Harmon Kaslow is one of the most passionate movie producers I have ever worked around. That was the only conclusion I could make after we parted ways in front of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Cincinnati where he finally went back to his room after a very long day. Kaslow was at the Duke Energy Center promoting Atlas Shrugged Part II speaking with Glenn Beck, Matt Kibbe and a long list of freedom fighters who spoke during FreePac to a very large crowd that packed the floor with thousands upon thousands of people hungry to see what they could do to make The United States a better country to live in. In the video below Kaslow personally greeted hundreds of attendees after his dramatic presentation on stage, as I along with a team of helpers worked the Atlas Shrugged booth passing out over 5000 t-shirts announcing the release date of Atlas Shrugged Part II.
I was there to help promote the next movie edition of Atlas Shrugged in a similar fashion that I did with Part I only there were not huge forums like FreePac two years ago when that first real film translation of Ayn Rand’s epic novel was released to theaters. CLICK HERE FOR A REVIEW. Things were harder then; John Aglialoro had the rights to the famous Ayn Rand masterpiece that happened to be the most influential novel in America and he wanted to make a film version of the massive book dividing it into three parts, just as they were presented by Ayn Rand. The material is extraordinarily difficult to put into a film version because much of the content is cerebral, so the difficulty in translating such heady material into a visual format proved elusive for the mainstream Hollywood community. The closest thing I have seen to Atlas Shrugged in a feature film is the recent Batman films by Christopher Nolan. But unlike Bruce Wayne from the Nolan trilogy, Atlas Shrugged does not have the benefit a superhuman powers, or cleaver gadgets to fight crime in the city of Gotham. The heroes of Atlas Shrugged are human beings who acknowledge their ability to be unique producers who support the entire world with their creative minds. The primary protagonist that was listed on the t-shirts we were handing out is John Galt, a man of such extraordinary brilliance that he is able to earn the respect of the worlds primary movers to go on strike against the looters of government who pretend to be at the center of everything—but are clearly lacking.
Atlas Shrugged does not have any literary problems. It is a standard unto itself. It may very well be the perfect novel. It is every bit as grand as any novel by Victor Hugo and is as stunning from a literary character development stand point as any novel ever written by any writer. But the deep social divide that comes out when the book or film is mentioned is that the villains of Atlas Shrugged are a bit too real. Members of modern governments and the general media recognize quickly that they cannot relate with John Galt, or Dagney Taggart, Henry Rearden, Hugh Akston, Francisco d’ Anconia, or my favorite character out of all of them Ragnar Danneskjöld—the pirate! Ragnar was a philosopher who became a privateer in the book. Alone he defied the might of the United States Navy and of all the People’s Navies of the world to be, as he famously said, “the friend of the friendless.” Atlas Shrugged does not dress it’s villains up in costumes like Darth Vader in Star Wars, or the Joker in Batman to allow the reader or movie viewer the courtesy of psychological distance. The villains are a too real for many guilty of similar real life acts to fathom, so they of course reject the material of Ayn Rand. Much of the negative criticism that comes from critics, beltway politicians and social looters emerges in defense of their own tendencies to be parasites upon society. These elements make Atlas Shrugged a divisive story that does not spare punches. Written over 50 years ago it features a president that is just like the modern version of Barack Obama. Atlas Shrugged came well before Barack Obama was even born, so the film can never be said to be taking shots at his presidency, or the kind of government he supports. But never-the-less, the policies of the Obama White House are remarkably similar to the policies of the villains in Atlas Shrugged, and the media who supports the President for all the wrong reasons.
