He's America's most successful documentarian and one of the few on the left who predicted the 2016 election upset. Now, as Moore readies his anticipated polemic 'Fahrenheit 11/9' for its Toronto film festival debut, he takes aim at Trump (and Nancy Pelosi … and Harvey Weinstein …) and those actually responsible for the president's rapid rise to power (hint: Gwen Stefani).
The first time Michael Moore encountered Donald Trump, the filmmaker uncharacteristically held his tongue. The two had been booked as guests in 1998 on Roseanne Barr's afternoon talk show, The Roseanne Show, taping at New York's Tavern on the Green. Trump's The Art of the Deal had been published in 1987 while Moore had already earned a reputation as a cheeky provocateur out to puncture capitalism's balloon with his 1989 doc Roger & Me, and so when Trump spotted Moore, he threatened to walk. One of the show's producers pulled Moore aside: Could he convince the skittish real estate developer to stay? Agreeing to help, Moore introduced himself to Trump and promised he'd keep the chatter light. "We did the show. I did not bring up anything political, financial, anything that would have upset him," Moore recalls, settling into a chair in the conference room of his Manhattan production offices on a recent late-August night. "It wasn't until I saw him running for president that I realized I'd been played. That he got his way. And I thought, 'Wow, he manipulated that whole situation. This guy is not stupid.' Lesson learned."
This time out, as Moore, 64, readies his newest documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, which will kick off the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 6, he's not holding back. "Trump is our Frankenstein and we are Dr. Frankenstein," he declares. "We have helped to create a situation that has allowed us to end up with Trump. The dumbing down of our society through the media, the lack of education through poor schools, allows for a dumbed-down electorate, and for him to be able to actually get 63 million votes." In the opening moments of his new film, as the comedy curdles into horror, Moore asks bluntly, "How the fuck did this happen?"