It used to be that you could make fun of Donald Trump willy-nilly without much fear. He was just a goofy-haired businessman with a reality TV show and a knack for self-aggrandizement.
Now that Trump is one of two people with a substantial chance at becoming America’s next president, it’s much riskier to, say, make a joke in your movie about him accidentally contracting AIDS, as Sasha Baron Cohen has done in the upcoming The Brothers Grimsby.
According to the Huffington Post, Sony, the studio that produced the film, is actually shying away from promoting it ahead of its March 11 release for fear of drawing the ire of Trump and alienating his supporters.
Back at Sony’s Hollywood headquarters, however, there has been much less enthusiasm about the scene in question. Three industry sources said that Sony had made its displeasure clear and pushed to remove the scene, but that Baron Cohen, in a rare deal for a producer-actor, has final authority over the film.
Studio executives are nervous about angering the famously vengeful and litigious Trump, compounded by the possibility of getting on the wrong side of the possible next president. Still traumatized by its run-in with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in 2014, Sony decided its best option was to limit the damage. The film now includes a disclaimer indicating that Trump did not, in fact, participate in making the movie. “If you were told that they’re shying away from the movie because of the political implications, I can tell you that’s 100 percent true,” said a well-placed source.
Sony got in enough trouble making fun of the leader of North Korea in The Interview that they’re perhaps understandably hesitant about pissing off a guy who not only could sue them but also could be running their country a year from now.
Maybe the most entertaining part of this thoroughly ridiculous story is the reaction the film is reportedly getting in Europe, where Trump is seen as a horrifying stand-in for all that is wrong with America. Via the Huffington Post:
At the film’s world premiere in London last week, the Daily Telegraph reported that the Trump moment was met with “loud cheering.” The Metro newspaper called it a “massive cheer.” A viewer at a different screening tweeted, “Went to watch Grimsby and the whole cinema clapped when Donald Trump got given AIDS in it.”
Elsewhere in Europe, there were standing ovations. The joke, done in Baron Cohen’s standard over-the-top style, is proving cathartic to overseas audiences terrified by Trump’s rise.
Mocking Trump isn’t new for Cohen who has targeted the presidential candidate on recent late night show appearances and infamously duped him into an interview where Cohen’s Ali G character pitched Trump on investing in his ice cream glove product idea. To Trump’s credit, he’s one of a few people who left an interview with Cohen realizing something was awry.
Even though Sony won’t actively market the film in America, they’ll get all kinds of promotional mileage out of any public feud with Trump. The media will give the movie so much attention it won’t even need to pay for advertising… hey, sort of like Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
[photo: Ben Skipper]