Trump Movie ‘The Apprentice’ May Lack US Distribution Deal for Fear of Retribution

Rights to the Trump biopic have been secured in several other countries, including France, Canada, Germany and Japan

Festival de Cannes

Despite a successful premiere at Cannes in May and the kind of buzz that can only come from a cinematic deep dive into one of the most divisive Americans of this century, the Donald Trump biopic “The Apprentice” has still not yet secured distribution rights in the United States.

This reality, writes Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times, “isn’t just frustrating. It’s frightening.”

Goldberg’s concern is that Trump and his allies could be putting pressure on media companies and distributors to discourage them from buying rights to the film, even though those same rights have been purchased in countries around the world — including France, Canada, Germany and Japan. But major theatrical studios aren’t the only ones hesitating; streamers haven’t gone for the rights either.

The prevailing reason appears to be fear — be it fear of Trump, fear of politics, fear of engaging the MAGA voter base. Although, that reaction is well-founded, Goldberg noted, since Trump spent part of his presidency attempting to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner — who owned CNN — because he didn’t like how CNN covered him.

“In a second Trump term, the Department of Justice is expected to be far more aggressive in persecuting Trump’s perceived enemies,” Goldberg said. “Kash Patel, a former Trump administration official who has been floated as a possible acting attorney general in a Trump restoration, boasted to Steve Bannon of plans to target journalists for rejecting Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 election: ‘We’re going to come after you, whether it’s criminally or civilly,’ Patel said.”

Goldberg continued, saying if Trump successfully blocks US distribution of a movie about him, it’ll be “a sign of democratic decay.”

“Should ‘The Apprentice’ end up widely available globally but not, for political reasons, in the United States, it will be a sign of democratic decay, as well as an augur of greater self-censorship to come. After all, if anxiety about enraging Trump is already shaping what you can and cannot watch, it’s probably bound to get even worse if he actually returns to power.”

The film’s director Ali Abbasi said at Cannes he doesn’t think Trump would dislike the movie if he saw it. “I don’t necessarily think this is a movie he would dislike. I don’t think he would like it, I think he would be surprised.”

Trump’s campaign team sent a cease and desist to Abbasi after the movie debuted at Cannes. Steven Cheung, Trump campaign communications director, told TheWrap, “We will be filing a lawsuit to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers.”

“This garbage is pure fiction which sensationalizes lies that have been long debunked. This ‘film’ is pure malicious defamation, should not see the light of day, and doesn’t even deserve a place in the straight-to-DVD section of a bargain bin at a soon-to-be-closed discount movie store, it belongs in a dumpster fire,” Cheung added.

The film’s producers defended the movie following that statement, insisting, “The film is a fair and balanced portrait of the former president. We want everyone to see it and then decide.”

“The Apprentice” has ultimately divided critics, who have described it as “woefully bad — and worse, pointless” (the New York Times) and “a truthful dive into the ethos that guides Trump” (Brother Bro).

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