Earlier this week, veteran documentarian Michael Moore delivered his own October Surprise. The Oscar-winning filmmaker and legendary muckraker suddenly unveiled the release of a previously unannounced project: Michael Moore in TrumpLand, a new film culled from two one-man shows the director performed earlier this month in the predominantly Republican town of Wilmington, Ohio. Shot, edited and released in less than two weeks, the movie largely avoids haranguing the Republican presidential nominee, with Moore devoting most of the film to Clinton's virtues alongside polemics about the decline of the "angry white male" and need for increased gun control regulations. (The film is currently playing in New York and Los Angeles and is available on iTunes.)
Despite polls predicting Clinton to win the presidency by a large margin, Moore is far from confident. "I live beyond the wall where the White Walkers are," he tells Rolling Stone. "I could just tell on the streets that there's no enthusiasm [for her] whatsoever." In his first interview since the release of TrumpLand, Moore explains why he doesn't trust any polls, why society should treat Trump like a pedophile and how this election is nothing short of a referendum on white privilege itself.
You released this film without any warning or announcement. How did the element of surprise play into your reasons for making the film?
It's better that I'm quiet when I'm working because there are many forces who are standing by to try and thwart my every move. [Laughs] I also just think it's better to work that way. I don't subscribe much to the machine even though I work within this industry. I don't set my clock by Access Hollywood. It seems better to just focus on my work and do the best job I can.
The other part of it is that I wasn't really going to do anything until after the Democratic convention and throughout August. As Hillary came off a great convention and Trump was imploding with one insane thing after another, I noticed supporters of Hillary Clinton doing an end-zone dance on the 50-yard line. We were two to three months away from the election and everyone's thinking, "We're safe now. It's over." Trump's done himself in and Hillary is doing great at the debates and everyone relaxes and starts to feel relief. I started to feel like those people were contributing to Trump's potential election. And this wasn't the time to relax. This was the time to double and triple up in terms of what needed to be done. I didn't see that happening.
You talk in the film about how the sentiment is more about voting against Trump than for Clinton. Is that why much of the movie focuses on your support for her versus dislike of Trump?
Yeah, a lot of it became a negative: "I need to stop Trump." That's a dangerous way to have your candidate win, when you're not asking people to vote for her because of her. They're expecting her to win because of people's fear of him. And one thing that I think we've learned in this post-9/11 world is that politicians manipulating the public with fear is never a good thing. Even if it's being done on our side, I don't think it's a good thing.
"You have to protect the population from [Trump] like you do with a pedophile."
Maybe people will come into the film expecting two hours of me trashing Trump. But ask yourself as a movie lover: Do you really want to hear Michael Moore rehash everything you already know about Trump? And there's nothing I could add to the cacophony that would make it any worse than attacking the parents of a soldier who died in Iraq.
Some of the early reviews, though, lament that that isn't the film you made. The reason so many people are interested in this election is the curiosity factor and Trump's unpredictable nature.
Absolutely. It's the reason these ratings have been so high with the debates; take Trump out of it and there would never be these ratings. They're not tuning in because of Hillary; they're tuning in to the shitshow. He has controlled this thing from beginning to end. That's why I took the more difficult path here. The easy path for Michael Moore would have been to do just more of the shitshow. The harder path was to not put a single picture of Donald Trump on the stage and spend virtually no time talking about him. I spend a lot of time talking about men who support Trump, but it's about Hillary – and the decision to make it about Hillary means I took a risk that there would be no interest in it. Hillary is not the shitshow that people want to watch. She's not the trainwreck that you can't take your eyes off of.
Did that play into titling the film Michael Moore in TrumpLand versus, say, Michael Moore Loves Hillary?
Yeah. But I did think about calling it My Forbidden Love for Hillary. If I was the average filmgoer, I would go, "That's interesting. That's something I don't know what the hell's going to happen in the next hour and a half. That's the kind of movie I want to go to. I don't want to go to the next fracking movie. I get it; I don't like it. Why would I spend another 90 minutes being told fracking is bad for us?"
You recorded the show two weeks ago before a series of women alleged Trump sexually assaulted them. Do you feel more confident about Hillary's chances now than you did then?
