EXCLUSIVE: Some 14 years after he took on the Bush Administration with Fahrenheit 9/11 and watched it become by far the highest grossing feature documentary of all time, Michael Moore tonight unveils Fahrenheit 11/9. More a companion piece than a sequel, the new film opens the Toronto International Film Festival’s Docs program tonight with its 8:45 PM World Premiere at the Ryerson. It will U.S. premiere in Flint, Michigan on September 10 before opening on 1500 screens September 21 as the first release of Tom Ortenberg’s Briarcliff Entertainment. The film so carries the spirit of yesterday’s New York Times Op-Ed, the one Trump labeled treasonous, that Moore could have written it.
In Fahrenheit 11/9, the Oscar-winning filmmaker begins throwing haymakers at the opening bell: he draws parallels between the rise of Hitler and Trump, the latter of whom he views as a great threat to democracy and whom he calls “the last president.” The withering assault includes a section Trump might find particularly galling: his penchant for doting on and boasting about the beauty and physical attributes of his daughter and now White House confidante Ivanka Trump. Here, Moore explains why he believes Trump is such a threat, and why sexual indiscretions that have brought Hollywood scoundrels to heel have only broadened his popularity with his base supporters. Moore also explains how he wrestled his film away from the Weinsteins after things seemed stuck in the mud after those articles on Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults. Moore was working even last night to fine tune his film, but will be ready tonight. Buckle up.
DEADLINE: Here we are on the Sunday before your big Toronto premiere, your Tigers playing my Yankees, and we’re talking about Trump.
MOORE: The Tigers rarely come here and I missed the whole series. We’re all pretty tired here, but excited that we’ve done something we haven’t before, maybe.
DEADLINE: What does that mean?
MOORE: Well, first of all, none of us have been in the situation before, that we’re in, that we’re living in. Trump’s America. There’s no guidebook, no map on how to do this…
DEADLINE: Still, there are parallels to Fahrenheit 9/11 particularly in the opening of your new film. Everyone’s laughing at candidate Donald Trump, saying he’ll never win. The first film began with Al Gore pronounced the victor, which was taken away with a disputed Florida vote, upheld by the Supreme Court, followed by 9/11 and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Here, every day brings new controversies with Trump Tweets, Russian collusion, Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort’s conviction, immunity given his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer pal David Pecker. But your is-this-all-a-bad-dream openings are remarkably similar…
MOORE: Yeah, we definitely constructed it that way.
DEADLINE: Which of these bad dreams of yours is worse?
MOORE: There was a war going on back then, so that was its own thing. What we have going on right now is something more long-lasting and insidious. We have someone in the White House who has displayed an utter disrespect for the law, for the norms of common decency. He really doesn’t like democracy. That’s not where he comes from. Business is not a democracy. You’re the CEO, that’s it. You decide. He would be very happy if he didn’t have to go through certain things that he has to go through, and he has tried to rearrange our system in such a way, through his various executive orders and his actions, so he won’t have to play by the same rules that everybody else has played by before. And I think Trump is an evil genius.
DEADLINE: He certainly surprised all those you show in the movie who discounted him and actually laughed at him, including Les Moonves and George Stephanopoulos.
MOORE: I’ve never laughed at him, never gotten my entertainment from him, thinking, “Oh, look at, what a doofus, what an idiot.” I don’t think that of him at all. I have immense respect for how he is able to create situations, the way thinks them out, his ability to read a room and then act and distract. He is a very good performance artist, and the Democrats never got that.
DEADLINE: They made mistakes that in hindsight seem like they underestimated them.
MOORE: Well, [Hillary Clinton] has said she doesn’t like to campaign. She’s not a performance artist. When you pit somebody who doesn’t really like to do it against someone who relishes it, lives, breathes, eats it…that’s kind of an unfair fight. He is going to make mincemeat of her, which is what he did. But having said that, here’s the caveat: she won. She did get three million more votes, despite her flaws, in spite of the mistakes the campaign made. The American people, by a vast number, decided they wanted her running the country. Not him.
DEADLINE: But how easy did she make it for him? Between her closest aide sending classified emails to her disgraced husband Anthony Weiner, to print them. Every email from her campaign chairman John Podesta, every DNC email, hacked and leaked and showed they bulled Joe Biden out of the way and Bernie Sanders. How could people who spent eight years in the White House make the mistakes they did?
