Defending Free Enterprise: An Exclusive Behind the Scenes Look at ATLAS SHRUGGED: PART 2

(l-r) ATLAS SHRUGGED Producer Harmon Kaslow, MOVIEGUIDE® Editor Tom Snyder,
and ATLAS SHRUGGED Producer John Aglialoro on the set ofPART TWO in

Long Beach, Calif. 

By Tom Snyder, Editor

Editor’s Note:  For a comprehensive, brilliant analysis of Ayn Rand and her teaching from the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, please go to:  http://www.scp-inc.org/publications/journals/J3503/J3503.pdf.

MOVIEGUIDE® recently got the chance to visit the set of Part 2 of the ATLAS SHRUGGED movie in Long Beach, Calif., about halfway through shooting. They were filming an important courtroom scene in the beautiful city council chambers there.

Steel magnate Henry Rearden appears before the Unification Court in a scene

When we arrived, they were filming the whole scene from the viewpoint of the judges in the “Unification Court” at the trial of Henry Rearden, the steel magnate in Ayn Rand’s famous novel who runs afoul of the socialist government’s “Fair Share Law.” Then, they filmed some close-ups of actor Jason Beghe as Rearden and actress Samantha Mathis, who plays the novel’s heroine, Dagny Taggart, as well as some shots of the crowd. After we left, they planned to film the scene from the crowd’s perspective at the trial.

During lunch, we got to interview two of the producers behind the production, Harmon Kaslow and John Aglialoro.

“The shooting’s going great,” Kaslow said. “We started shooting April 2 in Los Angeles. We’re going to finish May 15. Everything’s running smoothly. We ran into one little issue with the weather. Other than that, the shoot’s been going as we planned.”

What do you hope to accomplish in Part 2, other than building on Part 1, of course?

“Our aspiration is to basically adapt the book,” Kaslow replied. “I mean, obviously, Ayn Rand was a staunch supporter of capitalism and a lot of the message that comes out in the movie is about capitalism and the government’s regulations and interference, and the hurdles that are being thrown in front of our heroes, Dagny Taggart and Henry Reardon. We hope people will go see the movie in theaters in October 2012 and walk out of it inspired, perhaps to go read the book. But, with an election on the horizon, maybe they’ll consider what they’ve seen in making their decision at the polling place.”

MOVIEGUIDE:  Are you still looking for a distributor?

Kaslow:  On the theatrical side, John and I are going to release it ourselves, very similar to what we did last time. We may bring in somebody to work with us in connection with booking the theaters, but we’ve already got support from two out of the three major circuits. We’re certain we’ll get all three to support the film. And, we’ve put together a group to provide us with a good amount of marketing capital. We’ll not only continue with what we’ve done in the online space, but we’ll also reach out to more traditional media outlets so we’ll creater a greater media awareness than we achieved on Part 1. Fox is on board to do the home video release when that comes around. And, we’re looking with staying with some of our partners on the television side.

“Part 1 has sold probably about 350,000 copies,” Aglialoro added while praising the team at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

He said they’re shooting for an Oct. 12, 2012 release in theaters.

MOVIEGUIDE:  What’s the biggest challenge in adapting Ayn Rand’s book?

Aglialoro:  Well, Part 1, the biggest challenge was the time expiration date. We had to be in principal photography April 15, 2010. That surge of activity was necessary in getting enough of a supply in capital, getting the right people in place. Harm and I had to get a lot of talent, below the line, the director, photography, whatever, [and] above the line, actors and so forth, in about a two-month period of time. So, that was tough. Part 2, the challenge is the budget’s double, our total budget’s about $20 million. That includes marketing. It includes the production itself. So, we needed to get everything together, from greenlighting on Ayn Rand’s birthday, Feb. 2, 2012. That kind of lines up with 02/02/2012. We greenlit it in San Juan, Puerto Rico. But, again, the challenge is one of time, because we want to be out before the election. We think this movie will have a significant impact for those people that might be saying, “You know, I’m happy with the country generally. I’m a little unhappy with some of the things happening,” and put back in their minds the role of capitalism as a trading between people. Ayn Rand always said, if there’s a winner and a loser, that’s not capitalism, that’s a fraud. That’s what capitalism is – it’s voluntarily individuals trading. I’ve got something you want, a product, a service. You’ve got something I want, maybe a service or product in return, or maybe capital cash can be it. These are very basic things that were important to the founding of our country.

MOVIEGUIDE:  The pie is not limited. The other side doesn’t understand [that].

Aglialoro:  Yes, it’s an infinite pie. The sandbox of government is power, and they want to play in that sandbox. They don’t want anyone else in there. And, of course, the sandbox for capitalism is voluntary individual trade. If you gain at the expense of somebody else, that’s fraudulent. We’re not talking about that. Too often, there’s an assumption that profit, especially high profit, is made at the expense of someone else fraudulently, or it’s a negative connotation, it’s greed. Put those people in jail! I’m the first to say that. We’re not talking about that! We’re talking about voluntary trade. Steve Jobs [the co-founder of Apple], did he leave the place a better place in this world by what he did? He did so by creating value. And, that’s exactly what every one of us need to do every day.

