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First Person/John Aglialoro

Ayn Rand's biggest fan

Atlas Shrugged producer John Aglialoro, 67, on making the bet of a lifetime.

By Jenn Abelson
May 8, 2011

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> You’re the 2004 US poker champion and the CEO of Cybex International, an exercise equipment company in Medway. How did you become a film producer? I bought the rights to the movie from the estate of Ayn Rand in August 1992.

> Why? I thought I’d have a major studio attracted to such a great property. It was ranked number two in a Library of Congress [survey] as one of the most influential books, behind the Bible. It was about making money, absolutely. But it was also something that the world wanted.

> So why did it take so long to make the film? I found a political divide. The left beats this as a right-wing extremist phenomenon. Ayn Rand is for free markets. But the left forgets Ayn Rand was a secularist. She was fiercely prochoice, for women’s rights, believed in drug decriminalization. It’s crazy.

> Conventional wisdom is that young readers admire Rand’s Objectivism philosophy but “age” out of it. Why? It gets beat out of them over time. They forget the optimism of when life was ahead of them.

> Why didn’t you? [When I was] young, I became an entrepreneur. I [sold] snow cones; I made four, five dollars a day. I saw the result of work and purpose. Philosophically, that imprinted me.

> Why makes this 1957 novel persist? It speaks to people that you own your own life. You’re not born to serve society. Happiness is when you express your right to pursue what you’re passionate about. Unless you do that first, you can’t be good to anyone else.

> What’s your reaction to the reviews? Fifteen out of 16 critics were negative. But the out-of-the-theaters reaction is over 85 percent positive. People are cheering, clapping, joyous after seeing the movie.

> Would you do this all over again? If I’d known it was going to take until 2011, I wouldn’t have done it.

> How committed are you to financing Parts 2 and 3? I learned something long ago playing poker. If you think you’re beat, don’t go all in. If Part 1 makes [enough of] a return to support Part 2, I’ll do it. Other than that, I’ll throw the hand in.

  • May 8, 2011 cover
  • May 8, 2011 cover
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