MOORE: Right…I’m pausing because I’m thinking, right now, that you could ask me the same question in 2021, because I see the same path in 2020. Once again, the two choices offered to the people are Trump, or the establishment. The establishment doesn’t come with sweet-smelling roses. It turns most people off, Democrat or Republican. People see the same-old as, sending their kids to college and having them be in debt by $60,000 a year. Then you had the guy who says, “I’ll blow up the establishment.” What’s missing is that third way, that third choice. Somebody who’s not the establishment, but also not a demagogue and actually believes in democracy and in serving the people. People are so scared right now, thinking, we need to bring back Joe Biden. That’s the extent of our imagination right now? I tried to warn people that [Trump] was going to win Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and it was very hard for me to get the party infrastructure to listen. They were so convinced. They wanted to run against him. They all say it in their books now: if they could have picked any of the 16 Republicans who were running, [Trump] was the one they wished for. Insane, really, because he was going to go out there and tell people what they wanted to hear, and did it in a very convincing way.
DEADLINE: It sounds like you feel like he’s probably going to be reelected.
MOORE: I can’t even think about 2020 right now, because I don’t even know if we’re going to get there.
DEADLINE: What do you mean?
MOORE: If he isn’t stopped, now, in the mid-terms, with impeachment, whatever it takes…he has been slowly dismantling our federal government. We don’t focus on his different cabinet agencies, because we’re so caught up with James Comey, or the latest scandal, or the Tweets. But every day, mid-level managers at the EPA, at the Department of Interior, at the Department of Energy, they are dismantling things, like what’s going on with the Department of Education under Betsy DeVos. They’re doing things every day that don’t make the news, but are going to have long-lasting effects. Even when Trump is gone, it will take us quite some time to repair the damage. I think we’re in a very dangerous spot. One of my inspirations for making this movie was the book Friendly Fascism by the political philosopher Bertram Gross.
Essentially what he said was Fascism of the 21st century would not be like the Fascism that we suffered through in the 20th century. It would not come with concentration camps and swastikas. It would come with a smiley face and a TV show. That’s how the next wave of Fascists will essentially take over. Not by exterminating whole groups of people, not with a whole lot of violence. They’ll actually get the people to go along with it. [Gross] was quite prescient about that, because starting after 9/11, people were very willing to give up certain Constitutional rights so we could be safe. Instead of figuring out how to be safe while protecting the very thing that the people who said that they hate us want to get rid of. We did the job for them by us starting to get rid of it.
DEADLINE: What do you see as his end game?
MOORE: You see that in the film when he talks about President Xi in China, or Kim [Jong Un]. He loves the idea of a strong man being president for life. He would like to rule our country in that manner, and in doing so, line his pockets, his family’s pockets, and those of the people of his class even as he claims he’s for the little guy. Everything he has done has been all about protecting wealth and power. I think his end game is the elimination of democracy as we’ve known it. He now knows that he can get away with anything. In some weird way, he’s always lying, while always telling the truth.
DEADLINE: Give an example.
MOORE: He said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and nothing would happen to me.” Wow. Don’t call Trump dishonest. That’s an honest statement. And a lie. So many things he says and does, and you say, that’s going to bring him down. What he said about McCain, or the Gold Star family [Khizr Muazzam Khan and Ghazala Khan] that lost a son in Iraq. Charlottesville. You think, that’ll be the one. And it never is. Why is that?
MOORE: Partly it’s because people are amused or entertained by him, and they say, “It won’t be that bad, calm down.” Just like the editorial on the front page of the Jewish Weekly you see in the movie, from 1933. “Yes, Hitler’s a crazy guy. We’ll get through this. We’re Germans. There are statues erected to Jewish generals from World War I for the German army. We’re beloved here. The head of the Berlin Philharmonic, the editor of the newspaper, we’re all Jews. We don’t live in ghettos here. It’s not like, you know, Poland and Russia, whatever. We are Germany. Germany is us.”
DEADLINE: Your movie draws serious parallels between the ascension of Trump to that of Hitler, who also was initially laughed at and not taken seriously. Do you see actually see insidious goals comparable to the ones Hitler had?
MOORE: The Yale professor Timothy Snyder says in the film, “Of course he’s not Hitler.” History never really exactly repeats itself, but there are patterns, and there are things we need to always pay attention to. Because things can slip, and in the case of, as I pointed out with Germany, here you have a very intelligent, cultured nation, and it slipped. It says something about all of us that we probably know deep down, that there is that, that dark part of the soul in every human being. And so, to say it could only happen in Germany, we all know that’s not true.
