Donald Trump biopic The Apprentice depicts him as a rapist | Cannes 2024

Donald Trump is depicted as a rapist who assaulted his first wife, Ivana, in a new biopic, The Apprentice, which has its world premiere in competition at this year’s Cannes film festival on Monday. Directed by the Iranian-Danish film-maker Ali Abbasi, the drama provides a fictionalised account of a 1989 incident that was previously detailed in the couple’s divorce proceedings.

The scene, which occurs near the end of The Apprentice, depicts Trump reacting with fury after Ivana disparages his physical appearance. “You have a face like a fucking orange,” she tells him. “You’re getting fat, you’re getting ugly, and you’re getting bald.” The future president is then shown forcing his wife to the floor and raping her. “Did I find your G-spot?” he asks in the film.

In her 1990 divorce deposition, Ivana Trump described a similar assault that she said occurred shortly after her husband’s scalp-reduction surgery. She claimed that Trump pushed her to the floor and pulled out handfuls of her hair. Ivana initially described what followed as a rape, but later walked back on the claim. In a 1993 statement, she said, “On one occasion during 1989, Mr Trump and I had marital relations in which he behaved very differently towards me than he had during our marriage. As a woman I felt violated … I referred to this as a rape, but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”

During the couple’s divorce proceedings, Trump dismissed his wife’s version of the incident as “obviously false”.

Scripted by the bestselling non-fiction author Gabriel Sherman, The Apprentice casts Romanian-born actor Sebastian Stan as Trump and Maria Bakalova as Ivana, while the Succession star Jeremy Strong plays the brutish New York lawyer Roy Cohn. The film is a twisted rites-of-passage drama that shows Cohn schooling the young Trump in the dark arts of American business. One of the key rules, Cohn tells Trump, is: “Admit nothing, deny everything.”

The Apprentice is competing for Cannes’ crowning Palme d’Or award. However, while the Canadian, Danish and Irish-backed production has already been sold to a number of foreign territories, it has reportedly yet to land a US distribution deal. The film is also claimed to be facing a legal challenge from lawyers connected to billionaire Trump donor Dan Snyder. Variety magazine reports that Snyder had invested in The Apprentice believing that it would paint a positive portrait of Trump and was rumoured to have been outraged after viewing a rough cut of the film.

Since the 1970s, at least 25 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, which he has denied. Last year the former president was found liable for the sexual abuse of the writer E Jean Carroll in the mid-1990s and was ordered to pay damages of $83.3m. He has never been charged with or convicted of rape.

Ivana Trump – the mother of Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric Trump – died in July 2022 after falling down the stairs at her home in Manhattan. Her body is buried on the grounds of the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

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