“The opportunity to play a great literary heroine doesn’t come along every day. It certainly wasn’t something I was going to pass up,” said Laura Regan of her starring role as Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged: Part III, the third film adapted from Ayn Rand’s famous novel. Following Orange is the New Black star Taylor Schilling (who played the role in Part I) and Samantha Mathis (who assumed it in Part II), Laura spoke with us last week about stepping into the trilogy and her own love of literature.
“I knew of her, and I had heard of the book and I knew a little about Ayn Rand’s ideas,” she explained. “This was something I could sink my teeth into. It’s not something that was just invented within the world of the film itself. This had broader kind of ripples that rippled out into society. It’s such an influential book. It’s one of the most sold books in the world, in the top ten…And then to bring it to the screen, where it would get to an even bigger audience. Which I think is the power of film.
Not that you need to be a Rand aficionado, or even have seen the first two films, to understand the new Atlas Shrugged. The third part kind of stands alone as something you can watch on its own because it’s separate,” Laura assured us. “Dagny lands in a separate place, and she meets a man that she starts falling in love with. It’s something you can come to without any knowledge of the book.”
How much knowledge did she need about Part I and Part II to effectively star in the third picture? “I need to know everything about what happened in terms of the narrative story,” she said. “But in terms of performances of the other actresses, I decided that I could not worry about that. It’s like a reboot. It’s like when different people play Batman. You have to go fresh because you really can get caught in a trap, I think, if you worry about what aspects other actresses brought to the role. The book is 1,200 pages, so there’s plenty of source material!”
It likely also helped that avid reader Laura came to the project with an appreciation for both classic and modern literature. “When I was kind of young, I fell in love with [John] Steinbeck. East of Eden, I can’t even really say why but I love East of Eden. It affected me so much when I was younger. [And] Of Mice and Men, but that’s more known,” she explained. “There’s an English author, Martin Amis, and he wrote a book called Experience. He’s just such an amazing writer. It’s more like a reflection, sort of memoir. It’s just about the nature of love, and family and children and parents and everything, kind of.”
What would she consider the strengths of Atlas Shrugged? “I think the love story between John [Kristoffer Polaha] and Dagny is what I would highlight,” she told us, pointing to one scene in particular. “They have a conversation through a door. They don’t open the door and talk to each other. It’s a very difficult moment for both of them, [with] the question of whether to even broach the subject, whether to talk about it or not. They end up just conversing through a door, because they know if they end up looking at each other, they’ll end up following their own minds. Because they’re in love.”
Laura is best known for her recurring role as Jennifer Crane on AMC’s Mad Men, an experience she would’ve loved to extend. “I definitely wish I had more. I just would’ve loved to have more with her,” she commented. “The way I saw my character, and the way she was described to me, was like Lady Macbeth. She wanted control and the only way to get it was through her husband.”
She’s also appeared in an episode of USA’s Fairly Legal and in a couple of scary films perfect for your Halloween viewing. “[They] was the first time I carried the movie myself. I still had a lot to learn. I was still young as an actor; I sort of came back a little bit late, when I was halfway through university. I still think as a scary movie, it really is a good one.
“My Little Eye, that’s for people who like scary movies. My Little Eye was a great movie I did with Working Title, an English company, and it’s sort of based on the Big Brother idea of people in a house being watched by webcam. But this was in 2002, when this was new,” she continued. “And the other reason to watch it is because Bradley Cooper plays a very small role in the movie. He originally auditioned for a major part – and the heads of these studios famously said he wasn’t sexy enough!”
Off-camera, Laura is passionate about environmental causes. “Something I’m very passionate about right now is water [and] water usage. The southwest of this country is in a massive drought. And I don’t think people have really realized that,” she said. “We’re so used to just turning on our taps and running them and doing things whatever way. We have to realize that people on other sides of the world have to work really, really hard to get clean water and we shouldn’t take ours for granted.”
Whether it’s an adaptation of a major literary work or a small horror film, what’s her ultimate definition of success? “In some ways, I think it’s about the working with the other actor,” she reflected. “Whether it’s an episode of TV, a movie, whatever it is, if you can walk away and feel like you were right there in the moment with the other actors and you were faithful to those impulses. Then you’ve made the scene come alive.”
For more with Laura, follow her on Twitter (@thelauraregan).
(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.