Who did Ayn Rand want to play 'Atlas Shrugged' heroine, Dagny Taggert?

Gary Cooper (foreground) demonstrates his power drill to Patricia Neal (background) in "The Fountainhead."

Green-eyed goddess Alida Valli played Ayn Rand's alter ego, Kira, in the 1942 adaptation of the autobiographical novel We the Living. Kentucky filly Patricia Neal played Rand's alter ego, Dominique Francon, in the 1950 adaptation of The Fountainhead. Over the years many actresses, notably Angelina Jolie, craved the part of Dagny Taggert, strong-willed heroine of Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. Rand's choice to play the railroad magnate?

Raquel Welch.

That statuesque '60s pinup girl is quite different from Taylor Schilling, the slim, Diane Kruger-ish blonde who plays Taggert in Paul Johansson's first installment of a planned three-part adaptation of Rand's ideological romance novel that opens tomorrow.

A 1991 poll conducted for the Library of Congress asked 5,000 Book-of-the-Month club members about the most influential book on them. Atlas Shrugged came second to the Bible. Which is fitting, for the work of Rand, philosopher/pornographer of free-market capitalism, is considered the Libertarian bible.

Even those who do not share Rand's bedrock belief in what she called "The Virtue of Selfishness" enjoy her potboilers steamy from the friction of man against state, politically speaking, and women against man, erotically speaking.

The pleasures of the screen We the Living and The Fountainhead are many. They include the nonjudgmental understanding that a woman can be sexually attracted to one man and intellectually attracted to another (We the Living). They include the depiction of female yearning to find her sexual and intellectual equal in the same man (Fountainhead). They include the assumption of female intelligence and power.

Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck fought to be cast in The Fountainhead, a film of Freudian delirium ultimately made with Gary Cooper and Neal. I remember very little of the pontifications of Cooper's character, Howard Roark, the Frank Lloyd Wright-type architect who refuses to compromise his creative vision. What I remember is how director King Vidor found the visual correlatives for Rand's overheated prose, showing Roark wielding a phallus-like drill and standing astride his phallus-like skyscraper.

Thoughts about Rand? Rand novels? Rand movies? (Which include her very odd screenplay for the 1945 Jennifer Jones/Joseph Cotten film Love Letters). The Rand cult?