Last year, on Tax Day, April 15, Tea Party activists stormed the National Mall, demanding that those on Capitol Hill listen to their cries for lower taxes and less spending. This Tax Day, after already gaining success at the polls in November and shifting the budget debate in their direction, maybe it's just time for a movie.
First-time filmmaker, John Aglialoro, has just the one. He's releasing Atlas Shrugged Part I, adapted from Ayn Rand's 1957 cult-classic novel of the same title, on Friday in limited theaters nationwide.
Tuesday night, the film premiered officially at Washington's Union Station, a fitting location, the producers say, for a movie whose heroine heads up a train company. The event was a "red carpet" affair, with a dollar-sign sculpted from ice as the evening's centerpiece. Guests at the premiere who hadn't yet seen the movie or read the book were likely asking themselves, "Who is John Galt?" The ubiquitous phrase from the novel was printed on napkins and servers' aprons throughout the event.
The 1,000 plus page novel has been considered required reading for libertarians and limited-government groups like FreedomWorks for years, and now many in the Tea Party movement have adopted its objectivist philosophy also. It has been named among the most influential books of all time. Surprisingly, however, the philosophy had nothing to do with the timing of the film, Aglialoro says, except maybe that Rand's controversial politics are what stopped it from being made until now.
Aglialoro got the novel's movie rights from the estate of Ayn Rand nearly 20 years ago. He says he hoped that a big studio would pick it up, but despite several attempts, he still couldn't convince studio executives to take the risk. Last June, when the rights were about to expire, he instead decided to make the film himself. "Finally, the rights were about to end, and I said, I gotta do it myself or not," he says. "It was my wife that said you better get out to Hollywood and get this thing done because it's going to haunt you for the rest of your life."
His co-producer, Harmon Kaslow, says that making the film was a lot like the main character Dagny Taggart's challenge in building the railroad in the film. "Every step of the way there was a problem," he says.
Aglialoro, who also co-wrote the screenplay, says that Rand's work was perfect for the big screen, and he tried to adapt faithfully from the book. "Ayn Rand wrote a very good novel. Forget philosophy. When you've got a love story with a hero, that's a good script. A chick flick with a hero? How can that miss?" he says.
Nevertheless, Rand's philosophy was at the heart of his struggle to produce the film. "You don't need altruism and selflessness, others over yourself. That's crazy. That's really dumb," he says. "What you need is each individual getting the best within themselves, finding something passionately that they can purposefully get involved in every day. By doing that they're helping themselves, and they're certainly helping society."
Aglialoro also says that Rand was "philosophically and politically balanced" and that more on the left should consider seeing the movie, since Rand's views on social issues like religion and abortion align more with liberals than with conservatives. "The fact was, Ayn Rand was very left," he says.
Executive producers Karen and Howard Baldwin say that Rand's novel and the film could act as a warning for the nation. "It's interesting that such a cautionary tale could be so relevant today," said Karen Baldwin.
Australian actor, Grant Bowler, who plays Hank Rearden, one of the film's protagonists, says working on it helped him understand more about what makes America special. "It's a novel that couldn't have existed and couldn't have been written anywhere else in the world," says Bowler. "For me it's deepened my understanding of what America is. The potential for this country is infinite."