Michael Moore is a dangerous man. You wouldn’t know it to look at him — sprawled sockless, scruffy, and wearing a ”Made in Canada” cap on a couch in his Manhattan offices — but he is very, very dangerous. Because Michael Moore is a man who is trying to unseat a President.
Starting with Florida and twisting its way through the war in Iraq, Moore’s new movie, ”Fahrenheit 9/11,” by turns humiliates, condemns, and brutally diminishes the President and his inner circle. It’s a polemic that fails to mention the name John Kerry once but leaves no doubt as to whom the director thinks should be our next leader.
The politics of ”Fahrenheit” are no shock to anyone who has read Moore’s best-selling books, watched his documentaries, or sat down with a DVD of his TV shows. The surprise was that ”Fahrenheit” won the Palme d’Or in Cannes. That it survived a bruising fight between Disney and Miramax. And most of all, that it soared to the top spot at the box office with $24 million and broke all kinds of records. By June 28, ”Fahrenheit” was the highest-grossing non-concert, non-IMAX documentary of all time (besting Moore’s last movie, the Oscar-winning ”Bowling for Columbine”) and the only one ever to win a box office weekend.
Other than 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. 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.
EW You had to be really disappointed by the opening-weekend gross, right? You almost got beat by ”White Chicks.”
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.
EW Let’s go back a year. Tell me about the reaction right after you gave your infamous Oscar speech when ”Bowling for Columbine” won, when you were booed for calling Bush a ”fictitious President.”
MOORE From the second I walked off the stage, I felt alone. People backed away from me as I walked through the wings. The only two things that were said to me were the things that every Oscar winner hears when you first walk off the stage. There are two interns standing in the wings in evening gowns and one goes, Champagne? And the other one goes, Breath mint?