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The Story of Ayn Rand’s Original The Fountainhead Screenplay

Shoshana Milgram offers a behind-the-scenes look at The Fountainhead movie that might have been.

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In 1935, Ayn Rand reflected in her journals on the second-handedness of Hollywood: “those in charge do not create what they think is good, but what they think others will think is good.” Eight years later, she sold the film rights to The Fountainhead to Warner Bros. In her talk at Objectivist Summer Conference 2022, Dr. Shoshana Milgram, an expert on Rand’s life and works, told the intriguing story of how Rand adapted the novel into an original screenplay without compromising her artistic integrity.

The first part of the talk explains Rand’s reservations and concerns about Hollywood and why Rand was nevertheless willing to sell the rights to The Fountainhead. Here you can learn why Rand thought that this deal was to her benefit and consistent with her artistic vision.

Later in the talk, Milgram highlights some of the virtues of Rand’s preliminary screenplay, in which she was encouraged to write without worrying about the length of the film. Here you can get a sense for what The Fountainhead movie might have looked like had it been customary at the time to make longer films.

Milgram notes that Rand recognized that the novel needed to be condensed, or cut, to be adapted to film. Her screenplay does not simply try to reproduce the book. She used verbal and visual transitions to tie scenes together. You can also learn from Milgram’s talk why Rand thought that some of the more philosophic dialogue was not right for the screen.

In the Q&A portion of the talk, Milgram addresses questions on topics such as:

  • Recent attempts to remake The Fountainhead movie;
  • How to get a copy of Rand’s screenplay;
  • Rand’s motivation for working in Hollywood before establishing herself.

For the full story, including Milgram’s retelling of some of the deleted scenes, watch the talk below:


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Dan Schwartz

Dan Schwartz, PhD in philosophy and formerly a professor, is a visiting fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.

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