Of course it could happen here. I think the biggest difference between Hitler and Trump is that Hitler had an actual ideology that he believed in. Trump believes in nothing but Trump. When I first came here to New York after Roger & Me in 1990, the first time I ran into Trump was at a Planned Parenthood benefit here. He hobnobbed with the Democrats. It was Bill and Hilary at his wedding to Melania, not George and Laura, and he was very much woven into that kind of mainstream Democratic thing here in New York City. Supporting liberal causes, even though he was not that himself, and even though he had a long history of his own racism and discrimination. He has blown with whatever way he thinks the wind is going, if it will serve him.
As opposed to Hitler, who was consumed with his crazy ideology, actual things that he believed in, racial superiority, that he knew he had to act on. From comments Trump has made over the years, he also feels racially superior, but he’s probably never wanted to invest the kind of effort that it would take to enact what he believes, in his dark soul. That might be the thing that saves us, in the sense that we will not end up like Germany, but it’s also the thing that could take us to an even worse place. Because there is danger in having somebody in charge who has no belief system, no value system, who is utterly devoid of empathy. You don’t want your leader devoid of empathy, the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. You don’t want your leader to literally believe in nothing. It is dangerous because you can’t see the outcome of this. The danger in how [Trump] can get up at 5 in the morning, go on Twitter, and try to start a war. It was six years after Hitler was elected before he started the war. That’s the good and the bad of it. The good is that he doesn’t have an ideology in the way that Hitler had one; he has no ideology. He has no beliefs or values, and therefore is a complete loose cannon, and can cause huge damage to this country and to the world.
DEADLINE: There are new controversies happening every day in the Trump Administration. How hard was it to lock a picture when everything from Senator John McCain’s death to the process of installing Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court judge who could overturn Roe V Wade?
MOORE: I felt we had a complete picture of who Donald Trump is, and when we set out to make this last February, we made a decision collectively that we would not chase the news. This was not going to be a movie about what Trump is doing. We knew the movie in shorthand would be referred to as “Michael Moore’s Trump film,” but you go through long swaths of the film where you don’t see or hear the name Trump. I wanted to present to the audience not just Trump, but what kind of America did we create where this could happen? How do you get to a point where 63 million people vote for him? There’s a whole bunch of answers, some of them are in the film.
Who are we, and what is our responsibility in this? I’ve made this joke here to the people who grew up in this area, such as yourself, and I say, “I swear to God, if Trump was from Detroit, or Flint, you never would’ve heard of him.” He never could have gone 40 years and behaved the way he behaves here. We would’ve taken care of him, is what I’m saying. How did New York not take care of this guy? He was tabloid fodder, he was entertainment, he was even given a name, The Donald,” which is quasi-affectionate. What’s The Donald up to? Who is he dating? Best sex ever, you know? He just became a thing here in New York and when he was caught doing things, whether it was not paying the workers, or the whole crazy Atlantic City thing…
DEADLINE: Or as you show him, buying ads asking the death penalty for the Central Park Five, who were convicted and later exonerated of raping a jogger in the park, based on DNA evidence and a confession by the serial rapist who attacked her.
MOORE: That’s the worst example of it. People just kind of forgot. You know, I mean, he took out a full-page ad in the Daily News. He wanted them executed. What if that had happened, the execution of five innocent people? I always wondered, why didn’t New York stop this guy, why wasn’t he shunned or put away? Because I got to tell you, where I’m from, we would’ve cleaned up that mess, and we would not have imposed it on the rest of the country.
DEADLINE: Wait a moment…
MOORE: I’m sorry, don’t take it personally. I’m just…
DEADLINE: I just watched Fahrenheit 11/9, and you devote an inordinate amount of time on how Michigan state governor Rick Snyder changed the drinking water supply for the poor people in Flint from the glacial Lake Huron to the filthy Flint River which led to high levels of lead in the blood of children. You depict a coverup in those lead levels. That happened in Michigan and is worse than what Trump did in New York…
MOORE: People have died as a result of that governor, I could name those who died. The reason it’s in the film is because that was Trump, happening before Trump. Snyder was elected six years before Trump was, and these were new ideas he tried, to privatize public services, to see who could make money off having private prisons, profit-making charter schools. He got elected in Michigan, and he ran a very goofy campaign, not goofy like Trump, but his own goofiness. His motto on his ads was “One tough nerd,” and all his ads were about how “I’m just a nerd, I’m just a computer guy.”
DEADLINE: You characterize him as the maker of “those shitty Gateway computers.”
