Questions for Barbara - movie version of PAR


Recommended Posts

Please, if you have answered these a million times already, then tell me to do some research. Today I was rereading your fascinating story about the filming of PAR. I was just wondering if you maintained contact with any of the actors afterwards. Also, did you ever send Julie the recordings of Principles of Efficient Thinking? And last, but not least; could you give me Julie's phone number? ;) Actually, it amazes me how similar the two of you look. When I see pictures of you at that age, I have to say she was well-cast for the roll, and what a great actor. I loved her perfomances both in PAR, and also Before Sunrise.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that when Barbara was young, she was much tougher than that.

BTW, my favorite part of the movie is when Barbara fights in the hotel room with NB about him being in love with Ayn.

Julie is great there.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Jody, I didn't maintain contact with the actors, although I wish I had. I was living in Santa Fe at the time, and most of them were travelling to various locations, so it just didn't work out. I don't have Julie's phone number, but if you Google her, you'll likely find the name of her agent, who can forward mail to her.

You wrote: "Actually, it amazes me how similar the two of you look." Thank you. I have been told that before.

Ciro, you are quite right. I was considerably tougher -- shall I say, more confident and self-assertive -- that the movie role called for. (As Nathaniel put it, "Barbara was not a wimp!")

Barbara

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for answering that question Barbara. I think I will elect not to get in touch with her agent. At this point in my life, I have yet to have a restraining order taken out on me, and I'd like to keep it that way! ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a bit off the subject but still worth passing along. After the movie had shown, Helen Mirren recollected to an interviewer that she'd tried to read Rand in preparation for the role but found the material impenetrable. American schools must be excellent, she concluded, if high schoolers can understand it.

Peter

Link to post
Share on other sites

Jody's question brought some to my mind that I never asked you, Barbara:

How exactly was the casting process done? I thought Eric Stoltz did a great job (but, I'm partial to him, I think he's a very skilled and multifaceted actor). Also, what kind (if any) background study did he do for that role?

I didn't think he went for a carbon copy of Nathaniel (that would have been difficult), but still, he seemed to really pour himself into that.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I only saw the DVD of PAR for the first time at the tail end of last year. Before I even say anything, let me say that the very best part for me was seeing Barbara talk in the special features. WHAT A TREAT!

I then found out what she looks like and sounds like other than a still photograph.

Barbara had told me in an email before that I probably would not like the film and she was partially right. I thought it was an extremely uneven movie. There were wonderful parts, but there were very weak and insipid ones.

The best part to me is that it brought Ayn Rand out as a human being, not a disembodied brain that comes in your mind just from reading her works. I only saw Rand once in my life, at the Ford Hall Forum in the early 70's, and watching her read the pages of an essay out loud did not give me any sense of her as a person. The Q&A brought her out to me a little, but it was all too brief.

And this aspect, that of understanding her as a human being, is absolutely essential in assimilating her philosophy as one for people - living people, not statues.

The absolutely weakest part of the movie is the fact that if you did not know Rand's work, you would have no idea why so many things happened in the story and why they were important.

For instance, the video-clip-like sex sequences of the start of the affair with VO (voice over) of fragments of Galt's speech interspersed with images of Rand's hand writing on paper. What a wonderful idea! An extremely powerful one! But, to me, it was was spoiled by lack of preparation. It just sort of happened that way. There was no building up to it. Boom, you're in the middle of it without rhyme or reason. Then, if you have no idea of what Rand's works are about, it falls flat because the words mean little, and if you do, the director's choice of the fragments of Galt's speech used was not a happy one. He kept it good and superficial, so then it falls flat again.

I do not think Christopher Menaul was a good choice as director. Not at all. I can see his imprint of disdain on the whole approach all throughout the film. What I find especially galling is that if he felt that Rand's appeal is only for the young (as he said in the special features), why on earth didn't he make a film for them?

I get the feeling that he much preferred the idea of playing down the heroic aspect of Rand and the idealism of everyone around her at that time - and especially emphasizing the neurotic parts, which were not properly counterpointed with the spirit of striving for the highest.

Frankly, this one-sided director's approach took away from the drama, and, from all accounts I have read so far, the reality of the larger-than-life events was just as exciting as Rand's fiction was.

I also get the feeling that the actors and the editor (when the director was away) were the ones who really carried this film, not the director or screenwriters (actually, the actors and editor did it in spite of them).

The composer did a wonderful "noir" type atmosphere, but it didn't find it fit well with anything but the opening and closing overhead shots of New York at night, and some nighttime NY street shots. It would have been good for a Mike Hammer adventure or something like that. Also, maintaining that same 50's sound all throughout the 60's and even later was strange...

