Cannes Festival Storm Brews over Trump Biopic, Director Invites Former President for Private Screening

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In the heart of France, the picturesque Cannes took center stage to a brewing controversy, shedding the glamour of the revered 77th Cannes Film Festival. Tension brewed, not amidst the red carpet, sparkling gowns and flashing cameras, but around ‘The Apprentice,’ a feature film that takes us back in time to the 1980s, focusing on the former U.S. President, Donald Trump. The Trump re-election campaign was quick to label the film as “pure fiction” accompanying the blow with the promise of impending legal actions.

While director Ali Abbasi and his film stirred a storm in the political landscape, the Iranian Danish director adopted a peace-offering stance amidst brewing controversy. Abbasi offered to host a private screening of ‘The Apprentice’ for the former President himself.

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Trump campaign’s spokesperson, Steven Cheung, did not mince words on Monday following the film’s premiere. He assured that legal proceedings would be instituted “to challenge the flagrantly erroneous declarations made by these pretend filmmakers.” He further dismissed ‘The Apprentice’ as “a work of fiction, fuelled by debunked lies and sensationalist storytelling.”

The film stars acclaimed actor Sebastian Stan, who embodies Trump. The story details the intriguing relationship between Trump and Roy Cohn (played by Jeremy Strong), a defense attorney during the 1950s-era Senate investigation into alleged communists, helmed by Joseph McCarthy.

The threat of a lawsuit did not perturb director Abbasi. “Everyone speaks about how he often threatens to sue — nobody talks about his success rate though,” he humorously retorted. More than welcoming the looming battle, Abbasi proposed to screen ‘The Apprentice’ for Trump himself and discuss the film’s nuances with him.

Starring Jeremy Strong as Roy Cohn, the film depicts Cohn as a mentor to Trump, guiding him through the ruthless world of New York politics and business, particularly when the Trump Organization faced a lawsuit for racial discrimination in housing.

Informed by real events, the film ventures into the details of Trump’s early political career and business, infused with Machiavellian teachings of Cohn — a narrative that can be seen as a Faustian pact that propelled Trump’s ascent in the business world, and subsequently, into the realm of politics.

One of the watershed moments in the film is the portrayal of Trump raping his ex-wife, Ivana Trump, played by the ‘Borat’ star Maria Bakalova; an incident that Ivana claimed had occurred during their divorce deposition in the 1990s, though it was later retracted.

Such provocative scenes render ‘The Apprentice’ a potential firestorm, striking a nerve during the ongoing U.S. presidential election. Despite its controversial subject, the film is still up for grabs, with no release date yet stipulated.

Speaking to the Cannes audience post-premiere, Abbasi dauntlessly stated that “there is no polite metaphorical way to tackle the rising tide of fascism.” He called on the “good people” who have “stayed quiet for too long” and advocated for movies to resonate with political relevance.

As the film debuted amid stardust and simmering controversy, back in New York, Trump’s hush-money trial continued in parallel, adding another layer to the increasingly delicate dance between politics and the silver screen.