“The project has always been extremely difficult,” adds Ed Snider, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers. Snider owned the rights to the book in the 1980s and is one of the film’s executive producers. “People are initially interested,” he says, “but . . . something like this is more difficult.”
That’s an understatement. Rand’s novel, set in the near future, tells how American society collapses after its thinkers, industrialists and scientists go on strike and refuse to participate in a world they feel has become increasingly socialistic. The novel’s heroine, Dagny Taggart, tries to save the country from a catastrophe, but the book ends with an apocalypse. And the mysterious John Galt, who has organized the strike, tells, in a 70-page speech, how he will construct a society based on individual achievement and self-interest — the core tenets of Rand’s objectivist philosophy, which champions laissez-faire capitalism.
“I’m stunned the film is coming out,” says Jennifer Burns, author of “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.” “The book is unwieldy. . . . Rand had difficulty fitting action into an ideological message, and every character carries a specific message for the story to make sense.”
Rand always had a thing for the silver screen. Growing up in Russia, she was a film fan who bought American movie magazines and kept a diary in which she ranked more than 300 pictures she had seen. Rand “got her view of life in the Western world from films; they represented elements of glamour and freedom,” says Anne C. Heller, author of “Ayn Rand and the World She Made.”
That interest translated into a lifelong relationship with the motion picture industry. After arriving in America in the 1920s, Rand worked at various times for director Cecil B. De Mille and producer Hal Wallis, wrote a number of screenplays for romantic comedies, and was intimately involved with the writing and production of the 1949 film version of her novel “The Fountainhead,” which starred Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.
But Rand’s film industry connection ultimately ended in disappointment. She despised the Hollywood version of “The Fountainhead,” which was panned by critics and, she felt, diluted her message of individual freedom. And until her death in 1982, Rand made numerous failed attempts to put “Atlas Shrugged” on film.