All day long at FreePac as I personally handed out thousands of t-shirts people stood slack-jawed at the concept that we were giving them away for free. Many people wanted to give me money for them seeking to trade value for value in their minds with actual currency. If I wanted to I could have pocketed several thousand dollars because people wanted to give me twenty-dollar bills per shirt but I told each of them—“keep your money today, but spend it on an extra ticket for the movie, because the media who is currently functioning does not want you to see this movie. Barack Obama does not want you to see this movie. Mayor Bloomburg in New York does not want you to see this movie. No Democrat, many Republicans, and no head of any network want you to see this movie because they know they are the villains in it, and they don’t want that reality for themselves and they don’t want you to see them in the context presented in Atlas Shrugged, which is terribly realistic. They wish to continue to believe they are saving the world, when it is actually they who are destroying it. So take your twenty dollars and spend it at the box office on Atlas Shrugged Part II because it will need your support, because it won’t get it from the press.” I can think of seven times during my work in the Atlas Shrugged booth where tears streamed down the faces of people who gathered the impact of what I told them and they could only respond through broken gasps—“thank you.”
I warned everyone who took a t-shirt that the reviews for Atlas Shrugged Part II would not be favorable even though nobody has yet seen the movie. The reason for this trend was also covered by Ayn Rand not in Atlas Shrugged but by the juggernaut of novel which happens to be my favorite called The Fountainhead published in 1943. In that book it explains how members of the media align themselves with the politics of the day to help “shape” culture. I recently wrote an article about how this was attempted against the newest Batman film once the media realized that the Nolan brothers had written a story about anti-collectivism and not a troubling thriller featured around Heath Ledger’s Joker character. Dark Knight Rises in spite of the tragedy in Colorado upon its opening had gone on to do over $1 billion dollars in world-wide business so it has the support of the public in spite of how the press turned on it in midstream. The New Yorker led the way coming out against the film in an attempt to steer business away from the anti-collectivist message of Dark Knight Rises in the exact same way that characters from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead attempted to do the same in that fictional tale. CLICK HERE TO REVIEW. The same thing will without question happen to Atlas Shrugged Part II. I told the people I handed shirts to that we needed them to wear the shirts around to their grocery stores, to their shopping complexes, to work whenever possible, to act as a walking billboard because the media machine will not do the film justice. By taking a t-shirt and wearing it proudly they could help make Atlas Shrugged Part II a success without the help of any media, any politician, or mainstream acceptance. I know very well the material of Atlas Shrugged and can report that it is much more powerful than Dark Knight Rises on a cerebral level, which is not intended to take anything away from that fantastic movie. But if Atlas Shrugged II could afford the media backing that Dark Knight Rises had where Warner Brothers put the film on over 3000 screens domestically and on additional screens all over the world, Atlas Shrugged Part II would do similar business. The problem is there is not a major studio behind Atlas Shrugged. It’s John Aglialoro, a few other financial backers, and Harmon Kaslow. To make Atlas Shrugged Part II it required a great deal of personal passion on the scale of the heroes in the novel Atlas Shrugged knowing every part of the process would be an uphill battle. For people like John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow making this film is equivalent to the scene that takes place in the actual movie of Part II when Henry Reardon is taken to court by the government for being “too good.” Those types of things do happen in real life and they happen often. So it is a miracle that this film actually got made.
Once Harmon finished his speech talking about Atlas Shrugged II and Glenn Beck finished up his speech, Kaslow came back out to the booth and helped us pass out the rest of the shirts as seen in the video above. After a long hard day he was still full of energy and boundless enthusiasm for his movie. He and I talked about the questions people had been asking me all day, primarily why the cast from the original film was not in this update. Many people discovered Ayn Rand for the first time though Part One which is available right now on Netflix, so naturally they are in love with the characters they came to know in that first installment. As Harmon explained, they had the opportunity to beef up their production value so they had to take the leap. He explained that the decision was hard but that Spiderman, Batman and many other superhero films had relied on the strength of the material instead of the character of the actors playing the part, so as a production they made the decision to take steps forward as they learned what worked best from their first film and expand on it. In essence Atlas Shrugged is a superhero story, and is every bit as fun and powerful as The Avengers, not on a physical level, but cerebrally. That is why the Atlas Shrugged booth all day long resembled more of an active booth at Comic Con than a political convention. The geeks in this case are not the kind of fans of The Incredible Hulk arguing over the Edward Norton version from past films or the new Mark Ruffalo version in The Avengers. These Atlas Shrugged geeks are fans of capitalism and the minds that drive it. They do tend to be smarter because they work to make themselves that way, and to see the emotion on their faces just to shake the hand of someone associated with the Atlas Shrugged production was wonderfully encouraging. Most of the day at FreePac I represented the face of the Atlas Production, and it was refreshing to see so much joy at getting a t-shirt advertising the movie and answering questions about the book and Ayn Rand in particular. I enjoyed watching people line up to have their picture taken next to Kaslow—just to be near a man who helped make Atlas Shrugged into a movie.
