Jun 142010

Much to my dismay, the movie of Atlas Shrugged has begun filming. Otherwise John Aglialoro would have lost his rights on Saturday.

The long-brewing feature version of author Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” has begun shooting in Los Angeles as a $5 million indie produced by John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow.

Cameras began rolling over the weekend on a five-week shoot for “Atlas Shrugged Part One” with Paul Johansson directing from Brian Patrick O’Toole’s script. Aglialoro would have lost the feature rights if the film wasn’t in production by Saturday.

A spokesman for Aglialoro — the CEO of exercise equipment producer Cybex — said there will be at least one more “Atlas Shrugged” shot after the current film’s completed. Rand’s massive novel is divided into three parts, each consisting of 10 chapters. …

Johansson (“One Tree Hill”) portrays Galt. The lead role of railroad executive Dagny Taggart has gone to Taylor Schilling (“Mercy) and the part of Henry Reardon is being played by Grant Bowler (“Ugly Betty”).

Michael Lerner (“A Serious Man”) portrays lobbyist Wesley Mouch and director Nick Cassavetes has signed on for the Richard McNamara role. Other key cast include Matthew Marsdan as James Taggart and Graham Beckel as Ellis Wyatt.

“Atlas” also stars Edi Gathegi, Jsu Garcia, Rebecca Wisocky, Ethan Cohn, Patrick Fischer, Neill Barry, Christina Pickles and Nikki Klecha.

From what I’ve read, the movie seems to be a low-budget, haphazard rush. That means that it’s sure to suck worse than I’d imagined. But perhaps, unlike a Hollywood blockbuster, they’ll stick closer to the novel. I’m not hopeful, and I fear the movie could do more harm than good in terms of spreading Ayn Rand’s ideas in the culture.

Some harm — potentially substantial — could come from the fact that John Aglialoro is a supporter of and associated with David Kelley and his pseudo-Objectivist Atlas Society. Just imagine David Kelley interviewed about Objectivism in the DVD extras, fumbling and stumbling through basic ideas in Objectivism, as in this interview, then advocating his frankenstein notion of “open Objectivism.” (See my two essays on that: Ayn Rand on David Kelley and The Open System, One More Time.)

Kelley’s IOS/TOC/TAS has been dying since its peak around 2003, when I cut ties. Lately, it’s been on life support, courtesy of a few remaining donors. However, the organization has done nothing of note for years, except employ people. In 2009, they didn’t have a summer conference because they were going to focus on upgrading their web presence. Guess what? They still have the same crappy web site!

I fear that IOS/TOC/TAS will rise from the grave with this movie. I suspect they’ve been desperately waiting for it as their last hope. That’s just pathetic: it’s clear that their core idea of “open Objectivism” has been an abject failure in practice, particularly compared to the flowering of new and innovative work under the supposedly dogmatic Ayn Rand Institute. Yet, true dogmatists that they are, they’re not willing to check their premises.

Ultimately, the fact that the movie seems likely to be a low-budget, haphazard mess might be the silver lining in the black cloud. In all likelihood, the fewer people that see it the better.

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