Michael Moore interview: Capitalism, Barack Obama and his future plans

As Capitalism: A Love Story arrives in UK cinemas and on DVD in the US, Michael Moore spares us some time for a quick chat…

Michael Moore is, whether you love or hate his work, the man who has opened the door to documentaries getting wide releases in cinemas. His latest movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, is only getting a limited UK release, but it’s out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the US. He spared us a little bit of a time to talk about the film…

One thing that struck me about Capitalism: A Love Story is that, appreciating that film is a slow medium, if you’d written it as a book, by the time the paperback version came out you’d be able to add another chapter to cover what’s happened since. What would you add to your film if you could? Would you change anything?

Yes, I think there’s two new chapters that would be added now and some of this, the feeling comes through on the DVD extras. Number one, our enthusiasm for President Obama has been taken to a level of extreme disappointment. The fact that he and the Democrats have not come in with guns blazing and done the job that we elected them to do is very disappointing.

Number two, I think that we’re ready for another crash. Nobody’s talk about it. Not one single regulation has been put back on the bank. Wall Street’s back doing derivatives and credit default swaps, they never really stopped. They’re doing all this crazy stuff. The commercial real estate bubble is going to burst, there’s too much credit card debt that can’t sustain itself. So there’s another crash or two coming. And it’s not going to be pretty.

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Do you really think anyone can stop it?

Well, yeah! [Laughs] But that would have to take a leader.

And you don’t think Obama’s the man any more?

No, no. I think he has it in him. Believe you me. I think he has it in him.

I didn’t realise he was chewing Nicorette. That explained a lot to me. Poor guy. That’s a horrible addiction, tobacco, and I didn’t realise that he was still dealing with it. When he snapped at a guy and offered him some Nicorette, I thought oh, ok. The personal evades the political.

The thing that also struck me, and I wondered this at the end of Sicko too, but does it frustrate you as a documentary film maker when you get to the final cut?  That you have to stop telling the story?

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No, not really. Because I’m not doing news. I’m not doing breaking news or anything like that. The larger things I’m talking about are going to be there regardless of whatever today’s news is. And so, the larger issues of should a society have a responsibility to take care of each other when they get sick, I think that’s a fundamental philosophical question that we haven’t got to grips with. You guys [the British] came to grips with it a long time ago.

I rewatched The Big One recently, and what interested me about it is that you didn’t quite have the double-edged sword that you have at the moment. With The Big One, your notoriety, if you like, was lower, and you picked up lots of smaller stories along the way, possibly as a result. Do you miss that, or do look to use the notoriety as much as possible to your advantage?

It’s much more of an advantage. Those little stories, I’m fairly well known now, especially amongst people who don’t have money, or are poor, or are working class. They know if there’s one person who’s going to listen to them, it’s me. If there’s one person who isn’t bought by any of these bastards, it’s me. I don’t give a rat’s ass about anything.

I tell everybody on the first day of making a movie that if anyone’s here to further their career they should leave. I’m gonna make the movie in such a way that we won’t have a career when this movie comes out. Because the people who hold the moneybags are not going to want to share any of that money with us to make the next movie!

So let’s forget ‘em!

And yet it’s not panned out like that for you. Now, particularly after Fahrenheit 9/11, we can go and see documentaries in some mainstream cinemas. You’ve kind of helped change the rules there.

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Well, yes. I hope I end up doing more in my life than that, but I understand that.

But before I did Roger & Me in this country, my first film, documentaries never played in a multiplex. And that first film kicked the door open for a lot of other documentaries to be shown in multiplexes. So that’s a good thing.

But I notice in Great Britain – where Mr Marx is buried, I believe, in London – this particularly film, Capitalism: A Love Story, is not in the multiplexes. The big chains aren’t carrying this film. So, hello, New Britain! [Laughs]

Finally, you’ve indicated that you’re less keen to go and do a documentary again. One thing that’s always struck me about fiction, and I don’t know if that’s the precise way you’re going, is that it can be as telling of a historical era as any non-fiction work. What are your intentions next?

Well, I’ve been working on a screenplay, and I think that I’m going to do that. I may make another documentary, I don’t know. I’m going to kind of wait and see what happens politically. I’m not going to do this alone any more, that’s for sure. People are just going to the movies so they can get a rush, but I’m not into that any more.

But, if I see people becoming politically active and stopping these bastards, then I’ll be back with another film to help push things forward.

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Michael Moore, thank you very much.

Capitalism: A Love Story is out now on DVD and Blu-ray in America, and in limited cinemas in the UK.