Actress Laura Regan. Photo Credit: Russell Baer.

Actress Laura Regan. Photo Credit: Russell Baer.

GALO: Similarly, you’re the third actress to take on the role of Dagny Taggart in this trilogy, with Taylor Schilling playing her in the first installment and Samantha Mathis taking on the role in the second. How much did those earlier performances inform yours?

LR: Not at all. They are great actresses and I’m thrilled to follow in their footsteps, but it felt like a trap to start modeling myself off their performances. Also, the rest of the cast was recast, so we just looked at it as a fresh reboot. I took all of my cues for the character from the page. It’s a 1,200 page book, so there has been plenty written about her [laughs]. So I really didn’t concern myself with their performances.

GALO: Atlas Shrugged is one of the most polarizing novels ever, both from an aesthetic and philosophical standpoint, and it has taken on political associations as well — when a story becomes that notorious people start to develop preconceived notions and, sometimes, misconceptions about it. With this film, was the cast/crew more concerned with offering an interpretation of the source material or trying to remain faithful to it?

LR: In terms of what we were doing, there is no collective we. There were definitely people involved with the film who wanted to give it a more contemporary political bent; they wanted it to appeal to the people who are seeing similarities between what goes on in the book and what is going on now. Not everyone sees the similarities, but some people with a certain political bent see it that way, and there were people involved with the film who wanted that to get picked up. I would just say that Ayn Rand is very polarizing. She would call herself, first and foremost, a novelist before a philosopher, so I think she liked to be provocative; I think she liked to say very dramatic things. And I think a lot of her ideas appeal across the political spectrum. Some people would disagree with me. But I definitely think there are ideas in the book that will persist long after the current political landscape has shifted. I think the “can-do” spirit of this country is very much encapsulated in a lot of what she said.

But when you’re making a movie, not everyone is hired on the basis that they are philosophically on the same page. And I personally looked at it as a novel, because it is a story and my number one goal was to be true to the character and her journey through the novel.

GALO: The movie has been out for a couple of weeks now. What has the feedback been like? Do you think people are approaching it with an open mind?

LR: I think that the majority of the people who have gone to see it so far are people who were fans of the book. And the feedback I’ve gotten from them has been incredible. When you really love a book, you tend to go into a movie with almost trepidation, and I think that for the most part, people who really loved the book have been thrilled to see it brought to the screen. As for the people who aren’t familiar with the book, I haven’t heard much from them. I definitely think it is worth looking into for people who aren’t familiar with the book as an introduction to Ayn Rand’s ideas, so that they can accept or dismiss them for themselves.

GALO: How familiar were you with the source material before signing on to the film; did you have any preconceived notions about the novel or Ayn Rand’s ideas?

LR: I was not familiar with her at all. I hadn’t read any of her books before taking the role. So I was on a crash course, I dove right in and immersed myself in the whole thing. It was a lot of work just to read it [laughs]!

GALO: When you started to dive into the novel, what appealed to you about the character of Dagny Taggart?

LR: What appealed to me was, right from the start, you realize this woman is the heroine. She is the one who is going to take us on this journey and lead us through the territory where all of this philosophy is going to come out of. So I realized that this role was an opportunity to play a great literary heroine, and I don’t think any actress in her right mind would turn that down.

GALO: Writer/director James Manera is a relatively new director; his only other credits are an episode of Nash Bridges and the mini-series documentary On Record: The Soundtrack of Our Lives. How would you describe his style of direction? What was it like working with him on set?

LR: It was very amusing. He has a very quick wit and he’s very funny. So he always kept us on our toes that way. But I would say his direction was very gentle, in that he would never barge in and say, “Let’s change what you just did completely.” He would nudge us gently in different directions if he wanted to try something different, but we were on a very tight schedule so there wasn’t a lot of experimentation. He knew what he wanted and we would usually get it in a few takes. I would say he kind of let the actors lead the way with the preparation we brought in on our characters, and then gently nudged us to meet his expectations.

GALO: Are there any upcoming projects you are involved in that you are particularly excited about and you would like to highlight?

LR: I’m very excited about NBC’s Constantine. I’m not in the pilot, but I’m in the second episode, which airs Halloween night, and I’ll find out soon whether my character will recur. I think people are going to love it. Matt Ryan, who plays the lead, was really great casting. He’s brilliant in the role.

Video courtesy of Atlas Shrugged.