Donald Trump is too bizarre for Hollywood but fit for Bollywood’s glitz
Maybe Trump is just too bizarre for an industry that, outside epic fantasies and superhero reboots, tries to keep it somewhat real. That makes his outsize odiousness difficult to portray, without offending a bunch of people across aislescolumns Updated: Sep 15, 2017 18:35 IST
Hollywood is certainly obsessed with the American president. You can rarely go through a week without denizens of La La Land voicing their views on Donald Trump, often with expletives undeleted. Given that Trump has been in the political picture for over two years now, and his outré utterances have been evident during that period, you may have thought he would have become the subject of a film, perhaps several, fitting neatly into the horror genre.
Not really. The industry doesn’t appear to have wrapped its exploding heads around the reality of The Donald occupying the Oval Office. At the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF, with nearly 350 films on the slate, just one appeared to point to the T word in its descriptor: That weirdly enough happens to be Miracle, from Lithuania, about an American who travels to that Eastern European nation and promises to make a struggling pig farm great again.
Not that Trump was far from the conversation as the festival progressed. As George Clooney’s latest production, Suburbicon, had its world premiere at TIFF and he appeared at a press conference, a protestor stood outside, holding up a sign about “hypocritical Hollywood heathens” and proclaiming “Clooney is Looney”. Inside, Clooney was speaking about Trump scapegoating Mexicans and the film’s star Matt Damon expressing concern over this presidency having unleashed racist elements in America. Since Trump occupies so much headspace there, it’s surprising he hasn’t made it to a screenplay, yet. Trump isn’t a stranger to showbiz. Late night television, particularly Saturday Night Live, has created a cottage industry out of spoofing him. But Hollywood is mucking about the margins without having made much of the man.
One reason is that there’s still a state of denial, even though Hillary Clinton is desperately trying to explain What Happened. Or, Hollywood is just trying to survive the turmoil, even within the box office, the worst in a decade. Or, maybe Trump is just too bizarre for an industry that, outside epic fantasies and superhero reboots, tries to keep it somewhat real.
That makes his outsize odiousness difficult to portray, without offending a bunch of people across aisles. But his personality seems a better fit for Bollywood — extravagant, exaggerated, and extreme. There’s also gilt by association: You can almost imagine a Mumbai production with all that glitter than Trump gilds his garish surroundings with. Not that this will be particularly path breaking. After all, the first depiction of Barack Obama as the American president may well have been in Karan Johar’s My Name Is Khan in 2009. That appearance seemed about as authentic as the histrionic talents of its star Shah Rukh Khan.
So, even as Hollywood rails against Trump and prays for a big hit, its juiciest prospect is thumbing his nose at them, while he scripts, directs and stars in his own production: The White House drama that never ends.
Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs
The views expressed are personal