RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
A movie version of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" opens today in theatres around the country. Many fans of the novel - and they are legion - have been waiting more than 30 years for this movie. NPR's Zoe Chace reports on why "Atlas Shrugged" still resonates with a certain set.
ZOE CHACE: For some people, "Atlas Shrugged" is a ritual.
Mr. WILLIAMS PASCOE III: Well, it happens that I read it every four years during presidential election years.
CHACE: William Pascoe III is at an exclusive screening at the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that promotes limited government.
Mr. PASCOE: I'm extraordinarily excited. Oh yeah. For a guy like me, this is the equivalent of standing in line on the opening day of "Star Wars" back in 1977. They better have done a good job.
CHACE: The pressure on the independent producers of this film is intense, and they're hovering nervously in the back of the auditorium.
Mr. PASCOE: Back in, what, 1990, '91, the Library of Congress did a survey of 5,000 readers to determine the most influential books of all time. This came in at number two. Behind something called the Bible.
CHACE: But if you've never read "Atlas Shrugged," I'll sum it up for you like this. If you like government regulations, you will not like this book. It's about this woman, Dagny, who runs a railroad company called the John Galt Line and keeps getting thwarted by regulators and unions. There has never been a film version until this moment. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The railroad company is called Taggart Transcontinental; the John Galt Line is a railway line they are building during the story.]
(Soundbite of movie, "Atlas Shrugged, Part One")
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. TAYLOR SCHILLING (Actor): (as Dagny Taggart) That is correct. The first train on the John Galt Line will run July 22nd.
Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as character) Great news. Thank you, Dagny.
Ms. SCHILLING: (as Dagny Taggart) My pleasure. Thank you.
Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (as character) Dagny, this is Mr. Brady, a delegate from the union of locomotive engineers.
Mr. MATT O'TOOLE (Actor): (as Brenden Brady) You're busy. I'll be brief. We're not going to allow you to run that train on the John Galt Line.
Ms. SCHILLING: (as Dagny Taggart) Get out of here.
CHACE: This rebuke was a laugh line in the packed house. Not to give it away, but the John Galt Line does run, driven by volunteers. As the movie makes clear, Dagny's determination and disregard for the red tape produces an incredibly efficient train line.
(Soundbite of applause)
CHACE: The producers of the movie, Harmon Kaslow and John Aglialoro, sidle up to the stage as the credits roll. They peer out over the auditorium crowd. A hand goes up.
Unidentified Man #3: I'd like to thank the two of you for bringing this dream to fruition. And I think you did Ayn Rand proud. I studied under Ludwig von Mises and knew Ayn Rand and that circle, and this is phenomenal.
CHACE: You can see the shoulders of the producers slump in relief. Remember, this movie has no studio backing. It was financed and distributed primarily by one man, John Galt - excuse me, John Aglialoro. He bought the rights 15 years ago, but Hollywood studios kept dropping the project. So he did it himself, which is sort of funny because that's the plot of the movie.
That's kind of what happens in "Atlas Shrugged."
Mr. JOHN AGLIALORO (Producer, "Atlas Shrugged, Part One"): Well, I did nothing that tens of thousands of other entrepreneurs do. It's America. That's what makes America great. And then what do we do in this country too often? Is we punish our creative folks. Government should be coaches for the economic quarterbacks, who are the CEOs.
CHACE: Did you get tax breaks, though, for making the picture?
Mr. AGLIALORO: I tried, actually. I said, well, let me go to Louisiana. But I didn't want to shoot - I couldn't get the talent.
CHACE: But he did take the standard business deduction. Here's what Aglialoro was banking on - the impulse of die-hard fans like William Pascoe, who want to spread the Rand gospel.
Mr. PASCOE: I loved it.
CHACE: He gave the book to his mom two years ago.
Mr. PASCOE: She's had a hard time. She's only gotten about a third of the way through the book in two years that she's had it sitting there, so I'm taking her on opening weekend.
CHACE: That's today, April 15th, usually tax day. A traditional day of protest against the government.
Zoe Chace, NPR News.