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Entertainment & Arts

The Sunday Conversation: Michael Moore

Oscar-winning documentary maker Michael Moore, 57, explores his early years as a provocateur-in-training in his new autobiography, “Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life.”

The book is mostly about your early life and it ends at the beginning of your filmmaking career, which is how most people know you. Why is that?

That will come in a future volume, the things I’ve experienced in Hollywood, the films and all of that. But I wanted to write a book of short stories that were just good reading, and I thought I’ve never seen a book of nonfiction short stories. So I wrote this as a book of nonfiction short stories, and they’re based on events in my early life, before I made my first film.

But your first chapter is about the fallout from your Oscar night speech, when you won for “Bowling for Columbine.”

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I wanted to start with where people are at with me, what they think they know about me, but tell them the real story of what happened after the Oscar speech and “Fahrenheit 9/11" came out. So you know that all the stories in this book and all the short stories in the next book are all going to lead to that point.

What misconception do people have about you that you’re trying to correct?

I don’t think there’s a misconception. I think that there has been a fictional character created by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and that character is using my name, Michael Moore. And they have created an individual who hates America, who does dastardly things and maybe should be deported, if not outright eliminated.

Do you mean that literally?

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Yes, they have actually called for that — both Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly have made comments on the air about their wish for my execution. [O’Reilly has said he was joking.] How do I counter the big lie about me that they’ve created for their audience? Where I live in Michigan, I live in a county that’s majority Republican, and they vote for Republicans — they voted both times for [George W.] Bush. The local businessmen and -women gave me, for lack of a better term, their businessman of the year award because of the economic development things I’ve done to help out the town that I live in. So not a day goes by in the town where I live where a Republican doesn’t stop and shake my hand or thank me. Because they know the real person. And they stopped listening to the fictional creation presented by Fox News.

Were you physically threatened?

I wasn’t threatened; I was physically assaulted. There were numerous attempts on almost a daily basis of people wanting to punch me. One man threw hot coffee at me. Another guy came at me with a club. This went on and on and on after the Oscar speech and after “Fahrenheit 9/11.” And then it culminated in a man from the Midwest buying the bomb materials to blow up my house. And while he was putting his ammunition and things together, something went off in his apartment and the police were called and they found his plan to blow up my house.

Have things calmed down since then?

Yes, because back then, I was part of the 20% that was opposed to the war, so I was out on a limb. And the country changed. The country adopted my position on the war, on Bush, and the country has become more liberal in recent years, and so it’s safer for me.

Do you think it’s heading back in the opposite direction now with the “tea party”?

No. It looks like that, but I think what’s really happening is that people are so fed up with politicians that they’re just voting people out of office, regardless of what party they belong to.

You wrote a lot about your Catholic upbringing. How did that influence your world view?

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It influenced it greatly. I was taught by the nuns in my school that we will be judged by how we treat the least among us, that you cannot get into heaven without a permission slip from the poor.

What’s going on with your lawsuit against Bob and Harvey Weinstein? What prompted that, and where does it stand?

It’s going to trial after the first of the year. What prompted it is an independent auditor found about $3 million that was owed to my production company from their studio [stemming from “Fahrenheit 9/11"], and they did not pay us the money.

My personal feeling is that Bob and Harvey Weinstein are a force for good. I’ve had a great relationship with them for over 20 years, and I think there were accounting snafus that they probably weren’t even aware of. We’re in discovery right now, and once they see the facts, I know that they’ll do the right thing.

So, what’s coming up next for you?

I don’t talk about my next movie while I’m making it, for all the obvious reasons. And I have a non-movie project that I will be doing next year in New York City, which I’ll be announcing sometime later this fall.

calendar@latimes.com


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