Controversy Surrounding ‘The Apprentice’ Movie: A Deep Dive into the Drama

The Cannes Film Festival recently witnessed the world premiere of The Apprentice, a biopic about Donald Trump’s early career, directed by Iranian-Danish filmmaker Ali Abbasi. The film, starring Sebastian Stan as Trump, has sparked significant controversy, both for its portrayal of the former president and for the behind-the-scenes drama involving its financiers and filmmakers. The movie, which covers Trump’s rise in the New York real estate business during the 1970s and ’80s, has been met with mixed reviews and legal threats from Trump’s campaign team. Here’s a comprehensive look at the various aspects of this contentious film.

The Cast and Characters

Sebastian Stan takes on the role of Donald J. Trump, capturing his early years in the real estate business. Known for his roles in I, Tonya and Pam & Tommy, Stan admitted to Vanity Fair that portraying Trump was a challenging task. He immersed himself in extensive research to get into character.

Jeremy Strong, famous for his role in Succession, plays Roy Cohn, Trump’s notorious attorney and mentor. Cohn, who was a key figure in Trump’s early career, is depicted as a significant influence on the young businessman.

Maria Bakalova, known for her breakout role in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, portrays Ivana Trump, Trump’s first wife. Ivana was a crucial player in the Trump Organization and the mother of Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump.

Behind-the-Scenes Controversy

The production of The Apprentice has been fraught with conflict. Dan Snyder, a financier and former owner of the Washington Commanders, invested in the film through Kinematics, expecting a positive portrayal of Trump. However, Snyder was reportedly displeased with the film’s critical framing and attempted to exert creative control. This led to legal battles and attempts to block the film’s release.

Kinematics president Emanuel Nuñez stated that all creative and business decisions were made solely by Kinematics, without outside influence. Despite this, the tension between the financiers and filmmakers has added another layer of drama to the film’s release.

Controversial Scenes

The film has not only stirred controversy behind the scenes but also on-screen. One of the most talked-about scenes involves a depiction of Trump sexually assaulting Ivana Trump. This scene, among others, has been labeled as “gross” and “disturbing” by viewers. Other controversial moments include Trump receiving liposuction, consuming amphetamine pills, and undergoing surgery to address his baldness.

Legal Threats and Reactions

Following its premiere, the Trump campaign announced plans to file a lawsuit against the filmmakers, calling the movie “pure fiction” and “malicious defamation.” Director Ali Abbasi, however, appeared unconcerned, offering to arrange a private screening for Trump to discuss the film’s context.

Critical Reception

The film received a nearly eight-minute standing ovation at Cannes, but reviews have been mixed. Some critics praised Sebastian Stan’s performance, while others found the film lacking emotional fluidity. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich described it as an “I’ve created a monster” drama, awarding it a C grade. New York Magazine’s Bilge Ebiri criticized the film for feeling like a “choppy dress-up picture,” while The Playlist’s Rafa Sales Ross gave it a more favorable B+ rating.

Release Date and Distribution

As of now, The Apprentice has not secured an American distributor, and its release date remains uncertain. However, the film has garnered significant attention from potential distributors, and it may be released before the presidential election on November 5.


The Apprentice has undoubtedly become one of the most talked-about films of the year, not just for its subject matter but also for the controversies it has ignited. Whether it will find a distributor and reach a wider audience remains to be seen, but it has already made a significant impact at Cannes and in the media.

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