Funny or Die ‘Donald Trump’ filmmakers talk about making the viral parody with Johnny Depp
If you think you’ve been exposed to a lot of Donald Trump lately, try being Joe Randazzo.
Randazzo, the former editor of the Onion, spent months last year immersed in the collected clips and writings of the GOP front-runner, turning his research into a 1980s-set parody script for the website Funny or Die.
“I was ready,” he recalled dryly, “to jump off a bridge.”
That work paid dividends for the rest of us, however. Americans went to bed Tuesday night after watching cable-news coverage of Trump’s win at the New Hampshire primary. They awakened Wednesday morning to a different kind of entertainment.
Funny or Die offered what one might call a February surprise, dropping the parody film “Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie,” with Johnny Depp as the titular hero, on an unsuspecting Web public. The release quickly prompted a viral frenzy on social media, though no response — yet — from one @realdonaldtrump.
“A lot of what we put in a few months ago, we were shaking heads thinking Donald Trump wouldn’t actually say something like this,” said Jeremy Konner, the creator of the popular series “Drunk History” who directed the Trump film. “And since then he’s said all these things out loud.”
“Art of the Deal” is structured around the fake principles from Trump’s eponymous 1987 bestseller — “The art of buying a hotel from the Hilton family,” “The art of marrying a gorgeous immigrant” — and follows the tycoon as he narrates a number of actual anecdotes from the book to a young boy.
Trump is seeking to buy the Taj Mahal casino from Merv Griffin (Patton Oswalt), which gives him a chance to walk through various moments of his life, both the real (his lawsuit against the NFL or the purchase of air rights in midtown Manhattan) and the fictional. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall — I can build you a much nicer one,” as one phone-call quip has it.
For weeks, President Obama kept quiet as the Donald helped fuel “birther” conspiracy theories.
“He doesn’t have a birth certificate,” Trump told “Good Morning America” in spring 2011. “He may have one, but there is something on that birth certificate -- maybe religion, maybe it says he’s a Muslim, I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or, he may not have one.” Trump also told a tea party rally that Obama “almost certainly will go down as the worst president in the history of the United States.”
But Obama seemed to get the last laugh when, right after releasing his long-form birth certificate, he lampooned Trump at the White House correspondents’ dinner. “Now he can get to focusing on the issues that matter,” the president said. “Like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened at Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?” Zing!
But that didn’t quiet Trump. The Donald fired back during Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign with a “big announcement” goading Obama to release his college transcripts the October before the election so that he would donate $5 million to charity. Turns out the offer was one the president could easily refuse.
OK, so it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “Hello, Newman,” the greeting the fictional
Yet should one cross Trump, don’t expect a shrug and a handshake. Instead, Seinfeld received a rant after the comedian backed out of a charity benefit hosted by one of Trump’s sons, supposedly because of the birther issue. Seinfeld’s camp has been relatively quiet, but Trump was quoted as taking a swing at Seinfeld’s TV credits.
No, not the beloved “Seinfeld,” but instead the unscripted show
They exchanged barbed words in November 2010 over the project with Trump saying, “I like the developer, but it’s always very tough to make something successful at the high-end level with a public school in the building.” Gehry said that Trump was just holding a grudge ever since he turned down working on one of his projects, adding, “I don’t like his hairdo anyway.”
Touché, Frank. Touché. (Getty Images)
The pop star supposedly backed out of a Trump event due to a lingering battle with bronchitis. Yet the next day Rihanna performed in Los Angeles at the NBA All-Star Game. Trump wasn’t too hard on Rihanna, but he was quoted in the Palm Beach Post: “I thought [the cancellation] was insulting to everyone. But for Rihanna to go to the All-Star Game and perform after she told us she was sick, that is just a lack of respect.” (Getty Images)
It may have started when
“I’ll NEVER GO TO MACY’S AGAIN!” Cher tweeted. “I didn’t know they sold Donald Trump’s Line! If they don’t care that they sell products from a LOUDMOUTH.”
But Trump didn’t take the tirade sitting down, firing back about the singer’s surgical procedures.
“Cher-- I don’t wear a ‘rug'--it’s mine. And I promise not to talk about your massive plastic surgeries that didn’t work.” (Getty Images / Los Angeles Times)
Trump peppers his speech with trademark superlatives like “sensational” and his end-of-sentence uptalked “OK?” He also is often articulating his beliefs. “Everyone, no matter their race, age, creed color [has the right to] be priced out of their own neighborhood.”
At various points, the mogul, as director, also relieves several kids of their Fred Savage-esque listening duties when he realizes they come from minority backgrounds. He eventually settles on Jacob Tremblay, who listens gamely, not commenting on whether the experience of being trapped in a room with Trump is better or worse than his other recent appearance of on-screen claustrophobia.
Eighties touches abound, from the keyboards-heavy sounds design to an Alf cameo to a “Dynasty"-inspired montage. But though it’s set in the Reagan era, filmmakers manage to get in a potential Trump presidency, via an ‘80s-flavored time-travel device. (Upon being given the nuclear codes: “You can demolish a lot of buildings with that”). Also, Carmen Electra is apparently a key Cabinet member.
“We kept having to go back and revise because Trump just kept saying crazier stuff,” Randazzo said.
Indeed, when the movie was shot in the fall, no one working on the production had any idea how much further Trump’s campaign could go. It’s obviously still going strong, which was good for the film, but led to a problem: Truth was becoming more satiric than fiction.
“When we set out to make this film, this seemed like a much more scathing attack,” said Konner.
What has come out of [Trump’s] mouth since [inception of this film] is a thousand times more insane than anything we might have fictionalized.
Director Jeremy Konner
Randazzo said he saw the antecedents of many of Trump’s current postures by delving into the book--"the seedlings,” he calls it, of what he believes is the candidate’s way of highlighting triumphs and spinning losses.
The larger for a Trump parody was conceived by Funny or Die editor in chief Owen Burke, one of the film’s executive producers. The site was founded by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Judd Apatow, with McKay himself in a humor-activist realm at the moment with his Wall Street black comedy “The Big Short” nominated for Oscar’s best picture.
Still, he and Konner say they have only modest hopes, if that, for how much they can affect the race.
“I don’t think we can really sway anyone — the people that love him won’t have their minds changed by something like this, and the people that hate him already hate him,” said Randazzo.
Which raises another question: Given Trumps’ continuing ascent in pursuit of that office, might there be a possibility of a sequel?
“I don’t think any of us want to put ourselves through this again,” Randazzo said.
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