MOORE: Maker of the shitty Gateway computer, and his big contribution to helping kill Gateway was he believed laptops were going to be a fad, so he said, “We’re not going to get into laptops.” But you’re right, I show that we did fail, Michigan failed, and we were a coming attraction trailer. We get a Trump-like figure and the first thing he wants to do is take away democracy in Flint, Detroit, and Pontiac, remove the mayors. And when I say “remove mayors and city councils,” I’m not talking about the corruption in New York or New Jersey, where you actually do have to remove them and put Sheldon Silver in jail and was it Newark where the public school system went bankrupt? These mayors and city councils [in Michigan] had done nothing wrong, they’d broken no laws. Yes, every town in Michigan was hurting. The economy, not enough tax base to pay for things. But his solution was to essentially take over these cities that were majority-black and majority-poor, because he knew they couldn’t fight back. He became the defacto mayor, and appoints a guy that doesn’t have to answer to anybody but the governor. And goes in and cuts services and privatizes things to save some money, “Because I’m going to give the rich here in Michigan a billion-dollar tax break.” And that’s the formula for Trump. Get that big tax break, whittle away at the democracy, add a racial component to it. What we’re living now with Trump was laid out for us in Michigan, in the six years leading up to Trump. And that man is still the governor of Michigan, by the way.
DEADLINE: You said Michigan would have taken care of Trump, and your version is still there. Even though his actions poisoned children…
MOORE: Well, he poisoned black kids, mostly. Let’s be clear. If he had poisoned the kids of Bloomfield Hills, or Ann Arbor, we wouldn’t have had to take care of him. He’d be behind bars. He may still end up behind bars, they just indicted one of his cabinet members in charge of the health department. They’re closing in on him, we’ll see what happens.
DEADLINE: One surprising aspect of the Flint water crisis is how you characterized Barack Obama. He flies in on Air Force One to speak to community activists, who jeered the Michigan governor, and you film activists and parents who think their savior has arrived to set things straight. Instead, he asks for a glass of water, touches it to his lips, talks about how he probably ate a lead paint chip as a child, and pacifies the crisis before flying out. I see the reverence accorded Ronald Reagan, though he never mentioned AIDS as it ravaged the gay community during his presidency. Should Obama’s increasingly glowing image be marginalized by the way he let down these voiceless Flint, Michigan people whose children were poisoned by the lead levels in the Flint River? Why did he do that?
MOORE: That was the question I asked his own guy, John Podesta, who said, “I don’t know why he did that. I don’t know who advised him to do that. I wouldn’t have advised him to do that. Why did he do it?” It’s one of the most difficult things in the film to show, because I love Obama. I literally, in the voting booth in November of 2008, found myself tearing up. I couldn’t believe in my lifetime, I was voting for this man, in this country. And then began the complicated feelings. A month after he’s elected, he appoints Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner to essentially be in charge of economic policy, which is handing it over to Goldman Sachs and Wall Street, and letting them call the shots.
He saves General Motors and Chrysler, becomes the defacto CEO of those two companies while the government owned them. Enormous opportunity to, before he returns them, say, “Listen, to survive, the new company is going to have to make cars for the 21st Century, because this planet can’t go through another century with the internal combustion engine. So, we need you, Chrysler and General Motors, to make transportation for the 21st century.” It was one disappointing instance after another. How many bullet trains does China have, and we don’t have any? This is what Flint and Detroit could have been doing. But you see how they attack him and you don’t want to be part of the attack, even when he only went halfway with Obamacare when he needed to go all the way. Look, this [part of the film] was uncomfortable to me, but I have to tell the truth, even when it is uncomfortable for me.
DEADLINE: Your movie talks about your own ties to the Trumps, like the time son in law Jared Kushner hosted a screening of one of your movies, and his campaign strategist Steve Bannon was involved in the distribution of DVDs of another. How does that make you feel in retrospect?
MOORE: Like I said earlier, we are all part of the problem in that we ended up with Trump because of the lack of our vigilance. I just learned about [the tie to] Bannon, and Genius, the distribution firm that he had set up. I didn’t know at the time. But Jared was the New York Observer, he paid for the Ziegfeld premiere, and the party afterwards. But again, Jared and Ivanka, you saw them at pro-choice events. Gay marriage. Go down the list, and they were there. That doesn’t excuse me. The one that really got me was appearing on Roseanne’s talk show with Trump.
DEADLINE: Where Trump wasn’t going to appear unless you went easy on him?
MOORE: They brought them back in, I went into the green room with them, and they asked me to just promise him face to face that I was not going to bring up anything. And I did that. Just that whole, be a good guy, save the episode that was going to now not happen. It wasn’t till years later that I realized that I too had been played, that he got his way, his “Art of the Deal.” The way he negotiated the show so that the show would be run his way, to get Michael Moore to shut up.
