Interview with Atlas Shrugged Movie Producer Harmon Kaslow

We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview Atlas Shrugged movie producer Harmon Kaslow during the opening weekend of the film.  Here are his responses to some of our questions:  

1.         Who is your favorite Rand character?

Henry Rearden. He’s the focused, hard-working, innovator, visionary entrepreneur … and even though he has an imperfect life, he’s not going to compromise or sell-out.

2.         Are you an Objectivist?

I hold a great respect for objectivists. It takes an incredible commitment to adhere to the core principles of objectivism and I agree with much of what objectivism stands for but, I have a soft spot for loyalty.

3.         What inspired you to produce this film?

The chance to work with John Aglialoro on adapting such an inspiring and influential book was the opportunity of a lifetime and I simply couldn’t resist. I am grateful to Howard Baldwin for introducing John to me and supporting John’s decision to entrust me with this responsibility.  

4.         Taylor Schilling is a pretty controversial pick for Dagny, especially after the Angelina Jolie rumors.  What was it about her that made you think she was the right woman to portray the leading lady of the film?

Taylor is beautiful, smart, independent and courageous … not to mention incredibly talented … she was a natural for Dagny. Wait until you see her. Taylor was the right choice without question.

5.         How much did Part I cost and does Part II depend on the first one breaking even or actually making a profit?  

Although Part 1 cost less than $10M in total production costs, John Aglialoro has much more invested from the prior 18 years.  Proceeding with Parts 2 and 3 is John’s decision, and I can’t imagine John not finishing anything he’s started.

6.         Given that passenger rail is a creature of the state in today’s America, is the railroad in the film going to resonate with today’s free-marketeers?

As prophetic a novel as Atlas is, you have to remember that it was written as fiction – and, by some accounts, science fiction. Atlas is an incredible metaphor that still holds true today and it’s that message that ressonates throughout the film.

7.         Does the script for this adaptation deviate significantly from the novel?

No. The message of the book is, without question, faithfully adapted – which was always our goal. Not every scene in the book is in the film so some very minor changes had to be made during the compression to ensure cohesion. The important thing is that we stayed true to Ayn’s philosophy and words. The message is there is full.

8.         Do you think that capitalism depends on any particular moral foundations in order for it to work well?

Calling something “Capitalism” does not make it Capitalism. What we see most people referring to today as “capitalism” is not really Capitalism but a perversion of the system. Wealth through fraud and dishonesty is not Capitalism. Capitalism at its core requires the very simple idea of man being able to freely exchange value-for-value. Adherence to honor and integrity is the absolute requisite. If you’ve got that at your foundation, you’re ready for real Capitalism.

9.         What is the strongest argument against the notion that the rich should pay higher taxes given their greater ability to pay?  

The issue for me is accountability. Self-reliance and the acceptance of personal responsibility are the true keys to happiness. No man, or group of men, has the right to take from one man by force and give to another. The ability to fail must be as real as the opportunity to succeed. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is not the path to happiness – it’s a suicide pact.

10.       I think one could argue that Rand’s villains are better drawn than her heroes.  Do you agree?

Personally, I find all of Rand’s characters to be rich and full of real human depth. It’s one of those things that makes Ayn’s writing so appealing to so many. You miss the characters after you finish the book.

11.       And who is your favorite antagonist in Rand’s works?

Mouch … he’s the ultimate fraud … don’t believe anything he says or does.

5 thoughts on “Interview with Atlas Shrugged Movie Producer Harmon Kaslow

  1. I saw the movie last night. I was a bit disappointed. The dialog was a bit dry, and the movie was too short to really convey the full plot. A few key scenes were left out or abridged, which really made the movie confusing (or would have made it confusing for someone who hadn’t read the book). It felt more like an extended montage of the book than a movie of its own. It rightly should have been about an hour longer, and should have introduced the setting and the main characters for much longer in order to establish a relationship between them and the audience.

    I especially didn’t like the movie’s treatment of Francisco D’Anconia and Hugh Akston. Both men were much deeper characters in the book. I get that Atlas Shrugged is really a unique book and would have been hard to adapt to film, but I expected a bit more and was somewhat disappointed.

    1. I haven’t seen the film yet – hoping to find time to see it tomorrow. Your report and others worry me that the film will disappoint. However, I’ll withhold judgement until I see it for myself. Thanks for posting your review!

      1. The problem is that the book was SO good the movie is bound to disappoint, but perhaps you’ll get a different impression of it than the one I got. If I may say so, the soundtrack was excellent.

  2. I saw the movie last night with 20 alumni of The Fund for American Studies. I thought it was terrific. They were able to tell the story in a concise way, while building interest in the plot, ideas, and characters. Everyone in our group left eager to see Part II.

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