Donald Trump’s lawsuit threat over ‘The Apprentice’ doesn’t worry Cannes filmmaker

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He may be on trial for fraud in New York City, but Donald J. Trump has made his presence felt at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival.

The Iranian-born, Denmark-based film director Ali Abbasi debuted his newest movie “The Apprentice” in competition this week, and its number one critic is the former President of the United States and current Republican candidate for this year’s election. In “The Apprentice,” Sebastian Stan stars as the young Trump, with Emmy-winner and current Tony-nominee Jeremy Strong as his mentor, the notorious litigator Roy Cohn. (You can watch the successful Sundance-launched documentary “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” for more about this relationship.)

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Following the film’s bow (and 11-minute standing ovation, as per Deadline) Trump’s legal representative Steven Cheung released a Trump-style statement: “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. As with the illegal Biden Trials, this is election interference by Hollywood elites, who know that President Trump will retake the White House and beat their candidate of choice because nothing they have done has worked.”

The most controversial moment, and what perhaps triggered this reaction, is a scene in which Trump is shown raping his then-wife Ivana Trump, played by Maria Bakalova. (These allegations from the now-deceased Ivana are documented, as are, of course, Trump’s actions against journalist E. Jean Carroll, in which he was found liable of sexual abuse in a civil trial; Trump has denied all claims.) 

Responding to the Trump camp’s statement, Abbasi seemed unconcerned. “Everybody talks about him suing a lot of people, they don’t talk about his success rate,” the filmmaker shrugged. He added, “I don’t necessarily think this is a movie he would dislike, I don’t think he’d necessarily like it, but I think he would be surprised. I would offer to go and meet him and have a chat afterward.”

The film, which does not yet have a distributor in place, also stars Martin Donovan as Fred Trump and Joe Pingue as Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno. The screenplay is by journalist Gabriel Sherman, author of a book about Fox News’s Roger Ailes that was adapted into the Showtime series “The Loudest Voice.” 

This is Abbasi’s first English-language film. His previous work includes “Border,” an eerie immigration tale about Neanderthal-like individuals entering Scandinavian society, and “Holy Spider,” a true crime film about a series of prostitute murders in Tehran. 

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