It took about 17 minutes into the Cannes Film Festival press conference for tonight’s out of competition premiere of Money Monster for star and co-producer George Clooney to deliver the line that inevitably will be lighting up Twitter — especially notorious tweeter Donald Trump’s account. In answer to a question about whether his hot-button movie about crooked financial doings is a cautionary tale or harbinger of things to come under a potential President Trump, Clooney minced no words.
“Let’s start much simpler. There is not gonna be a President Donald Trump. It’s not gonna happen,” Clooney said. “Fear is not going to be something that drives our country. We’re not going to scared of Muslims or immigrants or women. We’re not actually afraid of anything so we are not going to use fear. It’s not going to be an issue. I think if you are asking if it’s a harbinger, I think that has sort of landed in a way. Trump is actually a result in many ways of the fact that much of the news programs didn’t follow up and ask tough questions. That’s the truth. It’s really easy because your numbers go up.
“All these cable news numbers. 24-hour news doesn’t mean you get more news, it just means you get the same news more. The ratings go up because these guys can show an empty podium and just say that Donald Trump is about to speak as opposed to taking those 30 seconds to talk about refugees… All these corporations would fall on their knees if we did actually inform a little bit,” he added, saying that Money Monster makes a sad point that we have lost the ability to get to the truth and just tell the facts. He also said Money Monster plays upon what has become a cross between news and entertainment, blaming the network’s obsession with earning ratings as opposed to public service.
Clooney also talked about how he screened the 1976 movie Network written by Paddy Chayefsky for a group of younger viewers. He looked at it as a black comedy but they disagreed and thought it was a factual drama because everything Chayefsky wrote about then, 40 years ago, has come true — the kind of reality shows depicted in that film are now fact. “We’ve now gotten so used to the idea that some shmuck can go on television and tell you where to put your money (the character Clooney plays in the film). And they do it out of entertainment, but people listen to them and do it and lose things in their real life as the rest of the world goes on unhurt by all these things,” he said.
Among those in Cannes for tonight’s premiere (and ahead of Friday’s domestic opening) and on the panel at the packed press conference today were Clooney’s co-stars Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Caitriona Balfe and Dominic West along with director Jodie Foster. Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman watched it all unfold from the sidelines.
Foster responded to a pointed political question when a reporter asked if her film was really about the Bernie Sanders narrative and the Wall Street-is-corrupt theme so prevalent in his campaign. “I think what’s wonderful about the movie is that it really is a character story,” she said. “It really is about people and that is the foreground. The background of course is the world of finance and there are political and sociological connotations to that. But we let you guys decide what your ideas are.” She added that through the characters they are examining different aspects of our current culture, particularly O’Connell’s Kyle, the digruntled blue-collar worker who takes a live TV show hostage. “He does represent a kind of rage that a lot of people feel about the abuses of technology and the abuses of the financial system and how they were left behind,” she said “I am not sure if that is a Bernie issue. Maybe that’s more of a Trump issue. But they are all served in the movie.”
On a lighter note, this visit to Cannes represents — incredibly — Roberts’ first time at the festival. Foster, on the other hand, was first here in 1976 at age 13 when her big grown-up movie, Taxi Driver, won the Palme d’Or. Now 40 years later she is proud that she can come back in another capacity — as a director (actually her 2011 film, The Beaver, also brought her here in that capacity too).
But for Roberts it is all brand new and she feels the love. “Having never been here before, this is so crazy and so wonderful and such a wild celebration of cinema… These are dreams coming true,” she said. “There is nothing about this scenario that feels anything less than wonderful in every way.”