Starting with Florida and twisting its way through the war in Iraq, Michael Moore’s new movie, ”Fahrenheit 9/11,” by turns humiliates, condemns, and brutally diminishes the President and his inner circle. Other than Miramax’s Harvey and Bob Weinstein — who bought back ”Fahrenheit” when Disney dumped it and are presumably busy rolling naked in money at the moment — no one knows what to make of the phenomenon surrounding the movie, which soared to the top spot at the box office with $24 million and broke all kinds of records. Right-wing advocacy groups are trying to use federal campaign finance laws to force the ads for ”Fahrenheit” off the air and out of print after July 30. Liberal organizations are marshaling supporters to go see the movie. Conservative critics are howling about errors and malicious omissions. Nobody is sure if it will make a difference in the election — but with the race so close, the number of undecided voters so small, and the bases of the Republican and Democratic parties so rabid, it doesn’t seem impossible.
Ever the giddy bomb thrower, Moore, 50, sat down with EW for his most candid and extensive discussion yet of ”Fahrenheit” and its controversies.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You had to be really disappointed by the opening-weekend gross, right? You almost got beat by ”White Chicks.”
MICHAEL MOORE: [Laughs] I was thinking 10 million. Twelve, maybe. It’s like if this week the No. 1 album on the Billboard chart was a compilation of Bulgarian folk music. That can’t happen! The pundits were saying that only the Bush haters would see this film, and it’s No. 1 everywhere. The red states and the blue states.
Was it your intention to take down Bush?
My intention was to make as good a film as I could make.
But this movie is an explicit political attack.
If you start out with that as your primary motivation you’re doomed. Case in point: ”The Day After Tomorrow.” Well-intentioned. Good politics. I saw it at 10 p.m. opening night and there was so much laughter that people started chanting ”RE-FUND! RE-FUND! RE-FUND!” ”China Syndrome” is the opposite. Well-made movie first, and then people were willing to open up and listen to the politics.