“The Apprentice” sued by the Trump camp? “It’s not an incriminating film,” defends director Ali Abbasi

Presented Monday in competition at Cannes, “The Apprentice” is already in the crosshairs of Donald Trump’s teams.

His spokesperson announced his intention to take legal action against this chronicle of the former president’s early life.

TF1Info met director Ali Abbasi and actor Sebastian Stan, who were rather calm in the face of this embryonic controversy.

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Cannes film festival

Did a member of Donald Trump’s entourage slip into the world premiere of The Apprentice at the 77th Cannes Film Festival ? Monday evening, a few hours after the screening of Ali Abbasi’s film dedicated to the former American president, a new candidate for the White House, his campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung sent an explicit press release to Variety.

“We will take legal action to address the blatantly false claims made by these alleged filmmakers”, he declares. “This rubbish is pure fiction that sensationalizes lies that have long been debunked. As with Biden’s illegal trials, this is election interference by Hollywood elites who know President Trump will take back the White House and defeat their candidate. The affair is only just beginning since the film will be released in the United States on September 15, less than two months before the presidential election.

I have the impression that anyone who does not sing the praises of Donald Trump risks legal action.

Director Ali Abbasi

This Tuesday, TF1Info was able to meet the director Ali Abbasi and the actor Sebastian Stan with a handful of journalists. And both of them were very calm in the face of these threats. Because for them, The Apprentice is not a film against the businessman, who we discover at the beginning of his rise in New York in the early 1980s, when he meets his mentor, the mafia lawyer Roy Cohn.

“No one had really tried to take Donald Trump seriously before, as a human being”underlines Ali Abbasi. “There had been Brendan Gleeson in The Comey Rulespecifies Sebastian Stan about this 2020 series recounting the first steps of the Trump presidency. “But what we wanted was to forget what we all thought we knew about the character.”

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Jeremy Strong and Sebastian Stan in “The Apprentice”. – Cannes film festival

“It would be a shame to reduce this film to a biopic of Donald Trump”continues the filmmaker. “It’s much more than that. My goal was to depict a system of power. I also think it’s important to make it clear that our film stops short of his political career. He’s almost a different person than the one we know.”

The Apprentice was written by Gabriel Sherman, a journalist specializing in the American right. “The idea came to him when he was following Donald Trump’s electoral campaign in 2016”says Ali Abbasi. “When everyone went to Hillary’s house to celebrate, he stayed at Trump’s HQ. He then wondered how all this could have happened. And he went back to understand how the political figure Trump came to be.”

Has Trump lost his humanity along the way? Does he still care?

Actor Sebastian Stan

Danish filmmaker of Iranian origin, Ali Abbasi was discovered at Cannes in 2018 with Border, a fantastic romance which received the Un certain regard prize. In 2022, The Nights of Mashhad, in competition, told the true story of a serial killer of prostitutes in Iran which won the prize for best actress to the Iranian actress in exile Zar Amir Ebrahimi. Since then, he has directed several episodes of the hit series The Last of Us at Hollywood.

“When the producers came to present the script to me, they told me that he would like a director from outside the United States. But also that no American director wanted to do it”he smiles. “When rewriting the script, I emphasized the ambivalence of Donald Trump. Gabriel placed a lot of emphasis on the father-son relationship, the psychological portrait was quite linear. But for me, Donald is a complex character who cannot be explained. necessarily all actions.”

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Sebastian Stan at the photocall for “The Apprentice”, Tuesday May 21. – AFP

Exceptional from start to finish, does Sebastien Stan have the impression of having unlocked the secrets of the most divisive man in America? “I believe that you never really know a person unless you have been with them every second of the day since they were born”quips the actor that the general public discovered in the role of Bucky Barnes, aka “the Winter Soldier”, in the films of the Avengers saga.

“I grew up in Romania where my father traded jeans and cigarettes and when I arrived in the United States, I immediately got the message of the American Dream”he explains. “That you can become someone there and that there are opportunities if you have the will. And when I watch the film, I think it asks the question of the cost of success. Does Trump lost his humanity along the way? Does he still care?”

  • type="image/avif" class="jsx-4d89adcd260acbe7"> type="image/jpeg" class="jsx-4d89adcd260acbe7"> type="image/avif" class="jsx-4d89adcd260acbe7"> type="image/jpeg" class="jsx-4d89adcd260acbe7"> type="image/avif" class="jsx-4d89adcd260acbe7"> type="image/jpeg" class="jsx-4d89adcd260acbe7">Jeremy Strong and Sebastian Stan in >>>>>>

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What about the threats weighing on the film today? “I think I understand the reaction of those close to him who say that progressive people from Europe are doing something about him and that it must necessarily be negative.“, said Ali Abbasi. “It doesn’t really concern me because I have the impression that anyone who doesn’t sing the praises of Donald Trump risks prosecution anyway. We’ll see.”

The Apprentice notably presents a scene of marital rape which is already making noise in the press across the Atlantic. “Whether Trump likes it or not, this is something that has been well documented“, recalls filmmaker. “Ivana Trump testified under oath (during their divorce proceedings in the early 1990s – editor’s note). Then when she wrote her memoir, Donald’s lawyers pushed for clarification that it was not rape. But all the descriptions remained.”


Jérôme VERMELIN in Cannes

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