Steve Bannon’s ex-screenwriting partner says we have Michael Moore to thank for the right-winger’s just-rolled-out-of-bed look.
Julia Jones, who worked with Bannon for nearly two decades, told TheWrap that Bannon – who has produced 18 films and directed nine – began sporting the disheveled look at the end of 2003 when he started his own film company, American Vantage Media. That’s a year after Moore made his Oscar-wnning documentary “Bowling for Columbine,” and just before the buzzy “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
The shift was noticeable, Jones said and Bannon was a vocal fan of Moore. “He used to be a spiffy dresser. Chinos, loafers without socks, it was very classic preppy,” she said. It was only after she saw pictures of him a few years after they stopped working together that she noticed a striking resemblance to Moore. “I thought, ‘What’s going on?'” Jones said. “He looked exactly like Michael Moore – down to the body type.”
But that wasn’t all Bannon may have learned from Moore, whose documentaries began veering more overtly into political territory in the early 2000s. On Friday The Washington Post published excerpts from a Bannon treatment for a documentary, “Islamic States of America,” which warns about the looming danger of Muslim extremists taking over America. The opening scene shows a flag waving above the Capitol – an Islamic flag.
Trump’s decision to appoint Bannon, a self-proclaimed nationalist with a vision of reshaping America’s policies, has raised protests from moderate Republicans and Democrats worried about his influence over a largely inexperienced president.
Jones is worried too, and described to TheWrap how she came to distance herself from her former collaborator.
“He used to say that he wanted to be the Leni Riefenstahl of the GOP,” Jones said, referring to the infamous director of Nazi propaganda films. “He was really into propaganda films.”
Bannon hasn’t been shy about his admiration for Riefenstahl, perhaps one of the world’s most notorious Nazi collaborators. In 2011, Bannon bragged to the Wall Street Journal that “people have said I’m like Leni Riefenstahl.”
“I’m a student of Michael Moore’s films, of Eisenstein, Riefenstahl,” he added. “Leave the politics aside, you have to learn from those past masters on how they were trying to communicate their ideas.”
Jones said she first became concerned when they began working on a 2004 Ronald Reagan documentary called, “In the Face of Evil.”
She said she grew “uncomfortable” when Bannon added a coda to the film, unbeknownst to her, warning about the threat of “the beast” over footage of Muslims praying and people jumping out of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
“He had taken the whole movie and flipped it so that basically Muslims were the new Nazis,” she said.
Jones said Bannon was “obsessed with the Holocaust as grave evil,” and often talked about the fact that “Jews weren’t the only victims,” though she insists he is not a Holocaust denier
Last month, the Trump administration came under fire after a White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day failed to mention Jews. Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, insisted he did not regret the administration’s choice of words telling NBC’s Chuck Todd, “I mean, everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust including obviously, all of the Jewish people affected in the miserable genocide that occurred is something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad.”
Trump aide Hope Hicks responded to a CNN inquiry about the matter with a link to a Huffington Post article about “The Holocaust’s Forgotten Victims: The 5 Million Non-Jewish People Killed By The Nazis.”
Jones said the statement is constant with Bannon’s views during the time.
“He used to talk about Jews as an afterthought,” Jones said. “He would always say that there were other victims too, and not just Jews,” adding, “I doubt Trump has a clue about this. That’s all Bannon.”
Jones eventually moved to Massachusetts where she continued doing some work for Bannon remotely. The last thing they co-wrote was a 2008 screenplay adaptation of a best-selling book called “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.”
Asked what their relationship is these days, Jones borrowed Breitbart’s in-your-face motto, saying she assumed “Honey Badger don’t give a damn.”
The White House did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.