MOVIEGUIDE:  We’re very pro free market. We have our problems with the religion aspect of [Ayn Rand’s philosophy and values], but not the free market aspect.

Aglialoro:  I believe that’s so genuine of those of faith, especially Christians, liking Ayn Rand, her sense of life, her view of the universe based upon free markets, individual rights, limited government. You share those ideas with her. And, you respectfully disagree completely with her atheism, her secular view of life, with the fact that she’s pro-choice not pro-life, the sexual orientation issues which I know are an issue in the Bible, issues with drug policy. . . . I think it’s just wonderful that those of faith, especially Christians, have a fundamental disagreement with Ayn Rand about those things they disagree with, yet, at the same time, embrace things like our constitution, individual rights, the marketplace [and] capitalism. I think that’s so genuine and so important that we can disagree and yet live in a society and a civilization where both sides gain. What my problem is, is that those on the other side (and I am a liberal from a social point of view; I share those views with Ayn Rand, and yet, my friends on the left do not embrace those things that they agree with her about. Why they don’t do what the Christians so – “I like these issues, I don’t like those issues” – and yet they should do that more explicitly than they do. To say, “I like Ayn Rand for these issues. I disagree that capitalism can work in an unfettered nature. I believe you need regulation, you need the government, and the government sandbox to do that. And, I disagree also with other aspects like defense policy. I disagree on other things concerning a constitutional amendment for certain things, or the Roe v. Wade issue.” My hope is that the individuals of left of center. . . look at Ayn Rand and say Ayn Rand is a friend of liberals and conservatives alike.

MOVIEGUIDE: There’s a lot of confusion, even on the Christian side, because you’ve got the religious left, not just the so-called religious right. And, our position is that the Bible’s clear: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s possessions [and] Thou shalt not steal. If that’s not pro-capitalist, we don’t know what is. Our view is that you need a church, a strong religious foundation, because otherwise, you do get people who want power and [to] rip off people. You have to give a chance for the little guy to at least sue the other guy if a contract goes bad, or something like that.

Aglialore: I agree a faith-based orientation is benign across society. It maybe wasn’t a thousand years ago when we had the battles of kings, churches, and state, but we’ve effectively separated that through a lot of centuries, a lot of time, and a lot of trial and error to where today, those of a benign religion or a faith-based view are a benefit to society.

Q: Are you excited about adding to what you accomplished in Part 1, with double the budget?

Aglialoro: We’re looking forward to Part 3 and getting that completed. It’s kind of like you’re in a boxing match. Wow, you had a couple good rounds. . . but until you get through the 15th Round of a championship fight and you’ve won. . . . So, we’re just engaged in the middle of the battle right now.

MOVIEGUIDE: Do you have the whole three-part script already, or are you still working on the third part?

Aglialoro: We’re going to do the same thing with Part 3 as with Part 2. We’ll adapt the book faithfully, but we haven’t started that yet.

Kaslow: Part 3 has a lot of opportunities we don’t really have, or had, in Part 1 and 2. Which is, we’re simply trying to find the cinematic thread in those first portions of the book. In Part 3 is all about the culmination of all these incredible messages that the book has. The characters in the book all have certain virtues to them. They’re also flawed in some ways too. But that makes them sort of real and genuine. So, we look forward in Part 3 to being able to go back in the other portions of the book, find those things that serve as a good foundation for the message that needs to be expressed in Part 3. With what little conversations we’ve had about it, it will probably be a significantly longer movie and will certainly incorporate themes in Part 1 and 2.

MOVIEGUIDE: Are you going to approach marketing in a broad way, or focus on various niche demographics?

Kaslow: We think the actual message embodied in Part 2 and what we’re bringing out in the movie sort of lends itself to reaching that broad audience. At its core, we’re talking about civil liberties and limited government. We think there’s a whole segment of the population that has a strong belief in that. Then you branch out looking at some of the more economic issues and messages prevalent in the book. Obviously, that reaches the more conservative, free market thinking groups of people. And, really, the core of this story is about this somewhat highly advanced motor, engine that runs on static electricity that reaches into a more sci-fi like element and poses the question that we pose. What if it costs you only a nickel to power your car as opposed to $5 a gallon? How would that change your life? People would say, it would change it dramatically. That is sort of the essence, the root. . . that embraces the political side and yet gets into something that appeals to just about everybody.

As we walked off the set, Mr. Aglialoro had one final thought. He said he hopes Part 2 will advance the political debate in the United States, adding:

“I don’t think the politicians have the courage to see Part 2.”

Again, ATLAS SHRUGGED: PART 2 is tentatively scheduled for an Oct. 12 opening in theaters. Stay tuned to www.movieguide.org for more details about the movie, including, hopefully, more interviews.

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