Steven Mnuchin, the executive producer of “Suicide Squad,” says he has zero concerns that his job as Donald Trump’s main moneyman might affect his new movie at the box office.
“I’m a financier of the film. We’ve had a great partnership with Warner Bros. and politics is completely separate,” Mnuchin told TheWrap on Wednesday.
Asked if he worries that some moviegoers might be turned off by his association with Trump, Mnuchin dismissed the idea.
“I have not heard one word of that to date,” he said. “Obviously there are a lot of people seeing the film.”
It looks like he’s right. Despite some rather harsh reviews, “Suicide Squad” had the biggest August opening weekend of all time, raking in a whopping $135.1 million. It also had the highest-grossing Monday for any movie released in August.
He’s also good at fundraising. Last month, Mnuchin shocked pundits and political strategists when he announced the Trump campaign raised $80 million for the month of July, just shy of Hillary Clinton’s $90 million for the month. After being essentially broke just two months earlier, the Trump campaign was raking it in.
Mnuchin, like his film and his candidate, has plenty of critics. When he became Trump’s lead fundraiser in May, news outlets revisited reports that he pocketed money stolen by Bernie Madoff and once supported Hillary Clinton — and that Relativity Media, the studio behind “The Fighter,” once accused his bank of “violating bankruptcy procedures” and delaying a crucial movie’s release. You can read more about those accusations here.
TheWrap spoke to Mnuchin about his new movie, plans for a sequel, his relationship with Trump these days, and his past. He dismissed most of the negative stories about him as old news.
“Suicide Squad” has been breaking records, but the reviews have been less than great. How do you explain that?
I’m shocked the critics have written the reviews that they have, because I thought it was an unbelievable film. So, I’m not at all surprised to see the box office reaction. The cast is very deep and extraordinary and it’s a great franchise.
Can you tell us anything about plans for the sequel?
I can’t comment on where they are on a sequel. But this is all about the D.C. Comics franchise so my expectations is that you’ll be seeing a lot more of them.
You’ve had some pretty impressive numbers over as Trump’s fundraiser with $80 million in donations for the month of July. How did that happen?
We literally started this effort at the end of May and we just started the online effort in the middle of June. In May all the stories were, we weren’t going to be able to raise any money. In June we came out with the numbers it was $52 million. People were blown away that we went from zero to 52, and I think when we showed up with the $80 million number people were shocked. Our $80 million compared with [Hillary Clinton’s] $90 million, we’ve been doing it for two months, she’s been doing it for 20 years.
This has been as tough month for Trump. Are you worried at all about the numbers next month?
I’m not concerned at all. The numbers include both money we’re raising with the RNC as well as the ground support. We’ve had over a million small donors through the campaign. There’s very widespread grassroots support for Donald Trump, one that Republicans have not seen before.
Still, these controversies and headlines can’t be good for fundraising…
We’re not concerned about that. The most important factor was Monday’s economic speech. I was really involved with working with the advisory group on that speech and I think we’re very confident in our economic plan. Clinton is going to speak… on her economic plan and you’ll see two very different tax plans which will really differentiate how we believe Donald Trump’s plan will help the American worker and spur the economy to bigger growth.
Polls show Hillary Clinton leading by double digits, not just nationally but also in some key swing states. And now there’s a new controversy in a week that was supposed to be all about rebooting the campaign. How has that affected the campaign?
First, let me comment on the polls. There are a lot of different polls and the polls have different numbers. I think there’s a Bloomberg poll that just came out that had him within a couple of percentage points nationally… the polling numbers are all over the place. I think there are more battlegrounds than ever before. I think this is going to be a very close election and I think the polls are very close in the critical states.
Have there been any conversations between you and Donald Trump to try minimize the kinds of gaffes and headlines you’ve been seeing lately?
The focus of the campaign is to make sure the message gets out. I think you’ve seen that this week, both from Donald in his speech and a large number of surrogates who have been in the media talking about this.
A lot has been written about you over the years, including the fact that Donald Trump sued you in the past. Also, you donated money to Hillary Clinton back in the day. Care to comment?
I’ve known Donald Trump for 15 years. He wouldn’t have asked me if he didn’t have confidence in me and I wouldn’t have accepted on the spot if I didn’t have a lot of confidence in him. We’ve done business together.
You’ve been accused of taking advantage of the economic crisis by buying out IndyMac Bank for pennies on the dollar, then raking in billions by foreclosing on homes. What do you say to that?
What I would comment on, when we bought the bank from the government we bought it through a very competitive process. We’re very proud of the fact that we worked with the government on loan modifications. We were the first bank to start a loan modification at IndyMac and had a very good record of working with the regulators.
Donald Trump has said he did not intend to incite violence when he spoke about the Second Amendment. But whether or not he intended it, that’s how a lot of people heard it. What do you say to people who argue that’s a problem for someone who’s running for president?
I think it’s absurd that anyone interpreted it in any way other than what it was meant to be. And it was clearly meant to be about people who supported certain positions and voting and everything else. I don’t know how anybody could have interpreted it otherwise.
Hollywood is uber liberal. Are there enough wealthy Republicans in Hollywood?
Look, there is no question the Hollywood crowd predominantly supports Democrats. But within Los Angeles there’s a big community and there’s a large community of support for the Republican party and Republican candidates. I was at a dinner for Paul Ryan in L.A. recently and there are a lot of Republicans here. They tend not to be in the entertainment business but there are a lot of Republicans… We’re very pleased with the support we’ve had. Donald has a home here, he’s been here several times already for fundraising. We’ll have him back again.
Was that one of the reasons you were tapped for this job? Your Hollywood connections?
It had nothing to do with that whatsoever. The fact that I lived here is purely coincidental. I know Donald from having grown up in New York. I was in New York for the New York primary at the time to watch the results.
Donald Trump had promised to self-fund his campaign. When he hired you it was clear that was no longer the case. What do you say to people who may have voted for Trump because of that promise?
I think we’ve been very clear with our donors that nobody is buying influence in this campaign and that people are contributing to support him and the party. And the major reason he is fundraising is to raise money for the party as well as himself. He continues to contribute to the campaign and I don’t think anyone expected that he would self-fund the general election.