Though he’s perhaps best known as the chairman and chief executive of the high-end fitness company Cybex International (NASDAQ:CYBI), John Aglialoro will be better known in 2011 for his production of the film adaptation of the classic Ayn Rand book, Atlas Shrugged. One of the most popular novels ever written, Rand’s timeless tale of business heroism will finally reach theaters this spring.
For those who’ve not read it, Atlas Shrugged always reads as though it was written yesterday. Set in a world of highly productive businessmen and women whose removal of unease from the lives of others is remarkably demonized, shackled and looted by politicians, political entrepreneurs and media members, the productive class eventually goes on strike, with chaos the logical end result.
And while Atlas Shrugged is always relevant, its modern resurgence to bestseller status speaks to the troubled times we’re in. In the years leading up to an economic crisis authored by government meddling in the private economy, sales of ‘Shrugged’ had settled at roughly 125,000 copies per year.
But once the crisis hit, and the federal government’s substantial fingerprints were made very apparent, sales spiked. From 125,000 copies sold in 2007, by 2009 sales exceeded 450,000, with no end in sight. Atlas Shrugged, a 53-year old book, made Amazon.com’s bestseller list.
The increased sales should in no way surprise us. With bailouts and other forms of “stimulus” increasingly shifting capital from the prudent to the profligate, not to mention growing pressure on the rich to “give back” their hard-earned wealth in the form of charity, the novel’s essential theme elevating rational individual self interest, and the moral right to keep the fruits of one’s labor is on our minds more than ever.
Perhaps scarily, the film version set for this spring almost wasn’t. Having already invested millions in the film rights to ‘Shrugged’, not to mention investment in various script adaptations (one studio version had international starlet Angelina Jolie attached as Dagny Taggart), Aglialoro, with time running out on his option, considered letting his rights lapse absent a proper studio production deal.
Luckily, intervention of the good kind changed Aglialoro’s mind in the form of his wife, Joan Carter. As Aglialoro relayed to me, Carter told him that “It will haunt you for the rest of your life if you don’t make Atlas Shrugged.” Energized by his wife’s sound advice, Aglialoro courageously chose to produce the film himself, outside the traditional studio system. Thank goodness.
Indeed, quite unlike the generic Hollywood fare that furthers the notion of businessmen as evil, Atlas Shrugged correctly lifts them to their proper status as heroes. Intuitively we all know that our living standards are grand thanks to the Herculean efforts of the vital few, but this vision of the businessman as hero has yet to unspool on the silver screen.
Thanks to Aglialoro, this will no longer be true come April. Aglialoro’s painstaking work meant to bring to theaters this most important of books reveals him to be every bit the heroic businessman chronicled in Rand’s novel.
And much as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ exposed a flat-footed Hollywood studio culture that shunned a film it deemed too religious (along with massive box office receipts), so will Aglialoro hopefully once again expose a system too rooted in the formulaic over the philosophic. Atlas Shrugged’s devotees are legion, and Agliaro’s $8 million production will deliver on a heretofore unmet consumer need.
So while John Aglialoro is already notable and someone we should admire for creating some of the best fitness equipment in the world, his name promises to be one that we’ll know even better in 2011. Not coincidentally, Atlas Shrugged will reach theaters on April 15th.