Last week I wrote about the disturbingly bloodthirsty Ayn Rand Institute, and the rigid doctrinal pronouncements that occasionally come from their intellectual figureheads such as Leonard Peikoff. As the heir to Rand’s estate, Peikoff also owned the rights to film adaptations of her novels, which he guarded as jealously as the novelist herself for many years. He eventually sold them for more than $1 million to his one-time friend John Aglialoro, producer of both Atlas Shrugged movies, the second of which comes out next month.
This afternoon I sat down with Aglialoro and producer Harman Kaslow to talk about the new film. You’ll have to wait on the rest of the interview, but here’s an excerpt in which Aglialoro talks about his relationship with Peikoff, how he procured the rights, and the cooling of the Ayn Rand Institute’s objectivist ardor.
JA: Leonard Peikoff and I were great friends. I used to know how to get to him, and he used to get to me too, and we’d laugh, and have great times.
It was a huge responsibility for him. No matter what has happened to the relationship, he needed to entrust the creative rights to somebody, because he was the intellectual and legal heir of Ayn Rand. She could not sell the rights to anyone else, and he felt the same way. We had a good relationship, he knew I wasn’t going to mess with it. He knew I wasn’t going to, as I like to say, have Dagny become a nun. I feel we’ve adapted faithfully part one, [and] we’ve adapted faithfully part two. This script was built on a rock-solid basis. Then we had other professionals take that basic script, which I was not going to move away from, and we had artistic people look at it, philosophical people like David Kelley look at it, Duncan Scott who did work with Ayn Rand in the past, and other creative types.
TAC: Leonard Peikoff wouldn’t really see an endorsement from David Kelley as a positive thing, would he?
No. Aside from the movie, just for clarity’s sake, David Kelley was excommunicated from the Ayn Rand Institute, founded by a friend of mine Ed Snyder and Ayn Rand. When he was there he would do auctions. I bought the Virtue of Selfishness manuscript and some other things while he was the auctioneer. They had a falling-out based on an option in the movie. But David Kelley was excommunicated for speaking at a libertarian group. I was ultimately excommunicated, as they say—look at me, it’s like catechism, it’s like a church—for speaking at Cato. And now John Allison, who’s on the board of the Ayn Rand Institute, is going to head up Cato.
TAC: So do you expect him to be excommunicated?
JA: I think there’s been a change of mentality. Yaron Brook is now executive director of ARI, and I think Leonard gave him the sanction to carry on. They’re now joining the ranks of society, philosophical society. The libertarian, the political; it’s not just up here [gestures with his hands]. [Working with libertarians] is no longer anathema.