- NEW YORK (Variety) - Michael
Moore, who didn't endear himself to the Oscar audience last Sunday, will
doubtless arouse further ire with his next documentary.
- The project will depict the allegedly murky relationship
between President Bush's father and the family of Osama bin Laden. And
it will suggest that the bin Laden family was greatly enriched by that
- Moore is making a deal with Mel Gibson's Icon Prods.
to finance "Fahrenheit 911," a documentary that will trace why
the U.S. has become a target for hatred and terrorism. It will also depict
alleged dealings between two generations of the Bush and bin Laden clans
that led to George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden becoming mortal enemies.
- While the words "fevered auction" and "documentary"
should never be used in the same sentence, they fit the post-Oscar bidding
battle orchestrated by the Endeavor talent agency. Gibson and Bruce Davey's
Icon won with a bid worth eight figures in upfront cash and potential backend
- The deal comes as Moore's Oscar-winning "Bowling
for Columbine" moves toward the $40 million worldwide gross mark.
The $3 million film is one of the most successful documentaries ever.
- "The primary thrust of the new film is what has
happened to the country since Sept. 11, and how the Bush administration
used this tragic event to push its agenda," Moore said. "It certainly
does deal with the Bush and bin Laden ties. It asks a number of questions
that I don't have the answers to yet, but which I intend to find out."
- Moore has put a year's worth of research into the film.
He'll finish it in time to be submitted for Cannes, 2004, and released
in time for the presidential election that fall.
- The Bush-bin Laden tie, if only circumstantial, begins
with a business relationship between the former president and Mohammed
bin Laden, the Yemeni-born father of Osama who was a Saudi construction
magnate. He died and left his future terrorist son about $300 million that
has been used to finance global violence. The young bin Laden was among
the freedom fighters propped up by the CIA as they battled the Soviets
in Afghanistan when the elder Bush headed that agency. And bin Laden's
Al Qaeda campaign began after Bush put U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia during
the Gulf War. A decade later, bin Laden's Twin Tower attacks made the battle
against terrorism the prime focus of George W.'s presidency.
- "The senior Bush kept his ties with the bin Laden
family up until two months after Sept. 11," Moore said. "The
bin Ladens invested heavily in the Carlyle Group, which has its hands in
a number of pies and is the 11th largest defense contractor even though
it mostly buys failing defense companies and sells them for profits."
- The mood in Hollywood was mixed over whether Moore would
be ridden out of town after his anti-war speech. He admitted his passion
was partly fueled from the research he's done on the new movie and said
public and industry reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
- "I'd always watched and felt a little odd seeing
actors win an Oscar and go off on some tangent cause. I'd just been given
a standing ovation and an Oscar for a movie that deals not only with American
gun violence, but how Bush manipulates the public with fear and how we
are violent to people around the world. I expressed exactly what was in
the film and instead of being blacklisted, I've not only gotten a deal
to fund 'Fahrenheit 911' but offers on the film after. Presales on ("Columbine's")
video release ran ahead of 'Chicago' this week, and my book is returning
to the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list. It's because the
majority of Americans agree with me see the economy in the toilet and didn't
vote for George W. People are now realizing you can question your government
while still caring about the soldiers. We are all still filled with rage
over Sept. 11 and have every right to seek vengeance on the bad guy. But
not any old bad guy."
- Moore said he was mildly surprised by the speech reaction,
since it was a carbon copy of what he said at the Spirit Awards the previous
day: "I didn't write an Oscar speech because I never thought we'd
win. The last documentary that was a box office success and won the Oscar
was 'Woodstock,"' Moore said.