It took more than a decade to bring a version of Atlas Shrugged to the big screen and three films to do justice to Ayn Rand’s epic original tale. But last week producer Harmon Kaslow brought the final installment of the series, Atlas Shrugged III: Who is John Galt?, to Ringling College of Art and Design for a sneak peak. The libertarian message film brought out a more corporate crowd to the Academic Center auditorium than the normal art students that populate the campus, but Ringling president Larry Thompson said it was important to expose digital filmmaking students there to all kind of cinema.
Kaslow sat down with SRQ Backlot to discuss the film and its reception.
So what brought you to Ringling to show this film?
We did a Kickstarter campaign to help finance this film, and one of the supporters, Joel Schleicher, is a supporter of the college. We had reached out to supporters and and asked that in addition to money, we also hoped they could help support us to promote the film as well. He suggested we come to Ringling College and it made a lot of sense. It was good to come not only because Florida is a good market—we are opening in a number of theaters in Florida—but also because we get to support digital filmmaking.
What reception are you hoping for with the film?
This is a message film. It gets judged as a Hollywood film but it was never intended to be a Hollywood. That gives some the opportunity to criticize it without addressing what the film means. And Hollywood doesn’t embrace the message of this film. That’s why it’s so meaningful to so many people. There’s some slight irony in that since Ayn Rand was a screenwriter herself and this is the same important message of her books and in some of her films.
Why isn’t there more conservative filmmaking? It isn’t like there are no conservative financiers for films.
It needs to come from people resources who believe in the message of people who believe in the message. Movies are a good medium for helping educate Americans on these particular issues, as well as to help identify like-minded people in your community to organize with people like you. These movies an help impact the independents who are caught in the middle between the far left and right. There may be elements in this movie they can relate to, when they are not as influenced by political advertising.
Why have critics been rough on this series?
Critics have judged the films on its production values, which lets them dissuade people from seeing this film without attacking its underlying message, which would be unethical. That lets them get away without having to address the message.
Have the rotating cast members (this movie has a third lead actress playing Dagny Taggart in as many films) detract from the quality of the films?
When we started this, we did not have the time to lock cast members down for three films and we did not know if we could finish filming the entire book, so we couldn’t lock the actors down. But people should view Atlas Shrugged as they do any superhero movie. It is not about who you cast as the hero but rather what the hero represents. Movies like Superman and Batman and Spiderman can all change who plays those heroes. But Atlas Shrugged is judged differently.
Batman pulls it off with a conservative hero, right?
The last version certainly did. I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to Atlas Shrugged with the message of the Christopher Nolan Batman films, that in the last one (spoiler alert!) the way he was hiding the bomb around the city was much like the Galt Motor, and the flooding was like the flooding of Galt’s motor. It really is amazing. I’ve also heard people say Iron Man is based somewhat on this.
Does the rise in regional filmmaking help make more films like this possible?
Absolutely. This is a movie Hollywood didn’t want to make, but it comes with such an incredible brand that it afforded us to go out and compete with the studios, which we;ve had to do, and create our own theatrical distribution company, which is now looking at other message films.