DEADLINE: How surreal that show was you, Trump, and Roseanne, whose revived show was the hottest on TV, and who was fired by ABC for an indefensible Tweet?
MOORE: It is, but in 1998, when I’m sitting there at the table, Roseanne and I at that point shared the same politics. And it wasn’t just one Tweet. That morning she sent four, the Valerie Jarrett is the one everybody remembers, but there was one about Chelsea Clinton, and in the fourth, she went after me. All in the same hour. So yes, surreal, ironic, that Roseanne, Trump, and I are all brought back together, this time with her downfall because essentially, she took a Trumpian attitude about race…
DEADLINE: She thought she was invulnerable?
MOORE: That’s an interesting way to look at it, because she was invulnerable, until she wasn’t. She’s one of the most beloved stars of a TV show that is one of the most beloved TV shows of the last half-century. It came back, and it was a huge hit, and she was gone within hours.
DEADLINE: Were her comments worse than what we saw in that Access Hollywood, or the Stormy Daniels payoffs by his lawyer while the election could have gone either way? We’ve seen men Hollywood banished. Why do you think Trump hasn’t been slowed by these things?
MOORE: Because he is without conscience and empathy. He doesn’t care and everybody else kind of cares. Roseanne said within hours, “I feel bad, I shouldn’t have said that.” He doesn’t ever feel bad. In fact, he, because you and I both know, and other journalists in New York know, he’s one of the all-time big leakers. I mean, he will just feed shit to the press. I have nothing to back this up, but just knowing Trump and watching and studying him all these years, I’m convinced he leaked the whole Stormy Daniels thing. I believe it’s his doing…
MOORE: How did he get elected? Two-thirds of white guys voted for him. His approval rating was going down, down, down a few months ago, and then the 60 Minutes piece aired with Stormy Daniels and it started climbing back up for another month or two. From the low 30s, it got up to 40, low 40s. Because he knows guys, and guys love thinking that about him. That he got to sleep with Stormy Daniels, and that Playboy centerfold model. He’s playing to that 64 percent of white men who voted for him.
DEADLINE: But if that is true, why pay to keep it out of the news on the eve of the elections when he was still the underdog?
MOORE: I think he was afraid. The only time you’ve heard him say “I’m sorry” was the Access Hollywood thing. He apologized to the American people, he apologized publicly to his wife. I think he thought that would be the thing that’s worse than shooting somebody in the middle of 5th Avenue but when it turned out it wasn’t, he learned a lesson from that. He was probably thinking, “Geez, I’ve already paid off Stormy,” and whoever else, because he was worried it was going to hurt the election, and then he realized that what it told men is “You can cathartically live your sorry-ass, opioid-addicted lives through me.” And it told some women, white women, the 53 percent of white women that voted for him, that he is a raving heterosexual. And he’s loaded, and whatever attraction that presents to a certain group of people, he knows that. He knows, because think about this, newsflash, Trump has sex with Playboy centerfold. The alternate headline is, ‘Trump Is…what’s the word I’m looking for, when you are a raging heterosexual?
MOORE: Virile. Obviously, I’ve never heard the word spoken in my presence.
DEADLINE: Me neither. So, check the pronunciation before you use it on Stephen Colbert.
MOORE: What it says is, here’s a 70-year-old man who’s still in the sack. How do you get 64 percent of the white male vote? By playing the character that they would like to be. How do you get 53 percent of the white female vote? By being seen on TV, strong, successful, good posture for a man in his virile…they’re watching this at home, and over on the couch is Opioid Joe. There’s something that got triggered in 53 percent of white women that said, “You know, damn it, we need a man like that.”
DEADLINE: If there is one thing those women would be turned off by, and which Trump might take personally, is what you show as his preoccupation with the physical beauty of his own daughter, Ivanka. There is a lurid quality to the way he describes her physical attributes and any parent seeing it the way you present it will say, “Wait a minute, what did he say?” How much did the filmmaker and the empathetic man in you clash as you decided to include this in your film?
MOORE: What I say in the film is just…I think one of the reasons he gets away with so much is, he’s always doing it out in the open and in public. It’s like you said earlier. When a reporter exposes someone in a story, they’re done. If [the subject] exposes the story, you control it. And you’re not necessarily done, and I think Trump has always seen that it’s best to do this stuff out in the open. Because he is devoid of a moral compass. If anything, you have to feel for Ivanka on some level, because, let me just put it this way: if you were a teacher in public school on Long Island, and a student brought you a picture of her and her dad in those poses, in those ways, and the student told you that “My dad says that the thing that we have most in common is sex. My dad was telling his buddies the other night”… this is the student saying this to you, the teacher, “that if I wasn’t his daughter, he’d be dating me. He keeps telling everybody I’m voluptuous.” Seriously, what father, even fathers who are not such good people, what father discusses his daughter that way, on TV, on the radio, in front of her, even when she’s still a teenager?
