Like many in this country, the day after the 2016 election, filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer was shocked to learn that Donald Trump had won the presidency. And that day, he decided to make a film about Roy Cohn, a lawyer best known as Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel during the Army-McCarthy hearings.
Many know about Cohn’s influence on politics, but less know of his unusual upbringing and how he served as a mentor to those like Roger Stone and Donald Trump. So with that in mind, Tyrnauer set out to make his documentary, “Where’s My Roy Cohn?”
“I thought all that year that Trump would not be President and Roy Cohn would be a footnote in history,” Tyrnauer told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film premiered last January. “But when Trump had his surprise victory, I thought this was the only film worth making right then, the Rosetta Stone, the decoder ring of how we got to now.”
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Trump’s associate Roger Stone was indicted literally hours before Tyrnauer’s film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and Tyrnauer said he had several people ask him whether he had a direct line to special counsel Robert Mueller. He doesn’t, but he stressed how closely aligned Cohn, Stone and Trump are as individuals.
“They all worked together in the early ’80s, and they’re cut from the same cloth. Some people would say Roger Stone and Donald Trump are Roy Cohn,” Tyrnauer said. “They totally subsumed his tactics, his personality, and amorality and transactional method for everything.”
Tyrnauer explained that Cohn’s motto was, “Don’t tell me about the law, just tell me who the judge is.” He also believed that any attention was good attention so long as it brought the focus back onto his own narcissistic personality, and Tyrnauer joked that if that description reminds you of anyone, it should.
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“His family members have come up to me and said that Roy would’ve loved it. The film is not a positive portrayal,” Tyrnauer said. “He’s the key to every dark art of politics and the underworld and the overworld. I call him the bridge between the world of organized crime and the legitimate world of politics.”
“Where’s My Roy Cohn?” was acquired for theatrical release out of Sundance by Sony Pictures Classics. Watch the video above.