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'The Apprentice' team fires back after Trump campaign threatens lawsuit

“It’s time to make cinema political again,” director Ali Abbasi said Monday after unveiling his Donald Trump biopic “The Apprentice” at the Cannes Film Festival, and he quickly got his wish.

“We will be taking legal action to address the blatantly false claims made by these fictitious filmmakers,” Stephen Cheung, communications director for the Trump campaign, said in a statement to the Times. “This bullshit is pure fiction fueling lies that have long been debunked.” “This “movie” is a completely malicious smear, should not see the light of day, and does not even deserve a place in the direct-to-DVD section of the bargain bin of a soon-to-be-closed discount movie store[] [I]t has no place in this dumpster fire.

Abbasi, whose film features Trump's lawyer and mentor Roy Cohn (Jeremy Strong) teaching a young real estate scion (Sebastian Stan) that the first rule of engagement is "attack, attack, attack ”, is imperturbable.

“Everyone talks about how he pursued a lot of people,” he said Tuesday at the film's press conference in Cannes, to laughter and applause from many in the room. “But they don’t talk about his success rate.”

Producer Daniel Beckerman added: "We encourage them to watch the film. It's clear they haven't seen it yet."

Read more: In trashy Trump biopic and other offerings, Cannes goes under the knife

Abbasi then offered Trump a private screening and conversation about the film, if he was interested, even going so far as to say that the 45th president wouldn't hate the film if he gave it a chance. That seems unlikely, given "The Apprentice's" portrayal of Trump as a debauched and cruel social climber who alienated his alcoholic brother shortly before his death and raped his first wife, Ivana (Maria Bakalova), on the floor of their New York home. (The character also undergoes liposuction, surgery for hair loss, and suffers from erectile dysfunction, details practically designed to infuriate the notoriously arrogant Trump.)

But the Danish-Iranian director also insisted that Trump is just the prism through which a larger problem can be seen.

“It’s really not a movie about Donald Trump,” Abbasi said, calling the idea of a partisan divide between conservative and liberal elites in the United States “fiction.” “It’s a film about the system and how it works, how the system is built and how energy flows through the system.”

Strong, currently playing Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" in New York, prepared a lengthy and pointed statement on the film's politics, which Abbasi read from the podium at the opening of the press conference .

“Enemy of the people” is a phrase used by Stalin, Mao, Goebbels and most recently by Donald Trump, when he denounced the free press and called CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS [and] the New York Times the “news media.” 'information ". "We live in a world in which the truth is under attack, and in America, this attack on the truth began in many ways [during] the formation of Donald Trump under the leadership of Roy Cohn, whom the National Law Journal called “assault specialist.” “In a precarious moment” At play in the story, we witness the long, dark shadow of Roy Cohn, his legacy of lies, outright denial, manipulation and blatant disregard of the truth reaching a terrible [climax].”

Written by former journalist Gabe Sherman, The Apprentice charts Trump's rise in the New York of the 1970s and '80s, where, under Cohn's wing, he developed the ruthlessness that would make him a powerful and beloved mediator . But despite his tough view of the lead duo and the entertainment industry's reputation for progressive politics, Sherman said he pulled out all the stops to try to get the film made in Hollywood. (“The Apprentice,” a Canadian, Danish and Irish co-production, has not yet been sold for distribution in the United States.)

“This film will never be made. Who wants to see a movie about Donald Trump? » Sherman recalls hearing from executives he met with, including one who expressed interest in participating in the project only if Trump lost the election. “Making a movie like this is very difficult because Hollywood is in a lot of ways… “Districts don’t want to rock certain boats. »

To prepare for playing the younger Trump, Stan said he immersed himself in the extraordinary number of interviews the undertaker has given over the years, although he tried to "distance himself" from the material produced during the political period of Trump. Instead, he focused on Trump's 1980 appearance with Rona Barrett, which was recreated in the film, as well as other audio and video clips. “If I was in the bathroom, I would listen to it,” Stan said.

Although he humorously addressed questions about the film's impact on the 2024 campaign, calling the election a "promotional event" for the film and suggesting a specific release date for one of the presidential debates, Abbasi clearly approached the project with the same sense of commitment. . - In his case, getting directly involved in politics in his work as a director.

“I'm becoming more and more frustrated with my colleagues and with myself, because I feel like we've become too focused, too inward-looking. It's better to get rid of these distractions and say, "These wars and these political debates." "They come and go, and corrupt politicians come and go." But it makes us nervous, and when [we don't participate], there is a void, which has been filled by Chinese government propaganda films, Iranian government films and Iranian government films. It's the entertainment branch of the Pentagon and it's not as much art as I would like, which is my playground, and now I'm playing on their playground.

"But I think it's important that someone does it. And I hope someone else does too."

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