There are only a few books that have proven as ageless and important as Ayn Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged.” Even now, the book- which was originally published in 1957- is routinely the subject of political debates. It has even received renewed attention during this political season because of Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s longtime fondness for Rand’s work.
The book’s political importance- many conservatives have publicly noted how it helped inform their political beliefs- is not to be understated and its success should not be underappreciated.
But although the book has proven to be a beloved conservative novel, its story of individuals standing up against a powerful and unforgiving government was never brought to the big screen until last year. That was when the first film in a series adapted from the book was released nationwide. Now, over a year later, the sequel “Atlas Shrugged: Part 2”- which focuses on the middle portion of the story- arrives in theaters today. I recently had the chance to talk to producer John Aglialoro about the lessons he learned from the book, why the film isn’t aimed at politicians, and if there’ll be a part three.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, the films revolve around a passionate and successful businesswoman named Dagny Taggart who sees firsthand how out-of-control the government has become as it takes more control over the individual. In this sequel, the cast was completely changed and the production budget- which was approximately ten million on the original- was doubled.
What’s similar, however, is the story’s core focus of individuals fighting for themselves and their own interests. When I asked him what he took away from the novel when he first read it, he replied, “I think the book said to me that you are allowed to have a rational self-interest and it’s good to pursue your own interests.”
After acquiring the rights in 1992, Aglialoro said that he ended up making the first film on a deadline so that he could use the rights before they ran out. He noted that “most great books have been made into movies” and called the story of “Atlas Shrugged” the “greatest epic that was never made into a movie.” He added that in the early 90’s, the Library of Congress and the New York Times conducted a study to determine some of the most influential books in people’s lives and “Atlas Shrugged” was high on the list. Surprisingly, it was one of the few novels- if not the only one- that hadn’t been adapted for the big screen.
That is, of course, until last year.
The sequel hits theaters less than four weeks before voters enter their polling places and cast a vote for the next president of the United States and Aglialoro stated that he and many of his advertisers pushed for the film to come out before the presidential election. He noted that although scheduling the movie before the election forced them to “quicken the pace” of production, it “worked to the advantage of financing the movie because a few of the investors did state… that they were very enthused and interested in and incentivized in their investment by having it come out before the election. And I felt exactly the same way.”
Aglialoro and I also spoke about politics today and if people should be concerned about the government becoming as powerful as it is depicted as in the film. He responded as a businessman himself noting that “the enemy of the entrepreneur is the politician and [that] the politician is like a barking dog.” With that in mind, he argued that entrepreneurs should always be wary of politicians getting too close because entrepreneurs run the risk of getting bitten.
He went on to note that the movie doesn’t seek to change the minds of politicians—whose minds do not provide “fertile soil” for ideological shifts that would benefit entrepreneurs—but to influence the electorate, who choose the politicians that run the government.
As for a third film that concludes the series, Aglialoro said that a third movie would definitely be made after the election.
“I think the only question as for part three will be how massive a budget and how massive an effort,” he said.