One of the many things that bug me about the industry in which I work is the large population of phonies who claim to be liberal, caring, green and unaffected by their wealth and fame but in reality are just as self-centered and addicted to their huge, over-air-conditioned living spaces and private planes as those at whom they point their fingers. And none is more phony and finger-pointing than Michael Moore.
Moore seems to be everywhere of late, talking about the “occupy” movement and fashioning himself its spokesmodel. I saw him on CNBC blowing hard and receiving kid-gloves treatment from Carl Quintanilla. On Piers Morgan Tonight, Moore said, “How could I be in the 1 percent?” When Morgan made the statement that Moore is “worth millions,” Moore responded with “No, that’s not true.” He went on to justify that comment by saying, “Even though I do well, I don’t associate myself with those who do well.” Although Morgan started off a bit confrontational, he, like most other interviewers, backed down fast. In my opinion, a lot of important issues are being brought up by the “occupiers,” but overall, this protest would be better served if those speaking on its behalf were of cleaner hands and less hypocritical than Moore, who has suckled mightily at the teat of “those who do well.”
In 2005, the Weinstein Co. set up financing of about $500 million to fund production and distribution. The investment vehicle was created and syndicated by a little firm called Goldman Sachs. One of the films that was produced by TWC using funds from that investment was Moore’s documentary Sicko. Given the success of his previous film, Fahrenheit 9/11, which he made with Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Moore was able to command a terrific deal for himself.
By 2010, TWC had burned through the capital raised in the Goldman Sachs deal. Investors were forced to restructure their arrangement, meaning some suffered a devaluation of their investment. Goldman also lost some money it put in TWC, but it could handle the loss in part because it was a recipient of the government’s TARP bailout. Some unlucky investors might never get back the money they put into funding TWC.
Not unlike other bad investments set up by Goldman Sachs and others during this period, some people did make out quite well, while others, often lower on the food chain, suffered. One of those who did quite well using the TWC funds was Moore.
While I don’t know for sure what Moore received on his movie, given his previous success, it likely was several million dollars. Sicko, produced by TWC but released in 2007 by Lionsgate, did not perform as well as Fahrenheit, earning $36 million at the box office. But Celebritynetworth.com pegs Moore’s net worth at more than $50 million, and Moore is suing TWC for $2.7 million more in profits from Fahrenheit. (Reports at the time of the lawsuit said Moore already had received $19.8 million from TWC for that film alone.)
If Moore really wants to be seen as someone outside the circle of those he is protesting, it would be great if he would disclose how much he has made off his TWC-backed movies and why he was willing to associate himself with financing set up by Goldman Sachs. Further, journalists should start showing more backbone in testing the veracity of statements made by those who use the media to disseminate a holier-than-though message.
There are many reasons our country is in financial trouble, and some do relate to misdeeds by Wall Street executives. Calling attention to such misdeeds and issues of income inequality is a good thing. But the true fault of what put us in this situation resides with the government that gave leeway to those who contributed to political campaigns and provided jobs to those who ran between the various administrations and the private sector. Having a hypocrite blowing hard about groups of people in whose number he himself should be counted diminishes the impact and validity of the message.
Polone is a manager and producer of such films as Panic Room, Zombieland and the upcoming Premium Rush. Follow him on Twitter at @gavinpolone.