Trump biopic - featuring rape scene - to premiere at Cannes in days as investor rages over portrayal

A new biopic about Donald Trump’s early years under the mentorship of lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival tonight (20 May), but some of the film’s backers are reportedly unhappy about how the former president is portrayed.

The Apprentice, by Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi, stars Sebastian Stan as the young Trump, with Succession’s Jeremy Strong as Cohn and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’s Maria Bakalova as Trump’s first wife, Ivana.

According to reports in Variety, billionaire Dan Snyder, former owner of NFL team the Washington Commanders, gave the film financial backing through production company Kinematics under the impression that it would be a flattering portrayal of Trump’s rise in real estate.

Snyder is a longtime Trump supporter, having donated $1.1m to his inaugural committee and the fundraising committee Trump Victory in 2016, and a further $100,000 to his 2020 presidential campaign.

However, when Snyder saw a cut of the film in February he was reportedly “furious” and enlisted Kinematics’ lawyers to issue cease-and-desist letters.

In a statement, Kinematics president Emanuel Nuñez claimed that Snyder had not been involved in that decision, saying: “All creative and business decisions involving The Apprentice have always been and continue to be solely made by Kinematics. Mark (H Rapaport) and I run our company without the involvement of any other third parties.”

Jeremy Strong and Sebastian Stan as Roy Cohn and Donald Trump in ‘The Apprentice’ (The Apprentice Productions Inc/Profile Productions/Tailored Films Ltd)
Jeremy Strong and Sebastian Stan as Roy Cohn and Donald Trump in ‘The Apprentice’ (The Apprentice Productions Inc/Profile Productions/Tailored Films Ltd)

Citing sources, Variety reports that Snyder took personal issue with several scenes in the film, including one in which Trump rapes Ivana. The scene reflects a 1989 divorce deposition that saw Ivana accuse Trump of raping her. Ivana, who died in 2022, later refuted these claims, saying in 2015: “The story is totally without merit. Donald and I are the best of friends and together have raised three children that we love and are very proud of.”

The Independent has contacted Trump’s press office for comment but was unable to find a representative for Snyder.

Kinematics is not the sole backer of the film and doesn’t own the copyright, so cannot withdraw the film from competition at Cannes or halt further distribution.

Sebastian Stan and Donald Trump (Getty)
Sebastian Stan and Donald Trump (Getty)

The film’s official logline describes it as “a story about the origins of a system… featuring larger-than-life characters and set in a world of power and ambition.”

It continues: “The film delves into a profound exploration of the ascent of an American dynasty. It meticulously charts the genesis of a ‘zero-sum’ culture, one that accentuates the dichotomy between winners and losers, the dynamics between the mighty and the vulnerable, and the intricate psychology of persona.”