‘The Apprentice’ Close to Deal for Pre-Election Release as Producers Pay Out Pro-Trump Investor | Exclusive

Donald Trump biopic “The Apprentice” is poised to close a distribution deal with Briarcliff as the film’s producers prepare to pay out Dan Snyder-backed Kinematics, TheWrap has exclusively learned.

The film, starring Sebastian Stan and Jeremy Strong, had languished without a U.S. distribution deal since debuting in May at the Cannes Film Festival to strong reviews. Criticism arose that Hollywood studios were afraid to distribute the film for fear of retaliation by Trump supporters, even as the film landed deals in Europe.

Talks are underway with a group of several individuals to cash out the $5 million invested by Snyder, an ex-NFL owner of the Washington Commanders and Trump supporter, according to three individuals with knowledge. One person close to the deal said it was “days” away from being consummated.

Snyder wants out of the film; he is a staunch conservative who donated more than $1 million to Trump and his inaugural committee in 2016 and $100,000 to his 2020 reelection campaign.

The group looking to cash out Snyder is made up of financial investors and has no political incentives, the insider added.

“Nobody is doing this for political reasons,” the individual told TheWrap.

Briarcliff Entertainment is run by Tom Ortenberg, who oversaw “The Dissident,” about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, another film that Hollywood was afraid to distribute. Ortenberg also distributed “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Spotlight,” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and “Nightcrawler.” The company is eyeing a wide theatrical release in the fall before the presidential election in November and is currently discussing dates.

Kinematics is run by Mark H. Rapaport, who happens to be married to Snyder’s daughter Tiffanie. Snyder initally put up half of the indie film’s $16 million budget and is a hands-off lender on the project, according to a second insider with knowledge.

Upon learning that the film is unflattering and features a much-discussed recreation sequence where Trump rapes his former wife Ivana (she later recanted the allegation), Snyder allegedly attempted to, at first, exert creative control and was attempting to block the film from getting a release, according to Variety. However, the second insider told TheWrap, the film’s backers all initially signed off on the film’s shooting script. But Snyder was not among those who read the script and did not know how the project would portray Trump.

“The Apprentice” was written by Gabriel Sherman and directed by Ali Abbasi. It takes a look into the the life and career of Trump (Stan) while working as a New York real estate during the 1970s and the ’80s. He was supported at the time by lawyer Roy Cohn (Strong). The cast also includes Maria Bakalova as Ivana and Martin Donovan as Trump’s father, Fred Trump.

In his review of the film, TheWrap’s Steve Pond wrote, “It’s a true-life horror story in some ways, and Abbasi approaches it as a Frankenstein tale in which the mad doctor creates a monster and then loses control of it. But after years of Trump imitations (and the real thing), it also can’t help but feel a little cartoonish, and maybe not the best use of the director’s particular talents.”

Abbasi said at Cannes he doesn’t think Trump would dislike the movie if he saw it. “I don’t necessarily think this is a movie he would dislike,” the director said. “I don’t think he would like it, I think he would be surprised.”

Trump’s campaign team sent a cease and desist order to Abbasi after the movie debuted at the festival. “We will be filing a lawsuit to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers,” Steven Cheung, Trump campaign communications director, told TheWrap.

“This garbage is pure fiction which sensationalizes lies that have been long debunked,” Cheung added. “This ‘film’ is pure malicious defamation, should not see the light of day, and doesn’t even deserve a place in the straight-to-DVD section of a bargain bin at a soon-to-be-closed discount movie store, it belongs in a dumpster fire.”

The film’s producers defended the movie following that statement, insisting: “The film is a fair and balanced portrait of the former president. We want everyone to see it and then decide.”

Along with Kinematics, the film’s other backers include Head Gear Films, Screen Ireland, Film i Väst, The Danish Film Institute and National Bank of Canada.

WME and CAA, the sales reps for “The Apprentice,” declined to comment.

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