Reason Mag: Scenes from the 38-year struggle to film Atlas Shrugged

Brian Doherty has an excellent article in Reason magazine about the history and making of the Atlas Shrugged movie, titled simply “Atlas Shrugged: The Movie.”

His article provides a lot of behind-the-scenes information I had not heard before, such as this:

They now had just weeks to get a film into production. Kaslow and Aglialoro hired director Stephen Polk but then fired him less than two weeks before shooting had to begin for reasons neither side will publicly discuss. Polk, in an email interview, refers merely to “complications,” adding that he was impressed with Aglialoro’s willingness to spend whatever it took to make the movie’s production values fit the subject. “It’s always been John’s movie,” Polk said, adding “I hope it is all he hopes it will be and inspires people to read more Rand.”

Prominent casting agencies refused to deal with the project, partly because many assumed Aglialoro was deliberately shooting any old thing to retain the rights, as opposed to making a movie he intended to release. While Kaslow had suggested they essentially shoot a 90-minute demo that would help bigger studios wrap their heads around and hopefully agree to fund a more lavish version of Rand’s famously huge and daunting property, Aglialoro stood firm on making the movie he’d been planning for decades.

Kaslow brought in Brian O’Toole, a screenwriter whose official credits are mostly horror films but who had a reputation as a wiz at fixing up book adaptations. Kaslow describes the script they started withâ??he declines to name the writerâ??as “more a reimagination of the book than a direct adaptation.” But “then John said, â??Let’s just go by the book, a direct adaptation, use her words when we can use her words.’ We really don’t have time to test the logic if we decide to go outside the boundaries of the story.”

The article contains a lot of interesting information about director Paul Johansson. Perhaps most interesting is that he and the producers parted ways before the film was done being edited:

Johansson has some Roark in him. Filming Rearden’s office scenes, he confronts Kaslow about plans to recut the movie after Johansson is done. Johansson is shooting a scene at Rearden’s desk. A statue of Atlas holding up the world is centered between Rearden and his computer monitor. Kaslow doesn’t like how it looks. “Why are you bothering to tell me this now?” Johansson snaps at Kaslow, in front of Kaslow’s young son. “Aren’t you just going to take the film from me and do whatever you want to it afterward anyway?” The director makes things so uncomfortable for Kaslow and his son that they leave the set.

After they leave, Johansson talks, frustrated, about philosophically minded businessmen who have never made a movie trying to impress their friends at think tanks and presuming they can do better than the man they hired for the job. When I sit in on a session months after the shooting is done, where actors were re-recording some of their lines over finished video, Johansson is not around. A man involved in post-production work alludes to irreconcilable differences between Aglialoro and his director. Johansson tells me, in the spirit of Roark, that “if I was to go out and cheer for something and take credit for something I didn’t completeâ??I have a son coming. I want him to know his father is someone who doesn’t do that. I can’t take that credit” for the finished film. “That film is John Aglialoro’s film.”

Read the full article for much more.