Harmon Kaslow is the producer of the film "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1," based upon the novel by libertarian Ayn Rand. He spoke to The Christian Post about the filming of part two, Rand's atheism, the Tea Party Movement, and the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
CP: When will filming begin on part two?
Kaslow: Part two we're looking at starting early 2012. Our aspiration is that it can be completed in time so it can be in theaters about a month before the presidential elections in November 2012.
CP: Is the film's release purposely timed to try to influence the 2012 election?
Kaslow: Well … that's a loaded question. The timing is relevant for a couple of reasons. Number one, we think it's an opportune time of the year, when people are going to be tuned in to a lot of the issues and messages that are prevalent in the book and in the movie. So, I think the relevance of the movie will fit very well with what will be going on in the country at that period of time. Also, from just a logistical standpoint, it's the first sensible window that's available to us to present the picture.
CP: So, you're saying that because of the election people will have political issues on their mind and might have more of an interest in going to see the film?
Kaslow: Yeah. The question “who is John Galt?” has shown up on posters and other things at a number of political rallies over the last few years. So we just anticipate that there is a large group of people that embrace the message of individual liberty and limited government, and they're going to have a strong interest in seeing the movie during that period of time.
CP: What is your purpose behind making these films?
Kaslow: We have two purposes to making this film. One is to make a faithful adaptation of the book. The second is that we think the message embodied in the book of individual liberty and limited government is a message that people in this country are interested in seeing and hearing about and Atlas Shrugged presents it in the form of a story that is incredibly compelling.
CP: Ayn Rand's anti-religion and atheist views are well known. At the same time, her writings are popular with the Tea Party, which includes many Christians. How would you explain that?
Kaslow: First off, we feel no way about Ayn Rand being an “anything.” We're very proud to bring Ayn Rand's magnum opus to the silver screen. It's an incredible honor that we take very seriously and we hope to do her justice.
Freedomworks (a Tea Party organization), in particular, was a huge supporter of the film and we had a great time promoting the film with them. Ayn Rand's core message really revolves around respecting the rights of the individual, and that's where the real connection is and that's what we'll be focusing on intently in working with the Tea Party.
CP: So, you would say that respect for the individual is where an atheist like Rand can connect with a Christian, or a deist?
Kaslow: We're not taking a position on what Ayn Rand is. We're proud just to be bringing her book to the silver screen. It's not going to play a role in the marketing of our film.
CP: Do Rand's views on religion appear in the film, or the book, or are they separate from them?
Kaslow: We believe that people of faith will find that the film, like the story, emphasizes cardinal virtues, such as self-reliance, integrity, honesty, strength of character, liberty, and justice.
Ayn Rand wrote, “man’s life, as required by his nature, is not the life of a mindless brute, of a looting thug or a mooching mystic, but the life of a thinking being-not life by means of force or fraud, but life by means of achievement-not survival at any price, since there’s only one price that pays for man’s survival, and that's reason.”
I think there's no reason to explore her personal position regarding religion. The story speaks for itself and has all those cardinal virtues that people of faith will embrace and have embraced.
CP: Sarah Palin recently used the term “crony capitalism” to describe how corporations and politicians work together for their mutual benefit. Does that phrase describe what is taking place in the movie?
Kaslow: The book was published in 1957 and the world described in the book really is the world of today. For example, the story centers around capitalism being a dirty word, where government power is escalating. Individual liberty is being attacked, and collectivism is growing. Even though this was Ayn Rand's version 50 years ago when she wrote the book, this really is the world that we hear about every night on the news.
CP: Do you think those in the Occupy Wall Street movement will find ideas in the movie or book that they agree with?
Kaslow: I think it's easy to imagine what the main character might say in connection to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The heroes in our story would ask whether it makes sense for people to protest greed, or a person's desire to make money. The heroes in Atlas Shrugged would ask themselves the question whether the wealth was being created ethically, not fraudulently.
On the other hand, if they were protesting the creation of wealth by fraud, and it appears there's been a lot of fraud on Wall Street, or if the wealth is the result of government corruption, or improper political influence, then the protest has a legitimate purpose.
What's interesting to me is some of the responses that you hear about. I just watched a YouTube video where a young man was ranting about the Fed and the fact that our currency is not backed by anything of true value, and that rant is really reminiscent of Francis d'Anconia's speech in the book about money.
Now granted, that occurs in part two of the book, which is why, in addition to the DVD release of part one on November 8, we're excited about getting part two into production in 2012.
CP: Why do you think a philosopher might want to write a work of fiction – book, screenplay or movie – rather than non-fiction?
Kaslow: Rand began writing Atlas Shrugged in 1946 after Roosevelt's third term in office and it really parodied his New Deal policies and encouraged resistance to the growing power of government. I have to believe that she felt that putting it in the guise of a fictional story would make a more compelling read, would reach a broader audience and be more effective than if she sat down to write simply a philosophy textbook.
CP: A lot of film critics did not like the first film. How do you think they'll respond to part two?
Kaslow: The success and failure of part one is entirely on us. We're extremely proud of the work we did on part one. We had an amazing team. It was truly an incredible experience. We're never going to please everyone. But one thing we know for sure, we did what a lot of people said was nearly impossible – we made Atlas Shrugged into a movie. Opinions vary. We're extremely proud of part one and we have every intention of making a great part two.
CP: Will you take any of the criticism in particular into account when filming part two?
Kaslow: We listen to what members of our core and target audience are telling us and certainly we take those into consideration. We're certainly not going to make part two by committee. That would be against the spirit and theme of the book. We've been entrusted with this awesome responsibility and we take it very seriously and have full intention to adapt the book as faithfully as possible and to capture the message as best we can.
CP: Will there be a part three?
Kaslow: The book itself, 1,200 pages, is naturally broken into three parts. The first part sets the foundation of the story. It introduces us to the major characters in the story. For people not familiar with the story, the lead character is a woman. She is smart, attractive, tenacious, hard-working, facing lazy businessmen, bureaucrats, but she is not to be denied. She exemplifies what hard work and tenacity is all about.
Part two explores other themes but takes us along the journey of what can happen in society when the government starts to step in and regulate, and capitalism gets throttled. Part three provides an excellent conclusion to what can happen in a relatively short period of time when the government tries to address the issues of the day by taking away more liberties and imposing greater government regulation.