Hellen Mirren was unbelievably wonderful. I don't think she got Rand's wide eyes right as she seemed to squint at intense moments instead of "bore into a person," but she certainly could center in on people with full attention the way I always imagined Rand did. I also loved Mirren's repertoire of Rand gestures.

Eric Stolz was so-so to me, but I have not met NB yet, so I have no idea how realistic he was. I did not see the resolve and even self-assured arrogance that I have always imagined was a part of the NB of that time. Stolz seemed to be lacking in depth - almost nonchalant through most of the film.

Peter Fonda was marvelous, although he probably pushed the character a little too far off reality in Frank's true understanding of the philosophy. I wish he had been even a bit more gentle and the camera had focused on his eyes more, especially during hurt moments.

Surprisingly, I liked Julie Delpy a great deal as she captured a fragility that I have always imagined was a part of Barbara. And she conveyed a strength that I always imagined balanced the fragility. However, Barbara commented to me, and I agree from finally seeing her in the special features, that Delpy's portrayal is watered down in the self-confident and go-get-'em department. She does come off as very doe-like and I never did have an inner image of Barbara as a doe or a dumb blonde.

I was extremely amused that Patrecia turned into Caroline KELLY. But Caroline didn't look or act anything like Patrecia. Where on earth did she come from? I have an idea. The director's head. The way she fell for Nathaniel, during psychological coaching where she was unable to become "selfish," has nothing to do with the written accounts.

(And did I hear Rand address the guy who was obviously Peikoff as "David"? LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL... He must have loved that!)

Well, I saw it. I want to see it again and again to get other impressions.

Frankly, I believe that Barbara's book deserves a mini-series - but with a director who sympathizes with Rand's ideas and her life. Something to think about for the future...

Anyway, congratulations to Barbara. This movie was a very good production and Hellen Mirren rightly deserved the Emmy and Peter Fonda the Golden Globe award.

Here is a link to Barbara's own impressions on her website, including a letter to John Hospers:

http://barbarabranden.com/movie.html

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites

Peter: " Helen Mirren recollected to an interviewer that she'd tried to read Rand in preparation for the role but found the material impenetrable. American schools must be excellent, she concluded, if high schoolers can understand it. "

That surprises me. Helen Mirren is an extremely intelligent woman. Do you recall where you saw this interview? If she really said it, I would assume she first picked up some quite technical material by Rand, perhaps on epistemology..

Barbara

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rich: "How exactly was the casting process done?"

I have no idea. I was asked whom I'd like to see play Ayn, and I strongly recommended Anne Bancroft. (I had never seen Helen Mirren at the time.) I was later told that the powers-that-were thought Anne was somewhat too old for the part. I was asked whom I like to see play me; I said I wasn't familiar with most young actresses, so I had no one in mind -- so long as they chose someone gorgeous?

Barbara

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ciro: "Peter, she was being sarcastic I am sure.

Helen Mirren is a communist."

No, I'm certain she was not being sarcastic. Helen said publicly and privately that she very much admired Rand, that she believed Rand was a great thinker and a woman of immense courage. She was not a communist; she told me that she had been brought up to be a communist, but had become a socialist. She also said that she had, at that point, no opinion of Objectivism, since she had not studied it.

Barbara

Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael: " I do not think Christopher Menaul was a good choice as director. Not at all. I can see his imprint of disdain on the whole approach all throughout the film."

You are absolutely correct. He, and the screen writer -- although the latter never said so -- clearly did not like or appreciate Rand.

Barbara

Link to post
Share on other sites

In reply to Barbara Branden, Sat Feb 04, 2006 10:18 pm:

Alas, I don't remember where this interview ran. If I find out I'll let the OLs know.

Peter

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...

Here is the link to a recent negative review of the PAR movie from a college kid on the "Bitchin' 'bout Barbara" forum. (This is actually a reworking of earlier comments by the same author, but done now by request from The Rejected Crybaby.) As a leading hook, the author stated:

Linz keeps bugging me to post my thoughts on the Passion of Ayn Rand movie, so I'll do that now.

It's a shame this college kid wasn't around to instruct the Showtime and Emmy people about true movie values. Oh well, maybe next time. I'm sure they are waiting breathlessly for enlightenment.

For the record, I think the PAR movie was OK. Not great. Not horrible. (My own review is above in this thread.) It had strengths and weaknesses as its market performance showed. It even won some coveted industry prizes. It sure as hell made money for all directly involved.

It has prompted the interest of many viewers in learning more about Ayn Rand (and this is proven in countless fan letters Barbara received), so it did a small part in spreading Objectivism. I know of no one who left or rejected Objectivism because of it, despite the condemnatory pearls of wisdom proffered to Internet readers by college kid wannabe movie critics and other amateurs.