That should’ve said everything about him, because he didn’t do it hiding. He did it on The View, Wendy Williams, Howard Stern. And there’s all the pictures that have appeared in the magazines and newspapers. The movie isn’t doing it, we don’t do it. He’s the lurid one. And this is just one of those things where he should’ve been stopped. Another is when he and his dad were found to have marked, was it C, for colored on the applications for all the Trump apartments out in the boroughs? And out of how many thousands of apartments, they rented to seven black families? Why was he ever allowed to put up another apartment building, after such naked abuse of the laws of this country, and of New York City, and New York state? There will be people that will have a hard time with that [Ivanka] part of the film, but I’m only showing what you already know. Stop with feigning surprise at Trump and his actions and his behavior and his language.
DEADLINE: Two Cannes ago, I moderated for you a presentation to foreign buyers of Fahrenheit 11/9, you in New York via satellite with a Trump building in the backdrop, and me in Cannes, with Bob and Harvey Weinstein because this was a major title for them. After the sexual assault allegations leveled at Harvey in New York Times and New Yorker articles, the film was stuck because each Weinstein had spent $1 million of a total of $6 million. Bob seemed willing to waive it, but not Harvey, who either wanted his money refunded or to continue as producer. You felt either scenario would indelibly taint the film and that you could not in good conscience send money to Weinstein. How were you able to make this film?
MOORE: Well, first of all, I…I have a good lawyer, and a very good agent. In my initial contract for Fahrenheit 9/11, I retained all use, and reuse of title, and sequel rights. I owned everything, 100% of the copyright. So, anything that I wanted to do was always up to me. When they green lit it — last year’s film, not this film — I decided to use the title that I owned. When things came to an end for Harvey, they had already…I mean, as I look back I can see that obviously they knew something was going to happen, with the articles. Ronan [Farrow] had been engaged, and Black Cube was doing its thing, and then they just cut off funding the film. I think it was in early August.
DEADLINE: So, they didn’t add to the initial $2 million…
MOORE: We had put five months into that film. You pay everybody, you pay the rent, and you pay for the filming, the shoots and all that. If Columbia Pictures did a deal with me to make a $30 million movie, and halfway through, after they spent $15 million and are discovered to have committed crimes by the government and Columbia Pictures has to shut down, Columbia Pictures doesn’t get to say to the 20 filmmakers who are in the middle of their films, “Oh, give us the money back that you’ve already spent paying people and making your movie.” But that wasn’t really even an issue. Basically, the movie was killed first in August, before the stories came out. They stopped funding it, knowing…they were obviously trying to hoard their money because of what was coming.
DEADLINE: So what happened?
MOORE: And then, everybody here lost their jobs. I went on Broadway, and people went to work on other films, TV shows. A couple people started their own movie, and that was the end of that. And then, this year, right around the one-year anniversary of the inauguration, we were at the Women’s March, and we were just thinking, “You know, we’ve got to do something. But we were not going to pick up that film, because that was a different film, one that was more about chasing the news. Trump did this today, Trump did that. It was less serious, less complex. So, I wrote a whole new film, and hired a new staff. I was able to get some people back. I formed a whole new company to make this film, with whole new financing. In the end, this has turned out as a film that is much more substantial, and more urgent because back then, the Trump things we were thinking about a year ago was, why hasn’t he filled half the ambassadorships?
DEADLINE: Your presentation was more precocious than the question of whether Trump is the next Hitler, in the movie I just saw?
MOORE: Right, not the next Hitler, but that there’s a new, 21st-century form of Fascism and destruction of our democracy that we need to be paying attention to here. But that’s how it happened. The reason this film exists is that I own it. I own the title. It’s not a sequel to Fahrenheit 9/11, but even if that was, if there had been a claim. I own it. I don’t know if you’ve talked to Harvey and Bob, but…
DEADLINE: Not since last year, since shortly after those charges came out and that company imploded.
MOORE: Right. Well, you know, you and I and others have known him for many, many years. How did that whole thing hit you when it came out?
DEADLINE: Profoundly disappointed. Mostly at myself, that I didn’t know. I do my job mostly from Long Island. You and I have spoken for years and today might be what, the fourth time we’ve seen each other?
MOORE: In the 25 years we’ve known each other.
