Trump Biopic ‘The Apprentice’ Leaves Cannes Empty-Handed: No Distribution, No Prizes

Gabriel Sherman, Maria Bakalova, Ali Abbasi, and Sebastian Stan at the premiere for "The A
Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images

The Apprentice left the Cannes Film Festival empty-handed, with no announcement of a U.S. distribution deal following former President Donald Trump’s threat of a lawsuit and cease-and-desist demand against the filmmakers.

In addition, the movie failed to win any prizes at Saturday’s closing ceremony, despite some movie pundits predicting that actor Sebastian Stan would be rewarded for his portrayal of Trump.

While a buyer could materialize in the weeks ahead, the road to U.S. distribution looks uncertain as streamers and specialty theatrical labels would have to weigh the possibility of a messy and protracted legal fight. Box-office prospects also appear dim, as audiences have largely shunned political and other big-issue movies in recent years.

The Apprentice garnered an enormous amount of media attention at this year’s Cannes, particularly for its scene depicting Trump raping his first wife, Ivana. The movie also shows Trump undergoing plastic surgery and liposuction.

Ivana Trump herself has denied that her then-husband ever raped her.

Following the Cannes premiere, Trump’s campaign threatened to sue the filmmakers.

“We will be filing a lawsuit to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers,” the Trump campaign’s chief spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement. “This garbage is pure fiction which sensationalizes lies that have been long debunked.”

He also called the film “malicious defamation.”

Lawyers for Trump also sent a cease-and-desist letter to The Apprentice director Ali Abassi and screenwriter Gabriel Sherman (pictured: far left), warning them against pursuing a distribution deal.

“It is a concoction of lies that repeatedly defames President Trump and constitutes direct foreign interference in America’s elections,” the letter stated. “If you do not immediately cease and desist all distribution and marketing of this libelous farce, we will be forced to pursue all appropriate legal remedies.”

The Apprentice was independently financed and produced outside the Hollywood studio system — mostly through overseas companies as well as some domestic investors.

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