

    (That said, the director did linger too long on the champagne-pouring scenes, I did chuckle to myself at how they were overemphasized.)

  10. jeremy richter

    Please finish this series. I loved the book and always wished it to be on the big screen even as I was reading it for the first time. Even if it went straght to d.v.d. I would buy it. Stupid critics and the morons who believe them ruin it for the rest of us… not unlike the novel eh? although the theater that I saw it in did not even have a poster of the film and I saw not one advertisment for it either. Maybe that might need to change to get the people in the theater.


  11. bassboat

    Atlas Shrugged is a tremendous book for most who read it. For those who have read the book they will enjoy the movie, for those who have not read it they have to pay attention closely or they can get lost. It's a tough plot to portray in less than 2 hours. I think John's best shot is a prime time soap where the plot and the characters can be unfolded in a timely fashion. You have to remember this, after the Bible, Atlas Shrugged has been voted as the most influential book on people's lives of any book ever written. To toss it aside because you have a problem with the message is really rather shallow.