Donald Trump Tries To Halt ‘The Apprentice’ Hitting The Big Screen With Cease & Desist Demand; “Fair & Balanced” Producers Say Of Film

Donald Trump Tries To Halt ‘The Apprentice’ Hitting The Big Screen With Cease & Desist Demand; “Fair & Balanced” Producers Say Of Film

Donald Trump‘s campaign said earlier this week they would take legal action against the filmmakers behind Cannes hit The Apprentice, and now the former Celebrity Apprentice host’s team has made their first jab.

As the Ali Abbasi-directed film seeks a distribution deal to get on U.S. screens, lawyers for the former president have sent an adjective filled cease and desist letter to the producers to stop The Apprentice being seen by anyone Stateside.

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“The Movie presents itself as a factual biography of Mr. Trump, yet nothing could be further from the truth,” the May 22 letter to Abbasi and screenwriter Gabriel Sherman (who at one point is accused of making “racist, Marxist, and otherwise disparaging statements against President Trump in 2018”) states.

“It is a concoction of lies that repeatedly defames President Trump and constitutes direct foreign interference in America’s elections,” the three-page correspondence adds. “If you do not immediately cease and desist all distribution and marketing of this libelous farce, we will be forced to pursue all appropriate legal remedies.”

“You have until May 27, 2024, to respond with your agreement to immediately comply with this demand,” the letter from Alexandra, VA’s Dhillon Law Group concludes. “President Trump reserves all rights.”

“The film is a fair and balanced portrait of the former president,” the producers said today in response to the letter, and with a nod to Fox News’ old motto. “We want everyone to see it and then decide.”

News of the cease and desist letter was first reported by Variety.

Longtime Trump followers can tell you that while the much indicted past and current candidate often threatens lawsuits against critics and rivals, he rarely follows up. That might be different this time with the Sebastian Stan, Maria Bakalova, and Succession vet Jeremy Strong starring flick of the Art of the Deal author’s rise in the 1970s and 1980s under the tutorage of the ruthless Roy Cohn.

Having said that, a cease and desist letter is not much more than a warning shot across the bow of any potential defendant, and means little without an actual court filing.

A fact that Abbasi himself noted at a May 21 press conference the day after The Apprentice‘s debut. “Everybody talks about him suing a lot of people, they don’t talk about his success rate [with those lawsuits],” the filmmaker told assembled media.

Featuring a number of sordid situations from Trump’s time in the New York real estate arena, including a much reported sexual assault of his then wife Ivana (played by Borat alum Bakalova), the Sherman-penned The Apprentice received an 11-minute standing ovation after its premiere. Outside the cinema, the film has been generally praised by critics.

Still, there was a level of anxiety from filmmakers before the festival about potential legal issues but hope and expectation among industry that a US deal for the film might get done in the days after it’s screening.

We know there was domestic interest in the film but noises have gone quiet on that front in a sign that buyers may have been given pause by the legal saber rattling from Trump and former NFL team owner Dan Snyder, who put money into The Apprentice via production company Kinetics. A streamer home has been touted by many as a potential domestic destination for the film. A buyer will be wondering whether all publicity is good publicity, especially in an election year? Or is this subject and the threat of litigation just too hot to handle?

The longer the wait goes on for a buyer, the latter could increasingly be the prevailing sentiment among industry watchers.

The project was shrouded in mystery for years in the lead up to its launch in Cannes and filmmakers strove to keep a lid on press from announcing cast or deals as they sought to get the film made without drawing attention to it, likely due to its combustible subject matter’

Coming off a rambling and mildly combustible rally in the Bronx yesterday, (where once again the attendance was exaggerated) Trump himself is going back to court in Manhattan to hear closing arguments in his hush money criminal trial. The matter and Trump’s fate heads to the jury after the lawyers get their say.

Anthony D’Alessandro contributed to this report.