No. I'm more concerned. I think this is all about voter turnout and the more people feel relaxed and not as worried or not believing how important their vote is, because it looks like he's done. "He's cooked. Put a fork in him." That's going to decrease the number of people coming out to vote for her. There could be a rude wake-up call.
I saw what happened in the [Michigan Democratic] primary in March, where Hillary was ahead in every national poll by eight to 20 points ahead of Bernie [Sanders] in Michigan. How did she go from that to losing 12 hours later? I do not believe the polls. I don't think anyone should believe them. If you want to believe anything, because it's fairly close, it means it could go either way, even as of today. And I know people go, "How can that be? How can it be that close, considering there's a Putin-loving, female genitalia-grabbing sociopath on the ballot. How can it be even remotely close?" And I saw a poll last week where 17 percent of Hispanics said they were voting for Trump. And you go, [makes exasperated noise].
"I started to feel like everybody who was relaxing was contributing to Trump's potential election."
What did you think of the third debate?
He put out a not-so-subtle message to his rabid followers that they should consider inciting violence if he's not elected. And for years, they passed these incitement to riot laws mainly against blacks and unions. He was trying to incite a potential riot and I'm not opposed to the FBI stopping by Trump Tower to ask him a few questions, just to see where he's going with this. We live in a country that has 330 million guns in their homes. Now 50 percent of those guns are owned by just three percent of the population. But that's still nine million people that own 165 million guns.
The headline on every site the next day was Trump's "I will keep you in suspense" line when discussing a concession if he loses.
Yeah, it was the typical language of a bully. I'm going to keep you in a state of constant terror between now and November 8th. And you won't know exactly what I'm planning to do with my millions of rabid supporters. And remember, even if he loses, he will get 40 million votes.
Michael Moore claims that Donald Trump never wanted to be president. Watch here.
If Clinton does win, what do you think Trump's next move is either politically or otherwise after November 8th?
I don't know and I don't want to give him any advice. I hope he goes down. I want a 50-state sweep. I want both houses of Congress back in Democratic control and I want all the "nasty" women and men to show up November 8th. Now you see what he's done by his behavior. It's no longer just Donald J. Trump on the ballot. Misogyny is on the ballot. Racism is on the ballot. White privilege and elitism are on the ballot. It's not just about defeating Trump. First of all, be for Hillary. But secondly, we need to defeat not just Trump, but whatever it is he springs from; the dying dinosaurs that exist in this country who miss the old way where the white man was going to run the show. Last month, we just got the second year in a row where the majority of kindergarteners in school in this country were not white. So welcome to the new America.
It's a much broader referendum than just choosing a candidate.
Absolutely. I'm counting on my fellow Americans, the same ones who elected Barack Hussein Obama – twice – to come out and make a grand statement. This is way beyond what the nuance is of how you feel about Hillary. How much you like her, don't like her, don't trust her. Just stop it. You have two siblings; one is a little better than the other.
Regardless of the outcome, do you think Trump has set a new template for a certain type of politician or is he the anomaly candidate?
No. He's the end. He's the past. The past is going to come to an end. His days are over.
But his base is still tens of millions of people.
First of all, we don't even know if there's going to be a Republican party. Something good may come out of this. Obviously we need more than two parties to represent the broad spectrum of political thought in this country. Two parties can't do that. The Canadians know they need five, with just 34 million people. So we have to start to construct a better system that's more representative of the people and you will get more people involved in voting.
But it's not that he came in and destroyed the Republican party. He's the natural extension of everything that they have believed in for the last 30 years. And it's like the gene pool has got more and more depleted and you end up in a science fiction show like the one we're in with this creature. It's like somebody went to Dr. Frankenstein last year and said, "I need a candidate who is the embodiment of every awful male trait, every awful white man trait and every awful rich guy trait and roll that all into one candidate. In a way, it's a gift. It does become a referendum. He literally is a representative for each of these things that we've been seeing a gradual end to. The times have changed. The days of these dinosaurs are over. It's got to be hard on them. Nobody likes to give up power. We've been in charge for about 10,000 years, so it's a long run. We had a great streak.
One review of the film said you wanted to "convert the Trumpian masses" but it also showed your "religious conversion" to supporting Hillary. Is that accurate?
