Trump lawyers seek to block US release of biopic The Apprentice

<span>Sebastian Stan (left) as Donald Trump in The Apprentice, and Donald Trump himself.</span><span>Composite: AKGS/Backgrid/Reuters</span>
Sebastian Stan (left) as Donald Trump in The Apprentice, and Donald Trump himself.Composite: AKGS/Backgrid/Reuters

Lawyers for Donald Trump have sent a cease-and-desist letter to the producers of The Apprentice in an attempt to block its US sale and release after the film – which depicts the former US president raping his first wife – shocked audiences at its world premiere at the Cannes film festival.

The Trump campaign said earlier this week they would take legal action against Ali Abbasi’s film, with spokesperson Stephen Cheung vowing “to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend film-makers”.

“This garbage is pure fiction which sensationalises lies that have been long debunked,” Cheung told Variety on Monday. “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.”

Dan Snyder, the former owner of the NFL’s Washington Commanders as well as a billionaire backer of the film and a Trump supporter, is also said to be preparing his own cease-and-desist letter to block a US distribution deal. Snyder, who invested in The Apprentice believing that it would paint a positive portrait of Trump, was reportedly “furious” after viewing a rough cut of the film, Variety reported.

In response to the cease-and-desist letter, the producers behind the film said it was “a fair and balanced portrait of the former president”, according to a statement reported by multiple outlets. “We want everyone to see it and then decide.”

During a Monday screening at the Cannes film festival of Abbasi’s film, which stars Sebastian Stan as Trump and opens with a disclaimer that the events depicted are fictionalised, audience members reportedly gasped over scenes including Trump getting liposuction, having scalp-reduction surgery and – most controversially – a scene in which he pushes his first wife, Ivana, to the ground and rapes her.

The film’s rape scene is a fictionalised account of an alleged 1989 attack that was previously detailed in the couple’s divorce proceedings in 1990. In her deposition, Ivana Trump described an assault that she said occurred shortly after her husband’s scalp-reduction surgery.

Ivana initially described what followed as a rape, but she later walked back the claim.

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comments about the letter. Speaking to the press recently, Abbasi appeared unconcerned by the threat of legal action. “Donald’s team should watch the movie before they start suing us,” he said. “Everyone’s always talking about him suing a lot of people. They don’t talk about his success rate, though.”