Q) What led you to want to write Ayn Rand at the Movies?
A) Ayn Rand is significantly linked to the motion picture industry. She contributed to it in many ways. She wrote about movies. She wrote the screen plays for three different films: You Came Along, Love Letters, and The Fountainhead. Her works have inspired several movies. There have been movies made about her life. In fact, a film was pivotal to the most important relationship she ever had. She was very young, had just gotten to this country, and was working as an extra on the 1927 Cecil DeMille silent film The King of Kings when she met her husband, Frank O’Connor, who had a bit part in the movie.
Q) Are you a believer in the philosophy called Objectivism that she founded?
A) No, I am not. What’s more, I never have been. Many intelligent people go through an Ayn Rand phase in their youth and later decide her philosophy is overly simplistic. I never did. However, in a high school English class we were assigned to read her novella Anthem. I liked the novella very much. I read The Fountainhead in college and was very impressed by it.
Q) Do her philosophical beliefs show up in all the films on which she worked?
A) I personally don’t believe Objectivism is evident in either You Came Along or Love Letters, both movies released in 1945. You Came Along is a tragic-comedy about a woman falling in love with a man who is terminally ill. Love Letters is a powerful romance starring Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones. The 1941 film The Night of January 16th is based on Rand’s play of the same name but she had nothing to do with the making of the film and it’s a snappy comedy/mystery/love story rather than a film with philosophical or political concerns.
Q) How did you research this book?
A) The first thing I did was read a lot of Ayn Rand! I got hold of a book entitled The Early Ayn Rand which had short stories she wrote when she was first learning English and adjusting to this country. I read We the Living, re-read The Fountainhead, and read Atlas Shrugged. Then I watched everything I could with a Rand link. Finally, I contacted people who worked on those films.
Q) Did you learn anything that surprised you?
A) I learned a lot that surprised me. One that stands out is that Rand had a light-hearted side to her, a frivolous side that contrasted strongly with the general perception of her as a hard-nosed ideologue. She adored the light-hearted music popular in the early twentieth century that she called “tiddlywink music.” Her light-hearted side also comes out in some of her early short stories as well as the 1945 movie You Came Along, a movie for which she wrote the screenplay.
Q) Rand wrote short stories, novels, essays, and screenplays. What is your favorite of her works and why is it your favorite?
A) This is not a hard question to answer. My favorite Rand work is The Fountainhead. It is a novel filled with dramatic scenes and vibrant characters. It is a very colorful book that makes an enjoyable read and that lingers in the mind long after you have read it. I’ve read The Fountainhead three times and enjoyed it very much each time.
Q) What is usually called “the rape scene” in The Fountainhead had been criticized. Does your book discuss this?
A) I discuss that scene at length. I discuss the criticisms, Rand’s replies to them, and what the scene means about Rand and her views on relations between the sexes. There is a lot of ambivalence in there and I explore it thoroughly
Q) Your book discusses major Hollywood productions and short films that were made as school projects. Why did you include films made by amateurs?
A) Because I wanted to be complete in discussing the influence Ayn Rand has had on films. I wanted to examine the way her material is viewed, and translated into cinema, by varied people.
Q) Two graphic novel films were made of Rand’s works. Does her work translate well into cartoon form?
A) I think you can make a case that much of her material is tailor made for cartoons. After all, her characters are often larger than life and, therefore, kind of cartoonish.
Q) Why should people read Ayn Rand at the Movies?
A) It is an interesting book about the relationship an important, controversial, and complex public figure had with the motion picture industry.