Trump would be surprised by Cannes biopic ‘The Apprentice,’ says director

May 27, 2024 - 1:38 PM
Director Ali Abbasi and cast members Martin Donovan, Maria Bakalova and Sebastian Stan pose during a photocall for the film "The Apprentice" in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 21, 2024. (ReutersSarah Meyssonnier)

Donald Trump would likely be surprised by “The Apprentice,” director Ali Abbasi said on Tuesday of his biopic about Trump’s early years as a real estate mogul, adding he was open to meeting with the former U.S. president to discuss the film.

READ: Election year Trump biopic ‘The Apprentice’ premieres at Cannes

“The Apprentice,” which shares the name of a reality TV series hosted and produced by Trump that made him a household name, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday, receiving an eight-minute ovation and mixed reviews from critics.

Abbasi said he hoped the film would hit theatres in mid-September, ahead of a November U.S. election that Trump, 77, is contesting as Republican presidential candidate.

“I don’t necessarily think that this is a movie that (Trump) would dislike, I don’t necessarily think he would like it, I think that he would be surprised,” Abbasi, who was born in Iran, said at a news conference.

Following the premiere, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign said it would be filing a lawsuit against the film over “blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers”.

“Everybody talks about him suing a lot of people, they don’t talk about his success rate though,” said Abbasi when asked about the threat of a lawsuit.

Trump’s team should watch the movie “before they start suing us, because I think once you’re inside that character, it feels different, and we’re inside that character,” said Abbasi, who is known for his eclectic film repertoire, including the 2022 Cannes entry “Holy Spider” about the killings of sex workers in Iran, and “Border,” a 2018 Swedish fantasy film.

Many powerful people in Hollywood had expressed concerns about making the film over the years, said Gabriel Sherman, scriptwriter for “The Apprentice,” suggesting they might have considered it after the impending election – if Trump lost it.

“People talk about Hollywood being this ‘liberal’ place, but you know, making a film like this is very challenging because Hollywood, in many ways, doesn’t want to rock certain boats,” he said.


The story focuses on Trump’s time under the tutelage of lawyer and prosecutor Roy Cohn, a political fixer who is portrayed in the TV drama “Succession” by Jeremy Strong.

Cohn’s three rules for success, which Trump later takes credit for while speaking with the writer of his business advice book “The Art of the Deal”, seem prescient in terms of traits Trump has displayed in office: deny everything, always be on the attack, and never admit defeat.

Sebastian Stan, who made his name in the Captain America trilogy, plays Trump as he evolves from his early career years as an upstart working for his father’s business to a brazen, self-centred tycoon.

Those years also cover Trump’s courtship of and eventual marriage to Ivana Trump, played by Maria Bakalova of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” as an ambitious businesswoman in her own right.

Stan described his preparation for the role as a 24/7 immersion process to understand Trump beyond his media personality.

“He is a human being like everybody else so I guess we all have certain codes and certain principles, it just depends on what they are. I guess it’s relative to everybody,” Stan said at the briefing.

—Reporting by Miranda Murray;Editing by Bernadette Baum