November 13, 2008 / 11:11 AM / 11 years ago

Michael Moore documentary shifts to the economy

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Firebrand filmmaker Michael Moore has quietly changed the focus of his long-gestating follow-up to “Fahrenheit 9/11” in order to tackle the world economic crisis, sources say.

U.S. director Michael Moore arrives before the world premiere screening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" by U.S. director Steven Spielberg at the 61st Cannes Film Festival in this file photo from May 18, 2008. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

When the documentary was announced in May, the studios backing the project said Moore would be pondering international affairs and America’s place in the world.

But as the political winds shifted in the months before the U.S. presidential election — and gusted after it — Moore subtly began reorienting his movie. Instead of foreign policy, the film’s focus is now more on economic matters.

The untitled movie will contain an end-of-the-empire tone, say those familiar with the project, and Moore no doubt hopes that this will give it a more general feel that will untether it from a specific political moment.

Moore is feverishly shooting, and the movie is expected to come out as early as this spring through Paramount Vantage and Overture Films.

But some political and entertainment experts wonder how much Moore’s incredulousness and occasional pessimism about the state of U.S. policy, which served the filmmaker well during the George W. Bush years, will play in the current hopeful climate brought on President-elect Barack Obama.

“If Moore offers a prescription for how to improve things, he may indeed find an audience that at this moment is eager for change,” said Craig Minassian, an entertainment consultant and former Bill Clinton aide. “But it’s going to be hard for him. What this election shows is what’s right with America, and sometimes what Michael Moore does is highlight what’s wrong with America.”

In the meantime, a focus on the collapsing markets brings its own risk, Minassian said. “The problem with the financial crisis is that it’s changing so quickly. I’m not sure how relevant is going to be in six months, and I’m not sure if people want to hear it; my sense is they already have a pretty good idea of a lot of the people who are to blame for it.”

Indeed, the Weinstein Co. passed on the movie in part because the indie studio wondered if a Democratic election would remove some of the factors that put Moore in vogue both in America and abroad during the Bush years — and pushed his three theatrical movies during that time to more than $300 million in worldwide box office.

Overture and Vantage declined comment.

Moore has also said that in some ways he sees the movie less as a sequel to the Middle East-themed “Fahrenheit 9/11” than as a bookend to “Roger & Me,” the director’s breakthrough nearly two decades ago. That movie featured the U.S. economy and the auto industry at its centre, and that, if nothing else, could again prove a timely theme.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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