The Apprentice, about a young Donald Trump, premieres in Cannes

While Donald Trump’s hush money trial entered its sixth week in New York, an origin story for the Republican presidential candidate premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday, unveiling a scathing portrait of the former president in the 1980s.

The Apprentice, directed by the Iranian-Danish filmmaker Ali Abbasi, stars Sebastian Stan as Mr Trump.

The central relationship of the movie is between Mr Trump and Roy Cohn (Jeremy Strong), the defence attorney who was chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s Senate investigations.

Mr Cohn is depicted as a long-time mentor to Mr Trump, coaching him in the ruthlessness of New York City politics and business.

Early on, Mr Cohn aided the Trump Organisation when it was being sued by the federal government for racial discrimination in housing.

The Apprentice, which is labelled as inspired by true events, portrays Mr Trump’s dealings with Mr Cohn as a Faustian bargain that guided his rise as a businessman and, later, as a politician.

Stan’s portrayal of Mr Trump is initially a more naive real-estate striver, soon transformed by Mr Cohn’s education.

The film notably contains a scene depicting Mr Trump “raping” his wife, Ivana Trump (played by Maria Bakalova).

In Ivana Trump’s 1990 divorce deposition, she stated that Mr Trump raped her. Mr Trump denied the allegation and Ivana Trump later said she did not mean it literally, but rather that she had felt violated.

That scene and others make The Apprentice a potentially explosive big-screen drama in the midst of the US presidential election. The film is for sale in Cannes, so it does not yet have a release date.

Variety on Monday reported alleged behind-the-scenes drama surrounding The Apprentice. Citing anonymous sources, the trade publication reported that billionaire Dan Snyder, the former owner of the Washington Commanders and an investor in The Apprentice, has pressured the filmmakers to edit the film over its portrayal of Mr Trump.

Mr Snyder previously donated to Mr Trump’s presidential campaign.

Neither representatives for the film nor Mr Snyder could immediately be reached for comment.

In the press notes for the film, Abbasi, whose previous film “Holy Spider” depicts a female journalist investigating a serial killer in Iran, said he didn’t set out to make “a History Channel episode.”

“This is not a biopic of Donald Trump,” said Abbasi. “We’re not interested in every detail of his life going from A to Z. We’re interested in telling a very specific story through his relationship with Roy and Roy’s relationship with him.”

Regardless of its political impact, The Apprentice is likely to be much discussed as a potential awards contender.

The film, shot in a gritty 80s aesthetic, returns Strong to a New York landscape of money and power a year following the conclusion of HBO’s Succession.

Strong, who’s currently performing on Broadway in An Enemy Of The People, did not attend the Cannes premiere on Monday.

The Apprentice is playing in competition in Cannes, making it eligible for the festival’s top award, the Palme d’Or.

At Cannes, filmmakers and casts hold press conferences the day after a movie’s premiere. The Apprentice press conference will be Tuesday.


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