Controversial Donald Trump biopic struggles to find buyer after Cannes

A controversial biopic about Donald Trump’s early years is struggling to find a US distribution or streaming deal.

The Apprentice, directed by Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi, earned rave reviews when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 20 May.

Deadline described the film as a “smart, sharp and surprising origin story”, while The Times called it “the Donald Trump movie that you never knew you needed: full of compassionate feeling yet ruthless in analysis”.

The film also boasts a high-profile cast that includes Sebastian Stan as the young Trump and Succession’s Jeremy Strong as his mentor, the lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn. Stan is best known for playing the Winter Soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

However, despite critical acclaim and a stellar group of actors, Variety reports that none of the major studios or streaming services such as Netflix have so far bid on the film, and that “even some of the most daring indie distributors like Neon, which released Abbasi’s Border, aren’t offering a deal yet”.

Behind the scenes, the producers of The Apprentice reportedly believe that studios and distributors have been wary about getting involved with the film because they fear the repercussions should Trump be reelected as president this November.

Jeremy Strong and Sebastian Stan as Roy Cohn and Donald Trump in ‘The Apprentice’ (The Apprentice Productions Inc/Profile Productions/Tailored Films Ltd)
Jeremy Strong and Sebastian Stan as Roy Cohn and Donald Trump in ‘The Apprentice’ (The Apprentice Productions Inc/Profile Productions/Tailored Films Ltd)

The biopic reportedly contains a number of unflattering scenes involving Trump, including him using drugs and getting cosmetic surgery.

Most controversially, the film shows Trump raping his first wife Ivana. In a 1989 divorce deposition, Ivana accused Trump of raping her, but she later disavowed the allegation.

The sale of the film is also complicated by the fact that one of its investors is billionaire Dan Snyder, former owner of NFL team the Washington Commanders, who must approve any deal. Snyder reportedly gave the film financial backing through production company Kinematics under the impression that it would be a flattering portrayal of Trump’s rise in real estate and is said to be “furious” about the final film.

Last week, Trump campaign chief spokesperson Steven Cheung told The Independent that they are preparing legal action against the film.

“We filed a lawsuit to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers,” said Cheung. “This garbage is pure fiction which sensationalizes lies that have been long debunked. As with the illegal Biden Trials, this is election interference by Hollywood elites, who know that President Trump will retake the White House and beat their candidate of choice because nothing they have done has worked.

“This ‘film’ is pure malicious defamation, should not see the light of day, and doesn’t even deserve a place in the straight-to-DVD section of a bargain bin at a soon-to-be-closed discount movie store, it belongs in a dumpster fire.”

The Independent has approached streaming services including Netflix, producers of The Apprentice, and the Trump campaign for comment.