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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

New ‘Apprentice’ Movie Causes Controversy

State of the Union: The Trump campaign has threatened to sue over Abbasi’s portrayal of the former president.
Director,Ali,Abbasi,Smiles,As,He,Attends,The,Photocall,For
Credit: Oleg Nikishin

A film about the early career of Donald Trump, titled The Apprentice, directed by Ali Abbasi, caused significant controversy this week after its premier at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was shown with the purpose of finding a buyer ahead of November’s U.S. election. The film, which has no relation to the television show of the same name, depicts an admittedly fictionalized account of the relationship between Donald Trump and the lawyer Roy Cohn. 

Galvanizing the controversy is a scene of a fictitious rape of Ivana Trump by Donald. Ivana, who died in 2022, refuted claims that Trump had raped her, stating in 2015 that “Donald and I are the best of friends and together have raised three children that we love and are very proud of.” The Trump campaign has announced that it would be suing the filmmakers over this scene. Steven Cheung, a campaign spokesman, said that the film is “pure fiction which sensationalizes lies that have been long debunked.”

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Abbasi has responded to criticism of the film by stating that it “is really not a movie about Donald Trump,” but rather “a movie about a system and the way the system works.” Abbasi has offered to screen the film for Donald Trump, saying that he does not think that “it’s a movie he [Trump] would dislike.”

Dan Synder, the billionaire former owner of the Washington Redskins football team and a Trump donor, is also “furious” over the film, in which he had invested under the impression that it would be favorable to the former president. Other investors in the film include the governments of Ireland, Canada, and Denmark.

The film received an 11-minute-long standing ovation at Cannes. Reacting to the film, American director Oliver Stone called it “spectacular” and “dramatic,” going so far as to compare it to Citizen Kane. Due to the current litigation over the movie, it is unclear whether it will hit theaters in its current form.