You know a man is authentic when the crowds are gone and the cameras are turned off, and they still espouse the same principles. As Harmon and I crossed Elm Street in Cincinnati he and I continued to talk without any pretense of selling the movie to a hungry public. We were just a couple of guys talking and I told him I admired him for taking such a shot with his movie. His efforts were tireless as he is about to go on a media rampage speaking on virtually every radio interview possible, TV spots also, and will shake tens of thousands of hands over the next two weeks. But like the characters from Atlas Shrugged I could see why John Aglialoro put so much of his own money on the production of the next Atlas film. It was the energy–the springy enthusiasm that Harmon Kaslow brought to the production that was making Atlas Shrugged possible. In a large part the thousands of new readers of Ayn Rand’s work were getting exposure to her novels because these movies Part One and now Part Two–because of the guy walking next to me along 5th Street about to leap into the Hyatt to rest from a hard day of marketing.
Two days prior to FreePac my wife and I spent 4 hours buying our stock of books for the week at Books-A-Million and Half Priced Books. I was happy to find a copy of Frazer’s The Golden Bough which I purchased along with a host of other choices and my wife had a stack up to her chin, as usual. But during our time in those two book stores I watched the staff set up a new display promoting all of Ayn Rand’s books in a special stand prominently featuring them with proud reverence—and people were buying them by the bucket. I personally watched that stand lose 50% of its stock in just a two-hour period and I knew it was because of the anticipation of Atlas Shrugged II about to hit more than 500 movie theaters. To find out if one is near you, or how to get one, CLICK HERE. The movie is a celebration of Ayn Rand’s work. If people want the full effect, they MUST read the book. But the movie will bring millions of new fans to the great and highly intelligent work of Atlas Shrugged. And to a large extent it is the tireless energy of Harmon Kaslow, the man shaking my hand for the 100th time in 2000 feet of walking that is the force able to take the movie from financing, to casting, to production, to wrap, and now to delivery standing up in front of thousands upon thousands of people to promote Atlas Shrugged. Like the character of John Galt, Dagney Taggart and Hank Reardon from Atlas Shrugged I thought of all three of them as Harmon gave me one last wave before the sliding glass door to the Hyatt opened as if to move hastily out of his way so not to be crushed by his boundless energy. Before he entered the doors to his hotel he proclaimed to me in a loud voice not caring who around us was listening, “I’m the luckiest guy in America, to be able to work on a picture like this!” Seeing him standing in the doorway of the Hyatt with his arms stretched out fearlessly reminded me of the ending of Shawshank Redemption. No question about it, completing Part II for him was redemption of a different nature, and most likely just as difficult. I continued to walk through the streets of Cincinnati thinking about that wave as minds half asleep with social evasion gathered in front of a closed Macy’s looking for something to do. It takes people like Harmon Kaslow to move the mountains of the world so that the sleepy minds of the ordinary can even have the opportunity to touch greatness for brief moments in their lives. And when Atlas Shrugged Part II opens, it is because of real life people like Kaslow and Aglialoro who haven’t quite given up on the world and retreated to their own versions of Atlantis that make it happen. They are still out fighting in the city streets of Cincinnati and residing in the Hyatt with a cell phone to their ear and an iPod in their hands answering email, setting up interviews, and plotting the next day’s activities in an effort to save the world by getting the people in it………to think.
CLICK HERE to see what Ayn Rand, Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan attempted to do to save Hollywood from the real life villains of Atlas Shrugged in the 1950’s. This is the real document as written by Ayn Rand to all the major studios in a fight that Harmon Kaslow and John Aglialoro are respectfully continuing to this very day with Atlas Shrugged Part II.
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