Here's a thought I just had. If you notice the behavior of Dan Brown's people and other market professionals regarding the The Da Vinci Code, which deals with the Catholic culture, there are movies, documentaries, board games, copycat books, analyses, websites, boutique items, etc., galore. Some are good and some are not so good, but they all milk the media splash as much as they can. They make money. All are produced professionally (like the two Rand movies were, which also had the benefit of a media splash).

Instead of one Rand film feeding off the other (Sense of Life and PAR) and generating a host of derivative products, the small minded people in the orthodox Objectivist organizations preferred to bicker in public.

But then again, Dan Brown's people are real-life capitalists working in the market, not like orthodox Objectivists. God only knows what they are - good media capitalists they ain't.

I look at the PAR movie as a potential start for many good things. In the wave of the upcoming Atlas Shrugged movie, I recommend that capitalizing on the PAR movie and making derivative products become some serious food for thought.

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 9 months later...

I posted the following commentary on the "Reviews" sub-list of the WeTheLiving mailing lists, back on 6 June 1999. I saw the cable-movie version of The Passion of Ayn Rand as being far more interesting, and showing more of the benefits of quality moviemaking skills, than many reviewers had been willing to admit. The title pretty much sums it up. ~ SR

Flawed biography, or hagiography? I know what I prefer

It's both sad and outrageous to see how freely some have chosen to dump on the Brandens (particularly Barbara as biographer), Rand, and the entire scenario of their personal lives, as dramatized in the Showtime movie. Barbara is sharing genuine insights with us, and it's the height of boorishness to publicly ridicule her as a reward for doing so. Joshua [Zader], if you think doing so is bad manners without your having seen the film as yet, just wait until you do see it.

Shall we remember the limitations of film and TV as dramatic media? Look closely at the end of the "Passion" movie, for the disclaimer that some persons and dialogue had been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Was it the best possible esthetic choice, at every turn, to make such condensations of personae and rearrangements of events? Perhaps not. But when the choice is between judiciously doing so and not doing so at all -- a ten-hour miniseries not being an option -- it becomes easier.

The fictionalizing disclaimer, actually, belonged with greater worth on the Paxton film from last year. "A Sense of Life" was worshipful, not objective, and in no legitimate sense a biography. What is more outrageous: putting the great love of Rand's life at center stage for 100 minutes, or pretending it almost didn't exist by marginalizing it into less than 3 minutes?

The "Passion" film is not perfect. It ends up inhabiting a region somewhere between genuine art and objective biography. Yet it communicated all of the essentials of the relationships involved. Helen Mirren [as Ayn] was subtle and persuasive (and even, if you take seriously the Brandens' accounts of the final abusive climax, too restrained). Peter Fonda [as Frank] showed a man beset with upholding his inner worth and dignity in an abusive situation. Julie Delpy [as Barbara] portrayed a perceptive woman who couldn't understand what was wrecking her emotional life. Eric Stoltz [as Nathaniel] was a bit too callow to show Branden's personal charm, but did show intelligence and emotional ambiguity.

I might have liked something more detailed. Yet at this remove, 30 years after a personal drama with a huge "cast," the condensations that were made to show participants such as Patrecia Scott and Robert Berole are not unreasonable.

The greatest difficulty I had with the film, partly remedied by watching it once again on my tape, was with a kind of "mental stereo." Part of my awareness was focused on the acting and settings, but another part recalled the chronology of the actual years of the Brandens' romancing the mind and heart of Rand, as described in both of their books. That made it difficult to appreciate the dramatic art involved on first viewing. Fonda and Delpy, especially, came off to much better effect when I could see their work again.

(I had only one moment where this stereo effect took me entirely out of the film. In the wedding reception scene, I remembered, from her review of "2001": "Hey, wait a minute, Rand detested the 'Blue Danube' waltz!")

Whether this tinkering with timelines is wholly effective or not, I would second those who say that in the film's progression, "Caroline" is not shown as Nathaniel's patient. The contrast is made richer by how the character is positioned -- not as rich as it could be, for Stoltz doesn't respond to her with the needed emotional depth, but it's still rewarding.

Some of the dramatic turns show off Rand to better advantage than she had been during her life. In lecture question periods, she took questions in written form, not from freely offered "discussion," as was shown here. The quickness of her mind came across more clearly this way. The TV interview showed a similar depth and agility, with enough uninterrupted screen time to get many points of Rand's philosophy across quite clearly to the viewer.

Barbara's remarks about the tenacious dedication of the producers and creators are well taken and sorely needed. One of my closest friends [Donald Harington, for the book quoted in the signature below] has been through the Hollywood mills in trying to bring one of his own novels to the screen. It can be a soul-flattening experience.