DEADLINE: I’ve never felt the limits of covering Hollywood from my house before last October, even on the Sony hack stuff. I saw Harvey mostly at premieres and festivals; we did an annual interview at Sundance on the film business. Our personal conversation was about our children, mostly. I wonder in hindsight if that was a disarming mechanism. I knew he was a gruff dealmaker, but I didn’t see that side that got written about. So I was very disappointed. How did you feel?
MOORE: I have the same story. He would green light a project, and because I had final cut, and a clause in the contract that kept him out of the edit room, I never saw him. I’d go off and make the film for a year or two, and the next time I’d see him is when the film was done. And then we’re down at their Greenwich Street headquarters, showing it to them, and next time we would be at a festival, when we premiered it. I look back at the number of times I was personally around him, and I didn’t see it either. I don’t go to parties. You and I, we’re not Hollywood people.
DEADLINE: No, not really.
MOORE: So, I never saw anything in that way. We saw his gruff behavior.
DEADLINE: Sure, in making deals and paying people, but he’s hardly cornered the market on that front in Hollywood.
MOORE: Right. Maybe others have better PR, better ways to cover it up, but this thing really came as a shock to me. I mean, I was really, you know, because it was, say what you want about Harvey, I had not experienced this. But of course, I’m a guy. So how would I experience it?
DEADLINE: When those articles appeared, you made a quick statement of condemnation. Have you had any interactions with him since?
MOORE: No. I have not talked to him since I posted on Facebook, “Imagine a world without Harveys.” I feel very strongly about this stuff. He came to my play on Broadway, back in early September. That was it.
DEADLINE: I struggle with covering these stories. I’m going to phrase a question, and you don’t have to engage if you don’t want to. Those early reports condemned Harvey, but as he awaits criminal trial, we’ve seen emails from one of his accusers, basically saying she didn’t just want to be a booty call for him. Just recently, The New York Times somehow gets this anonymous dossier about how another accuser, Asia Argento, allegedly bedded the 17-year-old who played her son in an earlier movie, and her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain paid this man a settlement to keep quiet. Another accuser, Rose McGowan, blamed her former manager for not protecting her. That woman, Jill Messick, committed suicide. Her family reiterated an email she had sent to Weinstein, which asserted that McGowan at the time said she regretted getting into a hot tub with Weinstein, but she never said she had been raped. Now, my question: given all the messiness and lack of clarity or proof, what are the odds that Harvey Weinstein gets convicted? And what should happen to him?
MOORE: Look, I don’t know. I think women would be safer in this society if they held the power that they should hold. They’re the majority gender, and yet, they are constantly having to be in fear of any of a number of things, starting with the worst, violence from men, and all the way through not being able to be heard, not being able to be believed, can’t go to the police, can’t go to the prosecutor. “They won’t believe me, they won’t do anything about this, my career will be over.” I don’t think we’d have that situation, or it wouldn’t be as bad as it is, if 51 percent of Congress were women, if women ran Hollywood. And you can always cite the, “Well, there’s that woman who was worse than Harvey in her behavior,” but the fact is it would be a better system and we all know it. It would kinder, fairer system. Everybody who deserved a shot would get one. Women don’t climb to the top of a hotel in Las Vegas with dozens of guns, and start firing on 20,000 people. There’s a reason for that, and it’s why things will be better when women have actual, effective power. I’m hoping for a tsunami of voters in November. There’s already an enormous number of women on the ballot, and we can change this fairly quickly. It doesn’t have to take a hundred years. It can happen in a hundred days.
DEADLINE: So, you see this imperfect #MeToo movement being the catalyst for that?
MOORE: Absolutely. It’s empowering, and has put those men on notice who need to be put on notice. Guys like us, we’ve had to deal with these assholes since junior high. We’ve had to watch how they behaved, the captain of the football team who could get away with anything. We met Trump in high school, on our first job, and seen the arrogance and the belief that they could treat people a certain way. That they could treat women a certain way, which has done our gender no favor. The most important thing that men can do now is, when you see something, say something. Speak up, stop the behavior. Stop those men dead in their tracks who are harassing women. And those who have power over women because it’s the boss doing it or whatever, find a way to bring him down.
DEADLINE: Fahrenheit 9/11 posited that the Bush Administration used fear to realize its war goals, changing the color of threat levels arbitrarily to keep people in fear of terrorists. Illegal immigrants seem to have supplanted terrorists in making people fearful now. Are you saying this right out of the old playbook?
