■Pras on WorldFilms: Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED (Part I)

Atlas Shrugged Part I is based on Ayn Rand’s controversial 1957 novel about the role of individual achievement in society. Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) runs Taggart Transcontinental, the largest remaining railroad company in America, with intelligence, courage and integrity, despite the systematic disappearance of her best and most competent workers. She is drawn to industrialist Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler), one of the few men whose genius and commitment to his own ideas match her own. Rearden’s super-strength metal alloy, Rearden Metal, holds the promise that innovation can overcome the slide into anarchy. Using the untested Rearden Metal, they rebuild the critical Taggart rail line in Colorado and pave the way for oil titan Ellis Wyatt (Graham Beckel) to feed the flame of a new American Renaissance. Hope rises again, when Dagny and Rearden discover the design of a revolutionary motor based on static electricity—in an abandoned engine factory—more proof to the sinister theory that the “men of the mind” (thinkers, industrialists, scientists, artists, and other innovators) are “on strike” and vanishing from society. Also starring director Paul Johansson as John Galt.

Cast: Taylor Schilling, Paul Johansson, Annabelle Gurwitch, Edi Gathegi, Patrick Fischler, Michael O’Keefe, Grant Bowler, Matthew Marsden, Jsu Garcia, Armin Shimerman, Michael Lerner, Geoff Pierson, Jon Polito

MPAA Rating: PG-13 / Run Time: 1hr 42mins / Release Year:2011

Atlas Shrugged Part 1  

by director Paul Johansson

I first discovered Ayn Rand’s works at the age of seventeen. The hair was standing up on my arms as I finished Atlas Shrugged. It stirred something inside of me that has shaped my life in a way no other book has since. I discovered a different kind of hero, one who had chosen to live his life by reason and rationality, threatened only by other men’s evasion of reality. Subsequently I delved deeply into her other works and found great inspiration in her ideas.

I met the producers twelve days before principal photography was to begin. After the meeting I was fully aware of the obstacles that would have to be overcome. They wanted the story contemporized. There was no cast. And I had to figure a way to create a cinematic experience in a non-traditionally structured script. In fact, the story was open-ended as the producers had decided this film would be released as a trilogy. I knew even under the perfect circumstances, with all the time and money available, this would still be a project held to great scrutiny.

I went home after the meeting and decided not to do it. But I woke up the next day and realized it was a moment in my life I couldn’t let slip by. It was an opportunity to recreate in others that feeling I had at age seventeen. By choosing to become a director I had an obligation to tell the best stories I could regardless of my circumstances. Despite the dense source material and complex interplay of the philosophy with the characters, the paramount challenge was keeping to the simplicity in the story. I found the idea of making a modern version interesting. Not just with the nuances of dialogue but the implementation of our own current social and political crisis.

I am constantly asked my political affiliation because of my involvement in this film. It is this: None. I am an artist. I tell stories.

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