Hollywood Power Players Get Candid About Trump
From Dana Walden to Jordan Peele to Patty Jenkins, entertainment's top execs, creators and talents reveal how the president has affected their work and sanity.
It’s no secret that Hollywood’s not a fan of Donald Trump.
From outspoken condemnations such as Meryl Streep's infamous Golden Globes speech — in which she criticized Trump's remarks about a disabled reporter during the 2016 campaign — to director Judd Apatow's consistent lambasting tweets, criticisms of the president are widespread among the leaders of the entertainment industry.
When asked how his presidency has affected their work and life, those who made the cut for the THR 100 — The Hollywood Reporter's second annual ranking of the most powerful people in entertainment — had a variety of responses.
Some stayed mum, including Disney CEO Bob Iger (No. 1 on the THR 100), though he notably resigned from Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum June 1 in the wake of Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord signed by nearly every other country. Fox TV Group chairman and co-CEO Dana Walden (No. 16) also skirted the subject of Trump. "I’m not talking about him right now," she said. "Too depressing."
Others were much more forthcoming, such as Feud and American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy (No. 28). "At least the first hour of every day is dedicated to talking about the writers' and staffers’ anxieties about the world, vis a vis the Trump administration, and then how are we going to put those anxieties into art," said the four-time Emmy winner of the atmosphere in his writers room. "That's new."
FX Networks CEO John Landgraf (No. 24) didn't pull any punches as he noted the stress of the last several months. "Trump has made me way more anxious, almost every day. It’s not about politics," Landgraf said. "It’s about integrity. Judging by his behavior, he is completely amoral, does not believe in the democratic separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution, and recognizes no truth beyond himself — beyond what he needs to be the truth for his own emotional comfort in any given moment. It is scary to me that I have fellow citizens who still think he should be our president."
Some acknowledged the president's role in revitalizing their work — and deepening its meaning. "Trump is good for the business of escapism," said Get Out director Jordan Peele (No. 93), while Wonder Woman helmer Patty Jenkins (No. 94) shared a similar, yet slightly more earnest, sentiment: "I think he has put the messages and discussions that I want to have more in focus and pertinent than ever."
Actor/producer Tyler Perry (No. 67) says Trump "reinvigorated my resolve to bring light and laughter and healing to this world," while Selma and 13th director Ava DuVernay (No. 70) admitted the president has "devastated me in many ways, but each of those ways has made me more determined than before." Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer (No. 95) has been similarly influenced. "I make a lot of Horatio Alger underdog stories," said the Imagine Entertainment partner. "So his presence in the White House affects how I do that."
Nancy Dubuc (No. 44), president and CEO of A+E Networks, took a more measured view: "Our allegiance is to our audience," she said, adding, "We're careful to listen and represent diverse points of view and bring forward tough issues through the power of storytelling, when warranted."
For recently appointed Sony Pictures and Entertainment CEO and chairman Tony Vinciquerra (No. 26), the controversy around Trump has had a positive impact. "Political discourse is at an all-time high everywhere I look," he said. "Given voter apathy, as evidenced by L.A.’s recent 11 percent mayoral voter turnout, hopefully this political discourse will increase citizen engagement."
Kevin Beggs (No. 91), chairman of Lionsgate TV Group, echoed Vinciquerra's respect for open political discourse and public engagement. "What is unfolding in the White House is a powerful reminder that politics matter," Beggs said. "Complacency is the enemy of democracy and it feels like, after decades of relative disinterest or disgust with the political process, people across the socioeconomic spectrum are paying attention. The surge in news readership and viewership is truly inspiring."
A few THR 100 honorees had a lighter take on Trump, including NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt (No. 27). "We have one less reality show on our schedule," the studio exec said, referencing the president's not-so-distant past as Apprentice host. And Greenblatt wasn't the only one to bring up the president's history as a star of the small screen. "I finally watch reality TV full-time when I get home: the news," said Supergirl and Arrow executive producer Greg Berlanti (No. 52).
UTA CEO and managing director Jeremy Zimmer (No. 33) admits that Trump has bolstered his reputation at home. Quipped the top agent, "He has made my kids think that I am highly moral and incredibly smart."