'Atlas Shrugged': Exclusive DVD excerpt and sequel plans
“Atlas Shrugged Part I,” the first film of a proposed trilogy adapting Ayn Rand’s 1957 capitalist epic, arrived on DVD Tuesday. Financed and distributed for $20 million by businessman and Rand acolyte John Aglialoro, the movie rode a wave of conservative anticipation into theaters on April 15. Mainstream film critics were less than impressed by the ideologically driven adaptation, and “Atlas” took in $4.6 million at the box office. That’s enough to beat 2011 studio films like “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star” and “Machine Gun Preacher,” but not a sum a capitalist wants to crow about.
24 Frames’ Rebecca Keegan spoke with “Atlas Shrugged” producer Harmon Kaslow about plans for the “Atlas Shrugged” sequel, what “Atlas” has to say to the Occupy Wall Street movement and which candidate Rand would endorse for president 2012.
An exclusive video excerpt from the DVD, about Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, appears below.
What’s the status of “Atlas Shrugged Part 2?”
Harmon Kaslow: We have a screenplay that we’re in the process of polishing. We’re gearing up to get Part 2 into production in early 2012. I think we’ll end up shooting in L.A., New York and Colorado. The challenge for us is, not as many people saw the movie in the theaters as we had hoped. The book has millions of readers. We sold 600,000 tickets. We need to make a movie that stands alone, so that if you’re not familiar at all with “Atlas Shrugged,” you could go see Part 2 without being confused about what’s going on, while at the same time we want a faithful adaptation, so that people familiar with the book feel as if we captured the message and philosophy accurately.
Have you chosen a director yet?
No. One of the things we’re going to be very disciplined about with respect to Part 2 is we want all of the department heads and the director and everyone to be very familiar with the book. It’s more than directing the screenplay, it’s bringing an understanding of the message and philosophy of the book to all aspects of the production.
Will your release be timed to the presidential election?
Our aspiration is that we’d have something to screen around the time of the nominating conventions, so we could start to get some public reaction and create awareness of the title, and then get into the theaters around the month before the November presidential election. It seems like an opportune time. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of discussion of many of the issues that are part of the book.
How is the film being financed?
We’re using proceeds from Part 1 and monies from a select group of independent investors. We’re shooting for a budget in the $10-to-$15-million range and looking to raise our own prints and advertising fund of about $10 million so that we can move beyond the community-level online marketing that we did in Part 1 and be more prevalent in traditional forms of media with respect to advertising and marketing.
When “Atlas Shrugged Part 1” came out, the tea party was in full swing. Now there’s another populist movement, Occupy Wall Street, on the scene. Does “Atlas Shrugged” have anything to say to this group?
If the occupiers are protesting wealth, then their energy is misplaced. But if they’re protesting wealth obtained through fraud or political corruption, then this is something completely consistent with the theme of “Atlas Shrugged.” One of the things that’s interesting to me are some of the responses you hear about the protest. I watched a video on YouTube that’s a young man ranting about the Fed, and the fact that our currency is not backed by anything of true value. That rant is so reminiscent of Francisco d'Aconia’s speech about money, which occurs in Part 2 of the book.
What’s happening in Part 2 of the book?
The book is really a mystery at this point. The science-fiction element is starting also to come through in the story. Rearden’s Steel factory has an explosion and one of the heroes goes in and fights to save the smelter from causing a disastrous occurrence there. There’s a huge explosion that takes place in a tunnel. The end of Part 2 takes place with a chase in the air between two jets. It’s got all the elements of drama and great action sequences. It will have more visual effects than Part 1, which is one of the reasons why it’s going to be more expensive.
Which of the presidential candidates do you think Rand would endorse?
I don’t know. I think she would be fascinated by the process we’re experiencing right now. When she wrote this book, it was right after [Franklin] Roosevelt’s third term in office and the book was really a parody of his New Deal policies. That would be the nature of the debate she would want people to engage in: Look what happens to personal economic freedoms when government grows as much as it’s grown now.
-- Rebecca Keegan
Photo: Taylor Schilling plays heroine Dagny Taggart in "Atlas Shrugged Part 1." Credit: Rocky Mountain Pictures