No. No. First of all, I make it very clear: I wrote a chapter in my very first book 20 years ago [1996's Downsize This!] called "My Forbidden Love for Hillary." There's nothing to come around on. I was for Hillary before Hillary was for Hillary. I didn't go to convert Trump people. I did not want the racists or the crazies in there or we would have never gotten the show done. But we went to union halls and guys that I grew up with – people who normally vote Democrat who are thinking of voting for Trump. That is a huge chunk of the population, especially where I'm from. So I wasn't there so much to convert them away. I don't think a lot of them necessarily decided for sure that they were going to vote for him. But I want them to think about the damage they could do by being a legal terrorist on November 8th.
"Misogyny is on the ballot. Racism is on the ballot. White privilege and elitism are on the ballot."
What do you mean by "legal terrorist"? Is that a catch-all for any Trump voter or are you referring to anyone in particular?
Any. Legally, you have a right to vote on November 8th. You can go in there and even though you're not necessarily in favor of Trump and you don't like him that much and you know he's a little crazy, you also know he's going to blow up the system. The system that took your job and house away from you. You get to get back at the system now and blow it up and this is the only day you can do it legally. He's told everybody that's what he's going to do. He's the outsider who is going to ride into town and blow up the old way. So you, as a voter, get to participate in the detonation. He's going to get a lot of votes from people who actually just want to sit back and watch the thing blow up.
You were adamant in your support for Bernie Sanders in the primaries. What's your message for former Sander supporters who are now deciding between Clinton and a third party candidate?
Come on. Come on. Let's... [long pause] We're not being asked to vote for Margaret Thatcher or Sandra Day O'Connor or Clarence Thomas. We're being asked to vote for Hillary Clinton and that's a good thing. Really. She's not any of those people. Do we have our problems? Yes. Do we have our disagreements with her? Yes. She is not exciting the base to get out and vote for her. So we, the Bernie revolution, have to help save her from herself. We know how to do this.
It's really what's best for the country at this point. We lost. We made a good run at it. We don't like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and how they tried to spike the election. But we won 22 states. That's almost half the states voted for a socialist. That is a historic moment and as more young people come of age, every poll shows that young adults 18 to 35 support socialism over capitalism. And it will only get better and they will remember us as the ones who almost made it happen. We almost got to see the billionaire versus the socialist in this campaign.
"I'm not opposed to the FBI stopping by Trump Tower to ask him a few questions."
What has been your personal experience with Trump? Have you ever crossed paths with him?
I was in a green room with him in 1998 when Roseanne Barr had a talk show [and had us as guests]. He came in and saw that I was on the show with him and freaked out. He went to the producers and said, "I can't go out there. He's just going to attack me." And the producer came over to me and said, "He's very nervous. Would you mind talking to him?" I went over, introduced myself and shook his hand; it was all clammy and wet. He goes, [imitates Trump] "There's no reason to go out there and mix it up." I said, "Look, Mr. Trump. I've only been here in New York a few years. I don't know you that well. I see your name on buildings. You're worried you're going to get the General Motors treatment here from me? I'm here to talk to Roseanne about my show The Awful Truth." I had to calm him down. "Don't worry. It's going to be OK. We're going to go out and have fun." And we went out on the couch and we had fun and nothing happened.
This may be your toughest question: Can you say something nice about Trump?
[Laughs] Oh, my God. Um. I think I would thank him for restoring the ice rink in Central Park. It was a wonderful gesture on his part and he paid for it [himself]. I have a belief that people are good at their core and sometimes they forget their core. Sometimes it gets covered up. They lose their way. I've lived in New York for many years and I've seen what he's done. I remembered being at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser that he supported or was co-host. He invited the Clintons to his wedding and not the Bushes.
But he's not well. I would not want to pick on him anymore. We need to stop him. You can't have a sociopath in the White House and some will disagree with me and say, "No, Mike, you're wrong. He is a psychopath." I'm not educated enough to know the difference. But he's not a well person and he needs help. And once you realize that he has a mental illness, at that point, if you're a human being with a soul and a conscience, you want him to get help.
At the same time, you have to protect the population from him like you do with a pedophile. A pedophile doesn't need to be in prison; they're sick. They have to be separated from us so they don't hurt children. But you have to treat it that way.