Although he supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, Michael Moore couldn’t allow himself to sit on the sidelines of the 2016 election. In September, over 11 days, he shot a secret documentary, “TrumpLand,” in an Ohio auditorium, urging voters to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president. And he’s been a vocal critic of Donald Trump on Twitter, blasting his policies and criticizing FBI director James Comey for trying to hurt the Democratic nominee by publicly re-opening an investigation into her email server.
Moore talked to Variety about “TrumpLand,” which is playing in theaters and iTunes, as well as the election.
When you made this movie, the word “TrumpLand” meant something else — it described the region of the country where you shot the film. Now people are using it as a code word for the FBI.
Yeah, I saw that today. It was The Guardian that broke the story of the FBI agent inside, saying the agency was so pro-Trump and anti-Hillary, that they call it “TrumpLand.” I texted the guy at iTunes to see if there was an uptick [in my movie’s sales]. I think what Comey did was disgraceful.
The national police are trying to tip the election. It is one of the things that begins to happen when you have a real police state, which we don’t have yet. When you have federal police trying to affect the outcome of an election, trying to scare people into not voting for her, implying she’ll be under investigation for her entire term. You have a very dangerous situation. You have people trying to thwart democracy. The same thing happens when Trump says he may not accept the results of the election if it goes against him. The difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals don’t think that way. Somebody said to me the other day, these theaters showing your movie should be showing another movie, it should be equal-time. I said, “You’re implying there’s right-wing art.” Go ahead, tell me the right-wing movies, the right-wing directors.
What about Dinesh D’Souza?
He’s a propagandist whose fake documentary has been completely disproven.
Have you seen his movie?
No. It’s not a movie. You keep calling it a movie! It’s a long-form political ad piece of propaganda that’s full of lies.
Do you have a prediction for who will win the election?
I’m not a pundit. I can tell you living in Michigan, what it feels like, and it doesn’t feel good.
Does it feel like Trump will win?
It feels like he has an excellent chance, and because the election this year is in the second week of November, which is what we call winter, if there’s low-voter turnout that would benefit him. It’s about the turnout.
The reason I ask is that you wrote an essay over the summer, with five reasons why Trump would win the election.
They’ve come true, haven’t they? We have a neck-and-neck race that I predicted. I tried to warn people. But too many liberals and too many Hillary supporters were all doing the happy dance after the convention and the debates. I’m like, “It’s way too early to throw a victory party.”
Do you think Hillary should have picked Bernie Sander as her running mate?
I think Bernie should have won and we’d have a better chance. But we have an excellence chance with her, and I’m very excited about voting for her.
Do you think Bernie would have easily defeated Trump?
Yes, absolutely, and without the baggage. Everybody acknowledges that. Come on.
Are you scared of a Trump presidency?
Yes. I don’t like to think about it.
Would you make a documentary about a Trump presidency?
No. It’s always better if a liberal or a Democrat wins, because movements are allowed to happen. With Obama in office, we had Occupy Wall Street, that changed the entire conversation about the 1 percent, and then Black Lives Matter. There was a renewed feminist movement. There’s a lot of good things that happen when you have the right person in office.
What message do you have for voters?
Get excited about voting for Hillary, and think about all the good that’s going to happen. Be active this weekend. Go door to door. Keep in mind that 77% of this country is either female, people of color or young adults between the ages 18 and 35. It’s not a bunch of white guys anymore that run the show. The country has changed. It’s the new Americana, raised on Biggie and Nirvana. And in California, soon to be raised on legal marijuana.
Did you ever think you could make a movie in 11 days?
No. I didn’t believe we could do this. But I had such a good group of people and that made all the difference. We all came back together, a producer from “Fahrenheit 9/11” and one from “Sicko” and one from “Roger and Me.” It’s kind of like getting the band back together.
Why did you have to do it so fast?
There was a deadline called the election. And I had just come up with the idea, and I had no time. At first, I didn’t think of doing it as a movie. I thought I’d write this piece and maybe I’d perform it as a one-man show in some states.
And then what happened?
I wrote it in August. In September, I thought maybe I should get this on TV, but it’s way too late to get it on TV. So that’s when I said, “Why don’t we shoot it on film and maybe we’ll put it on the Internet?” That’s what we did. I went and performed the piece. We had no time to do rehearsal.
How many minds did you change in the audience?
We interviewed people on the way in and the way out. Out of the 800 seats there, about 400 were Hillary supporters; 100 or 150 were leaning toward Trump or voting for him; 100 to 150 were not going to vote; and less than 100 third-party voters. Going out, probably half the people who weren’t going to vote said they would vote. Out of 150 Trump people, maybe two dozen said they would go home and think about it. That’s the best I could hope for.
At last year’s Toronto, you were adamant that your movie “Where to Invade Next” should play in theaters. Have you changed your mind after “TrumpLand?”
No. I make movies for movie theaters. This one is playing in 83 cities.
But most people have seen it on iTunes.
Yes, of course. We’ve done something that hasn’t been done before. We finished the film on a Monday, set up the premiere on Tuesday morning, had the premiere on Tuesday night, thousands of people showed up. The next day, it opens in that same theater [Manhattan’s IFC Center], and you’ve set the all-time box office record for a Wednesday opening in the history of that theater. Then all of a sudden, so many theaters across the country want to book it. We don’t have a distributor, we don’t have prints. Technicolor said we’d help, and they stepped in. And I’ve been doing Q&As via Skype in theaters all across the country. I’m a filmmaker. I run two non-profits in Michigan, so I’m an exhibitor. Now for the first time, I’m a distributor. All that’s left, when the AT&T merger goes through, is for me to run Warner Bros.