Q&A: Michael Moore

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Illustration by Chris Morris
 
Since bursting onto the documentary scene 20 years ago with "Roger & Me," a blistering critique of General Motors, Michael Moore has directed the highest-grossing documentary of all time (2004's "Fahrenheit 9/11") and become a professional populist provocateur. The Flint, Mich., native is now busy finishing "Capitalism: A Love Story," his take on the U.S. financial crisis, which will premiere next month at the Venice and Toronto film festivals ahead of its wide release Oct. 2.

The Hollywood Reporter: Your new film was announced in May 2008 as a follow-up to "Fahrenheit 9/11" that would look at America's role in the world. Then the economy tanked. Do you feel pressure to make movies that respond to the zeitgeist?

Michael Moore: That was our cover. From the spring of '08, we were always doing a film about capitalism and corporate America. But, as you've seen from the recent revelations about the health insurance industry's secret campaign to attack my last film (2007's "Sicko"), I have to be extremely dodgy in order to outsmart these corporate guys. I had no way of knowing in May of 2008 that the economy would crash four months later. We were right in the middle of this Wall Street movie when it happened.

THR: The conventional wisdom in Hollywood is that in tough economic times, moviegoers want an escape. Is there a big audience for a film that looks at the financial crisis?

Moore: I have no doubts that people will want to come to a movie that goes after, with humor and reckless abandon, those bastards who've made their lives miserable. They deserve a night out at the movies where the movie is on their side.

THR: Given your history with "Roger & Me," what was your reaction to the initial bailout of GM, its subsequent bankruptcy and the firing of CEO Rick Wagoner?

Moore: All my films, in one way or another, speak to my experience of growing up in the hometown of General Motors. As for GM's demise, I tried to warn people about that some 20 years ago. Nothing made me happier than seeing President Obama fire the head of GM. It was every Flint boy's dream come true. They arrogantly kept making lousy cars that few people wanted to drive. They fought every safety measure from mandatory turn signals to controls that would protect the melting of our polar ice caps. They fired tens of thousands of people over the years for the short-term benefit of making their balance sheet appear to be in profit. That was a fraud of major proportions, and to date, no one has yet to go to prison.

THR: You supported President Obama in the election. How do you grade his response to the financial crisis and the health care issue? How about congressional Democrats?

Moore: I'm still in a stupor of stunned ecstasy that Obama won. And I approve of most everything he's done, from apologizing to the Iranians for America overthrowing their democratically elected president in 1953 to appointing Kumar (actor Kal Penn of the "Harold and Kumar" movies) to a White House position. He is doing the best he can with the mess he inherited, and I and millions of others are counting on him never to forget that he came from the working class and that his people need him now more than ever. As for the congressional Democrats, what a bunch of losers -- weak, scared, stupid. They had better get a clue pretty quick or the Dark Forces will return.

THR: Bill Maher recently said that "America is stupid" and "too dumb to be governed." Do you agree?

Moore: Eight years ago I wrote a book called "Stupid White Men." In that book, I wrote a chapter entitled "Idiot Nation." I think that says it all. Sad, sad, sad.

THR: Have you ever considered leaving the U.S.?

Moore: Thank you for asking! I had never considered this idea until you mentioned it, and now that you have, it doesn't sound like such a bad idea! I guess if I were going to live outside the U.S., I would live in Texas.

THR: What's the No. 1 thing you want to teach your kids?

Moore: Never trust anyone from Texas.

THR: In your opinion, what's the single worst legacy of George W. Bush?

Moore: That he has yet to be arrested for committing the worst crime the leader of a nation can commit: lie to the people and convince them to invade another country and kill its people with absolutely no provocation. There are 8,662 parents who might better answer this question.

THR: Your films are big boxoffice draws, and you won an Oscar for 2002's "Bowling for Columbine," but you've always been considered an outsider to the entertainment community. Do you like Hollywood?

Moore: Yes. I've met only very nice people out here, and if I wouldn't miss the 20-below winters, I'd live here for sure.

THR: What's the last movie you saw? The last book you read?

Moore: A Norwegian film called "Troubled Water." Best drama I've seen this year. The last book was "The Coming Insurrection" (a French leftist call-to-arms manifesto that has been labeled a "manual for terrorism" by the French government). I'm also reading the daily newspaper religiously, considering how there won't be any to read a year from now.

THR: There were reports you were feuding with Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who executive produced "Fahrenheit," "Sicko" and "Capitalism." Will you work with them again?

Moore: In 20 years of knowing the brothers, I have had only one fight with them, and that was over who would get the last cannoli.
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