The Apprentice Sparks Controversy at Cannes: Trump Campaign Threatens Legal Action

The Apprentice Sparks Controversy at Cannes: Trump Campaign Threatens Legal Action

The Cannes Film Festival has always been a platform for provocative cinema, and this year was no exception with the premiere of “The Apprentice,” a film about former U.S. President Donald Trump. Directed by Iranian Danish filmmaker Ali Abbasi, the movie has stirred significant controversy, leading to threats of legal action from Trump’s reelection campaign. The film’s depiction of Trump’s early career in the 1980s, his relationship with attorney Roy Cohn, and other sensitive events have drawn sharp criticism from Trump’s camp, while Abbasi stands by his work, inviting Trump to view the film himself.

Trump’s Campaign Denounces The Apprentice

Following the film’s premiere on Monday in Cannes, Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Trump’s campaign, issued a strong statement condemning the film. Cheung described “The Apprentice” as “pure fiction” and vowed that the campaign would file a lawsuit to counter what he called “blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers.”

“This garbage is pure fiction which sensationalizes lies that have been long debunked,” Cheung stated.

Abbasi’s Response and Invitation to Trump

The Relationship Between Trump and Cohn
Image by : Yandex

When asked about the Trump campaign’s statement, Abbasi responded with a mix of humor and openness. “Everybody talks about him suing a lot of people  they don’t talk about his success rate though, you know?” he quipped.

Despite the controversy, Abbasi took a conciliatory approach, offering to privately screen the film for Trump and engage in a discussion about its content. “I don’t necessarily think that this is a movie he would dislike,” Abbasi remarked. “I think he would be surprised, you know? And like I’ve said before, I would offer to go and meet him wherever he wants and talk about the context of the movie, have a screening and have a chat afterwards, if that’s interesting to anyone at the Trump campaign.”

The Relationship Between Trump and Cohn

Central to “The Apprentice” is the relationship between Trump, played by Sebastian Stan, and Roy Cohn, portrayed by Jeremy Strong. Cohn, known for his role as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950s Senate investigations of suspected communists, is depicted as a mentor who shapes Trump’s ruthless approach to politics and business. The film suggests a Faustian bargain in which Trump, initially a naive real estate entrepreneur, is transformed under Cohn’s tutelage.

Controversial Scenes and Historical Allegations

One of the film’s most contentious scenes depicts Trump raping his then-wife, Ivana Trump, played by Maria Bakalova. This portrayal is based on Ivana Trump’s 1990 divorce deposition in which she accused Trump of rape, an allegation he denied. Ivana later clarified that she did not mean it literally but felt violated. This scene, among others, positions “The Apprentice” as a potentially explosive drama, particularly amidst the ongoing U.S. presidential election.

Abbasi’s Political Message

After the premiere, Abbasi addressed the audience at Cannes, emphasizing the importance of making politically relevant films in turbulent times. “There is no nice metaphorical way to deal with the rising wave of fascism,” Abbasi declared. He criticized the tendency to ignore escalating global conflicts, citing wars in Gaza, Ukraine, and Sudan as evidence of a worsening international situation.

“In the time of turmoil, there’s this tendency to look inwards, to bury your head deep in the sand, look inside and hope for the best — hope for the best, hope for the storm to get away,” Abbasi said. “But the storm is not going to get away. The storm is coming. The worst times are coming.”


“The Apprentice” has undoubtedly sparked a significant debate, blending historical events with dramatic interpretation. As the film awaits its release date while being marketed in Cannes, the potential legal battle and public discourse it has ignited underscore its impact. Ali Abbasi’s film serves as a bold statement on political cinema, challenging viewers to confront uncomfortable truths and historical narratives. Whether Trump will take up Abbasi’s offer for a private screening remains to be seen, but the controversy ensures that “The Apprentice” will remain in the spotlight.


Related Articles