That so much ended up being shown so clearly about Rand and her inner life is what commends this biography -- not the self-absorbed talking-head festival from last year -- to your attention.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In case anyone missed Helen Mirren continues to do great performances winning both an Oscar and Emmy this year. She's played Elizabeth I, Elizabeth II and Ayn Rand. I can't think of any other great woman in history. She's a little old to play Joan or Cleopatra.

Link to post
Share on other sites
In case anyone missed Helen Mirren continues to do great performances winning both an Oscar and Emmy this year. She's played Elizabeth I, Elizabeth II and Ayn Rand. I can't think of any other great woman in history. She's a little old to play Joan or Cleopatra.

She can play them as they would have been if they had lived longer.

--Brant

Link to post
Share on other sites

~ Have YET to see the DVD of PAR. I have reservations, but, am biased toward Helen Mirren and Eric Stoltz.

~ H.M. fans: please check Helen Mirren---in a very unhyped and slightly earlier movie, 'fore she became a 'QUEEN' AA-winner.

Michael: Re your post #14 comments:

~ Care to make a bet that after AS-THE MOVIE comes out, there won't be a 'board-game' (akin to Risk-cum-Clue is what I'm thinking; Columbo-meets-Aristotle/Spock-meets-Alexander[the Great] or some such) getting made, thence becoming 'news-worthy', thence, maybe even popular (ok; switch the last two)? And THEN a resurgence re the old movies plus the books?

LLAP

J:D

Edited by John Dailey
Link to post
Share on other sites
board games

Hmmmm.

Objectivism: The Game.

Play as Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Allan Blumenthal, Henry Mark Holzer, Leonard Peikoff or other members of the Collective.

Your goal is to become Ayn Rand's heir and ex-communicate the other players.

Edited by Michael Brown
Link to post
Share on other sites
Objectivism: The Game.

Play as Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Allan Blumenthal, Henry Mark Holzer, Leonard Peikoff or other members of the Collective.

Your goal is to become Ayn Rand's heir and ex-communicate the other players.

Michael,

LOLOLOLOLOLOL...

That was pretty damn funny. Think about the spinoffs. Here is one.

Objectivist Guru

Who's the next Objectivist leader? It could be you!!!

All you have to do is come up with the lucky Benevolent Universe number, get all three Runes of Reason (together unlocking the location of the secret cave where the Excalibur of Existence, the Icon of Identity and the Chalice of Consciousness have been hidden by Wicked Witch Doctors and Amoral Attilas), do not evade or rationalize as you sail past the seductive lure of the Sirens of Secondhand with their haunting Call of the Idle Intrinsic and Surreal Subjective, do not slip and plunge into the Unplumbable Pit of Plato as you heroically stride and stumble across the Analytical Arch of Aristotle, blast the new enemies of Objectivism—along with cosmology—right out of philosophy, and gather your very own Collective for personal adulation...

Dayaamm! This is getting fun...

:)

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites

~ At THIS point, I bring in my DOOM-famed doubled-barreled shotgun (with the most infamous BFG as 'backup') and... I fry all yer asses! --- Shoot-anything-that-moves is definitely fun, fun, fun.

~ So much for a thought-filled, 'chess' oriented, neuron-burning, 'puzzle'-game consideration, I guess.

~ Next game?

LLAP

J:D

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

I just received information that The Passion of Ayn Rand was recently aired on TV in Turkey. Here is the newspaper notice.

TELEVISION GUIDE

Turkish Daily News

May 14, 2007

From the notice:

The Passion of Ayn Rand / Digiturk Hallmark / 11:15 p.m.: Director: Christopher Menaul Cast: Helen Mirren, Eric Stolz, Julia Delpy Drama / 1999 / 104 minutes

Philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand is engaged in an affair with a psychologist 25 years her junior by the name of Nathaniel Branden. Branden built an institute to spread Rand's ideas, but the two eventually had a falling out. This is the story of the affair, based on the book by Branden's wife, Barbara.

An interesting thing is that Not without My Daughter was aired right before Passion. This is a movie about a woman who married an Iranian in the USA. She visited his family with him in Iran. He decided to stay and then she couldn't get out without leaving her daughter behind.

They seem to have pretty good TV for a Muslim country, what with showing a film about Rand and an anti-Iran movie.

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites
Hmmmm.

Objectivism: The Game.

Play as Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Allan Blumenthal, Henry Mark Holzer, Leonard Peikoff or other members of the Collective.

Your goal is to become Ayn Rand's heir and ex-communicate the other players.

Michael, I just saw this -- and I love it! The only problem is that I think I'd fail miserably.

Barbara

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now