In 1968, my wife and mother persuaded me to read The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. I was a pre-engineering student with architectural ambitions at the time, and I suppose they both thought that I needed a boot in the behind. (If you don't already know, the hero of that book is an intractably independent and supremely talented architect, modeled roughly after the real-life architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, but with a somewhat different philosophy.)
I never did become an engineer or an architect, but I fell in love with The Fountainhead1, and subsequently read Miss Rand's most famous work, Atlas Shrugged2. It would be hard to overestimate the effect that Atlas Shrugged and Miss Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, have had on my understanding of how the world works. I am who I am, because of them. (The distilled essence of her philosophy is embodied in our twelve core values listed in the sidebar to the left of this text.)
If you've been a movie buff long enough - or stay up late enough - you may have seen the 1949 movie, The Fountainhead, which starred Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, and Raymond Massey. Stylistically, it's very "forties", and I think it's a somewhat strained adaptation; but its message of courage, integrity, and independence is true to the book, and timeless.
I and millions of other Atlas Shrugged fans have waited decades, and endured countless false starts, in anticipation of Atlas Shrugged, the movie. Albert Ruddy of Godfather fame was among the first of many, who failed to negotiate successfully with Miss Rand and/or her estate. A couple of years ago, Pitt and Jolie made noises about starring in a Lionsgate production of Atlas Shrugged, but thankfully, that didn't work out either.
John Aglialoro, whose primary business is fitness equipment, bought the film rights to Atlas Shrugged from Miss Rand's estate nearly twenty years ago. Like Miss Rand before him, he could never find the right combination of studio, screenwriter, and director to produce a film consistent with the book's philosophical message. Last June, less than a week before his rights were to expire, Mr. Aglialoro - with no previous movie-making experience - hired his own team of Hollywood talent, and began production on his own dime. I guess he's spent upwards of $10 million, so far, but by Hollywood's standards, that's a trifle.
I've seen the trailer, and I'm hopeful. I've yet to see the movie that lives up to the book on which it was based, so I'm not expecting a miracle. Still, Atlas Shrugged: Part 1, which only covers the first third of the book, appears to be a faithful and exciting adaptation. Certainly, that was Mr. Aglialoro's goal. That's why Linda and I will be in Plano, Texas for the opening night showing on Friday, April 15. The date is not a coincidence, and Parts 2 and 3 are scheduled for release on April 15, 2012 and April 15, 2013. (My friend and former classmate, Dr. Bert Bergland, is an extra in the film. That gives me another good reason to be there on opening night.) I'll update you after.
Ayn Rand's unique literary genius was her ability to show the logic of economic and philosophical principles in action. Ask yourself, as she did, "What are the sources of human progress, and what if those sources were consenting and contributing to their own destruction?" In fact, the answers are all around us, but to dramatize them for greater clarity and effect, Atlas Shrugged asks, "What would the world look like, if America's most capable men and women from every walk of life began to mysteriously disappear?"
You might say - and I do - that the release of Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 couldn't be more perfectly timed; despite my long wait and the fact that the book was first published in 1957. Until next week,
PATIENCE, DISCIPLINE, and CONFIDENCE in the FUTURE! mh
1 The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand, Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1943.
2 Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Random House, 1957.