MOORE: Absolutely. Trump knows the importance of fear and establishing fear, and how he and his class can benefit from a frightened population. When you’re frightened, you don’t think straight and you go for the quick and easy fix that you think is going to make you safe. That happened after 9/11, and it’s happening now. Americans need to look within themselves and find the level of courage that I know is there, to stand up, to not be manipulated by this kind of fear. Trump didn’t invent this.
DEADLINE: How much did the separation of children from illegal immigrant parents cost Trump?
MOORE: It hasn’t cost him. Why is his evangelical group as big as ever?
DEADLINE: Does it have more to do with putting another conservative Supreme Court judge who might tip the scales on abortion and Roe v Wade?
MOORE: Yes, it’s that. He has told them, “Look, if you don’t help me here in the mid-terms…” He is turning the mid-terms into his reelection, and not waiting till 2020. He’s telling people straight up that “You are going to the polls to vote for me in November, because if you don’t vote for me, and you let them back in charge, look out, because they’re the people who care about the people of color, and the immigrants, and gays, people who smoke marijuana.” And you know? He may succeed with that. He has to scare his base to the polls in November.
DEADLINE: The last documentary with Fahrenheit in its title, yours, became by far the highest-grossing documentary ever. The world has changed dramatically since 2004, social media, a polarization of broadcast and print media. How does that influence how you get your message out on this movie, and what makes this particular film a success for you?
MOORE: I’ll answer in a couple of ways. As a filmmaker, it’s a success if people, after having worked hard all week, on Friday night go to see my movie, and leave that theater in a way that they weren’t when they walked in, revved up, they’ve learned something, they’re on fire. All the things that filmmakers of all films want. If you can evoke from the audience a sense of joy, laughter, tears, rage, thoughtfulness, that’s what all of us who make movies want.
DEADLINE: Is there a part of you as a filmmaker who thinks he can slow this Trump wave, and make a difference in these mid-term elections by shining a light on the big picture?
MOORE: Well, that’s going to be up to the audience, because a film isn’t complete until the audience participated in it. I’ve felt that, starting back when I made my first film, Roger & Me. We were going around in this old, beat-up Ford van with a crew. And I threw an old movie theater seat in the back of the van, and I said to everybody, “This is a crew member. The audience that sits in that seat has to be with us. Let’s always keep them in mind. Would they find this interesting, what we’re filming? Would they keel over from laughter? Would they start crying?” I make my movies with that in mind. So I can’t answer that question sitting here, because the movie isn’t done until it’s on the screen. The fact that Toronto wanted this on their opening night to kick off the docu part of the festival…the initial response that we’ve been getting from these screenings has been very, very powerful. I’ve always gotten good test scores, but never like this. But box office compared to Fahrenheit 9/11? It’s apples and oranges because it was a whole different world when the original came out. You didn’t have the devices, the streaming. I don’t know that anything will beat Fahrenheit 9/11, but this doesn’t have to.
DEADLINE: Last one. There will surely be conservative critics who say, “Well, here’s Michael again, after doing a Broadway show on Trump, putting out a movie on him.” What do you say to those who’ll say you’ve turned Trump bashing into a way to make a living?
MOORE: Geez. I ran for office when I was 18 years old and got elected. Board of Education, in Michigan. I’ve been this guy since then. I’ve always fought for the things I believed in. It is ironic that, with a high school education, which is all I have, that I’ve been able to do this. The irony is, I’m the last person you want to do well, if you’re a right-winger, a conservative. You should be upset that my movies do extremely well, or that each of my books has been on the bestseller list. Because any money I make clearly isn’t going into my wardrobe, as you can see. I have no summer home. It goes into the work I do. And makes it possible that even like what happened last year, nothing can stop me, because I’m backed by so many millions of people who will go to the movies or buy my book and allow me to keep doing it. I feel a very strong responsibility to them. My own spiritual belief system demands that I’m not allowed to do better while others are doing much worse. So, as soon as the Trump tax cut for the rich was passed, I started to add up, how am I going to benefit from this? I came up with a rough number, and I’m donating that to candidates this year. I’m using my Trump tax cut and it’s all going toward removing Donald J Trump. It has to. On a moral level, there’s no other way for me to square it in my head. How can I be a beneficiary of this?
So, if they say something like that, that Trump’s, Donald Trump has been very, very good for me, then why am I doing movies to remove him? Why am I funding activists to remove him? Why would I spent every waking moment be dedicated to…?
DEADLINE: Killing the golden goose?
MOORE: …to killing my golden goose? That’s crazy. So, no, I’m in the business of putting me out of business. You know? A good day for America would be when you don’t need me anymore.
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