From a gritty mob movie to a dystopian sci-fi, there are plenty of directions that Hollywood could take a film about the US president’s life.
As the much-troubled presidency of Donald J Trump groans on, thoughts are turning to what happens next. How long will he remain in power? Who will succeed him? And what kind of lasting legacy will the orange one leave for America and the wider world?
In some ways these questions feel perfectly legitimate, given that Trump is being investigated for possible corruption and collusion with Russia, and when talk of impeachment is never far away. At other times, though, it seems foolish to future-gaze when Trump has brazenly shrugged off every scandal so far, and when he could realistically still win a second term despite all the unhinged tweeting, recriminations and general chaos.
Rather than speculate about Trump’s fate therefore, I thought it would be more interesting to consider possible representations of his life when the inevitable Trump movie is made. The incumbent president is associated with many different extremes of behaviour, which means there are many different ways that Hollywood could handle the source material. Here we look at some of the possible genres that could comfortably do the Trump story justice.
The mafia movie
Trump doesn’t have the cool temperament of Don Corleone from The Godfather, but there are plenty of parallels between the way he runs the White House and the way Marlon Brando’s Vito runs his crime family in the seminal movie.
It’s a family affair in Trump’s administration too, with daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner accessing the highest levels of political power despite their lack of relevant qualifications. With family and cronies holding key roles in his inner circle, Trump is prone to firing pretty much everyone else and only retains and promotes people that offer complete loyalty.
Sacked FBI director James Comey likens Trump to a mafia boss in his new book A Higher Loyalty, in which he recalls the president’s demand for absolute service to his cause. That’s not to mention of course the many ties Trump already has to figures from the mob underworld.
His former lawyer Roy Cohn represented and advised mafia bosses, while Trump is on record as having hosted convicted felon and reported mob affiliate Joey ‘No Socks’ Cinque at his Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve party in 2016.
There’s clearly plenty of fodder to work with for a mafia genre movie. If nothing else, Trump wears a long coat like a surly kingpin.
A rich man pays a prostitute to be his live-in partner for a week, and they fall in love. A different rich man pays some prostitutes to urinate on a bed in a Moscow hotel room, only for it to be recorded by an ex-spy. One is the plot to Pretty Woman; the other is an allegation about Trump from a leaked intelligence dossier, which the president has denied.
It probably doesn’t have the makings of a classic rom-com, but then who would’ve thought the rather questionable story arc in Pretty Woman would make for such a hit?
For other source material, consider Trump’s alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, including her claim that she once spanked him with a copy of Forbes magazine. It seems we’re less in rom-com territory, and more in the crass gross-out humour associated with the American Pie series.
In truth, there’s nothing romantic about Trump’s relationships with women, both alleged and public record. This is a man, after all, who has a reputation for being a womaniser, and who has faced allegations from multiple women of harassment and assault. A horror film could well be the most appropriate genre for depicting his relationships with women.
The political thriller
If we were playing it straight, this would be the most logical genre for a film about Trump. From Lincoln to Nixon, there are plenty of great films about former US presidents, many of which home in on a particularly dramatic period in their lives.
The Trump story isn’t fully told yet, but it already has the makings of a barnstorming political thriller. The back story itself is amazing, charting the rise of Trump from New York property heir to swaggering business mogul, and from reality TV star to American president. The 2016 election campaign and Trump’s ultimate victory could easily sustain a film on its own.
But a filmmaker could ignore those bits if they wanted and skip ahead to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election. We don’t yet know the final results of the Mueller probe, but his work has already claimed several key scalps – not least Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian officials.
Expect more drama, particularly if Trump fires Mueller and triggers a constitutional crisis. I imagine a courtroom scene akin to A Few Good Men, with Trump screaming “You can’t handle the truth… because it’s fake news!”
The dystopian sci-fi
This one doesn’t require that much imagination. It already feels like we’re living in a dystopian sci-fi in many ways, as Trump’s raging Twitter declarations about everything from TV ratings to North Korea reverberate through cyberspace, frequently causing unease or even mass panic about the potential for global conflict.
The dystopian element is not just restricted to the digital sphere, either. Each day the evidence mounts about the damaging impact that climate change is having on the planet, yet Trump remains a sceptic and was quick to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord last year.
In the Mad Max films, we are presented with a world of drought, endless desert and the violent collapse of civilisation. Increasingly that vision doesn’t seem so implausible. Trump’s brand of disaster capitalism could well provide the real-life context for the next movie in the series.