Acclaimed scruffy documentarian Michael Moore showed up, clean shaven, to Cinema Paradiso on Saturday night for a sold-out appearance at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. Beforehand, he answered questions from reporters (and a smattering of film-dazed Florida socialites) about his films and the state of the world.
Moore let slip that he's working on his next project right here in South Florida: "There's plenty of time to write," he said. "There's absolutely nothing here that I want to do." More on that below.
Does the amount of preproduction work you do vary based on the subject matter?
Hmmm. By this time, I'm always asked the same 20 questions at these events. That's a new one. No, it's usually about the same. A lot of time goes into research and thinking about a project. The last three films pretty much took about a year to a year and a half from start to finish.
What do you consider your most important project?
They're all your babies. Your favorite is always the last one you did.
Do you have any election predictions? Will we get out of the mess we're in?
Not really. Republicans are probably throwing a party maybe a little too soon. I get the feeling a lot of people are generally pissed off when they're asked by a pollster how they feel. When they get in the booth and close the curtain, it may be different. I don't know anybody who's not going to vote in two weeks. Who's going to stay home? Obama's problem isn't us [the left], even though we're disappointed. His problem is that he lost a lot of people who were closer to the center but still wanted to see some things happen.
What have you learned on the journey from your first film [Roger and Me] to today?
That 200-million-plus people in this country are not stone-cold idiots. I wish more stuff was geared toward them as opposed to the dumbing down that takes place to appease the idiots and crazies. Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, hate leads to violence. That's not a new story for us. The nation was founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves.
What do you hope will be your legacy as a filmmaker?
"As he made each film, he continued to lose weight."
There are rumors that you're working on a fiction project. What are you doing now?
I don't really talk about what I'm working on while I'm working on it. I will tell you that I'm working here in South Florida. I've been here a couple of months. It's a great state for comedy, a real mixed bag of nuts. Whenever I see an Amber Alert on TV, I immediately think, "Florida!" I don't know what it is. Somebody has to explain it to me. It's the end of the country. It kind of drains... it kind of sucks a lot of stuff down here. Unless you can swim, this is kind of where you end. You can visit five different countries and not leave Florida. There's plenty of time to write, no distractions. There's absolutely nothing here I want to do. I thought about going to see LeBron James play, but I didn't.
What do you think of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's upcoming rallies in Washington, D.C.?
I'm a huge supporter of Stephen Colbert's rally; I think it's a genius idea to keep fear alive. It's hard to get a handle exactly what Jon's rally is about. At first, it sounded like it was against Glenn Beck's rally, but he said it's not that at all, it's not political. I thought it was going to be a bit more [than just comedy].
What do you think of the recent health-care reform bill?
There are some good things in it, like how kids can stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26. It certainly wasn't the universal health care we were supposed to get.
What health insurance do you have?
I'm in three different unions. If anyone wants my extra two plans, I'll give them away.
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There's been a lot of attention on the Koch brothers and how their money is influencing right-wing politics. Thoughts?
I have nothing to say about them.
Do you make films to show people what's going on or to try to influence their way of thinking?
First of all, I make them because I like movies. They're something for people to go to on a Friday night. You're tired all week, get a baby sitter, sit there for a couple of hours, and walk out feeling like, "That was something." That's in and of itself a worthy accomplishment as a filmmaker. I think that considering it as a film before considering the politics is more important. If you put the politics first and the film second, the film will usually suck.
In your movie Sicko, you ferried some people in need of health care from Miami to Cuba. What do you think is in store for that country?
Like most people in America, I oppose the embargo and blockade. It's absolutely crazy. It's a poor country, and I think they would benefit from the exchange of people, ideas, help, money, and medicine. I hope that Obama would somehow work it out, so we have a better relationship with a country that's so close to us.
How were you feeling around the time Barack Obama was elected?
I walked in the voting booth and started crying. I'm old enough to remember my parents taking us on a trip to Virginia and seeing signs that said "colored" and "white" on drinking fountains and bathrooms. I couldn't believe [this election] could happen in my lifetime. It's been good. It's been a more peaceful time for me. Now it's back to some of the crazy stuff. He came in like the nice guy he is: "Let's all get along and be nice to each other," and that's a very good sentiment, and you have to admire him for that. But the other side has no interest in doing anything besides keep destroying the country. I offered to come work for him for a dollar a year.