Conservatives with ties to the tea party are hoping a new movie version of a 1957 novel will help fuel their 21st century political movement.
Tonight, the Heritage Foundation has scheduled a special screening of Atlas Shrugged, a film version of the Ayn Rand cult classic that made the late novelist a heroine to conservatives—especially, libertarian conservatives.
The screening marks the beginning of a splashy rollout for the movie, slated for premiere April 15—just in time for tea party tax day rallies. “It becomes an excellent vehicle for them to broaden their base,” said the film’s producer, Harmon Kaslow. “They subscribe to the philosophy of the book and believe in the writing of Ayn Rand and her view of individual liberty.”
FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, has undertaken a massive campaign to push the movie into as many theaters as possible. So far, they’ve lined up 63 for opening day in major cities nationwide; FreedomWorks hopes to push that number to 300.
“In a lot of ways this project reflects the ethos of the tea party,” said FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe. “You had both Republicans and Democrats who felt rejected by the establishment, and the same process is going to happen with Atlas Shrugged: We’re going to build a constituency of people who believe in limited government and individual liberty.”
The Rand novel, about a dystopian state and the martyred industrialist who battles the degenerate government that controls it, already has a big fan base in the tea party. The opening line of Atlas Shrugged—“Who is John Galt?”—appears on signs and T-shirts at tea party events nationwide, and posters of Rand decorate FreedomWorks’ Capitol Hill offices.
It represents a point of view that “really goes back to the very beginnings of the tea party,” said Kibbe. “Since our origin there’s been a real spike in people buying Atlas Shrugged, because in a lot of ways this rush of new spending and new government control reflects the basic premise of the book.”
Indeed, the tea party’s libertarian roots are precisely why entrepreneur John Aglialoro came knocking.
A longtime admirer of Rand, Aglialoro purchased the rights to the screenplay in 1992. After several failed efforts to persuade a studio to sign onto the project, he met with independent film producer Kaslow in April 2010. Kaslow said his marching orders were “to get this into production as soon as possible.”
Aglialoro “dipped into his own pocket and funded it 100 percent, because I think this is something he wanted to make part of his legacy,” Kaslow continued. Then the group had to arrange distribution.
In an opportune coincidence, Kaslow’s sister-in-law trekked to Washington for the FreedomWorks-sponsored “Restoring Honor” rally (where she couldn’t help but notice the “Who is John Galt?” picket signs). At about the same time, Kibbe was attending a pre-screening of Atlas Shrugged. “A friend invited me,” said Kibbe, a longtime Ayn Rand fan. He said that Atlas Shrugged and Rand’s earlier novel, The Fountainhead, inspired him to get involved in the tea party movement. Independently, Kaslow’s sister-in-law recommended that he reach out to the tea party movement, and Kibbe decided that FreedomWorks should help promote the Atlas Shrugged film.
Kibbe is hoping that the movie will attract more people to the tea party’s small government philosophy. He says the unorthodox marketing effort for the movie is fitting: “Like the movement itself, its distribution efforts will be from the bottom up.”