- Getty; RKO Pictures
As the campaign of Donald Trump for US president has evolved from something pundits chuckled about to soberingly serious, many can’t help but compare the Trump phenomenon to movies that seem to mirror it.
Trump’s brash and bullying tone has been compared to Biff Tannen in the “Back to the Future” franchise (Hillary Clinton’s campaign even included the character in an ad on Trump). Then there are his explosive rally speeches that echo how the Andy Griffith character Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes is seen in Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd.”
But the one character that Trump gets compared to the most is Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles’ legendary movie “Citizen Kane,” frequently hailed as the greatest American movie ever. Loosely based on the life and career of William Randolph Hearst, it follows a wealthy ego-driven businessman (played by Welles) who attempts to enter politics.
- Warner Bros screengrab
If you ever wondered what Trump thought of Kane, filmmaker Errol Morris (“The Thin Blue Line,” “The Fog of War”) back in the early 2000s interviewed him about it for an aborted project titled “The Movie Movie.”
In it, Trump, rather calmly and insightfully, discusses what he thinks the themes of the movie are:
“You learn in ‘Kane’ maybe wealth isn’t everything, because he had the wealth but he didn’t have the happiness,” Trump said. “In real life I believe that wealth does in fact isolate you from other people. It’s a protective mechanism – you have your guard up much more so [than] if you didn’t have wealth.”
Specifically, Trump discusses a scene in “Kane” when the camera pulls back to reveal a long table with Kane on one end and his wife at the other. Trump sees that as Welles showing Kane growing further apart from her as he gained his wealth.
“Perhaps I can understand that,” Trump said.
And when Morris, from behind the camera, asks Trump the one piece of advice he would have given Kane, the businessman responds, “Get yourself a different woman.”
But Morris didn’t want to just interview Trump about “Citizen Kane” – he wanted the real-estate mogul to play Kane.
According to Morris’ website, in “The Movie Movie” the director was going to film Trump (and other notable people at the time, like Mikhail Gorbachev) in movies they admire. Here’s a sample of the aborted script:
A vast, labrynthine warehouse filled with floor to ceiling shelving as far as the eye can see. An aging ARCHIVIST (in his early nineties) is standing on a tall library ladder, reaching up to a high shelf, twenty, maybe even thirty feet up.
The shelves are filled with rusting film cans. (Could they be filled with silver-nitrate prints ready to burst into flames?) The archivist shifts one can on top of another, making his way into the middle of a pile.
His rheumy eyes searching. He blows dust off a label. And then the Eureka moment. He’s found something.
He’s found it.
With the can in hand he makes his way slowly through the vault. He puts the reel on an aging Movieola and on the screen a scene from Citizen Kane flickers into view. It is one of the lost scenes from Citizen Kane, one of the scenes that has Donald Trump in it…
INT. SAN SIMEON – DAY
THE DONALD, a man in his early fifties with a spectacular hair-do, is reading a newspaper at breakfast…