After starring in a best-selling erotica tale, losing in Iowa, then winning in New Hampshire, Republican presidential front-runner/professional headline-maker Donald Trump has scored another bullet point in his “this is actually happening” list of accomplishments.
On Wednesday morning “The Art of the Deal: The Movie,” a 50-minute Trump parody starring Johnny Depp with an impressive marigold toupee, was released by Funny or Die, the website co-founded by comedy VIPs Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy.
According to the film’s narrator, Ron Howard (seriously), the movie almost didn’t make it to your iPhone screen:
“Thought to be lost in the Cybill Shepherd blouse fire of ’89,” intones Howard in the introduction, “‘The Art of the Deal’ was a TV movie based on the best-selling Donald Trump autobiography of the same name. In fact, it was written, directed and starred Donald Trump himself.”
Howard goes on to explain that the biopic, which follows Trump’s plan to buy Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal hotel and casino, was almost lost to the annals of bad decisions because it was preempted by Monday Night Football.
“Trump was furious,” Howard tells viewers, “and vowed never to air his masterpiece. It disappeared for decades, before it turned up at a yard sale in Phoenix, Ariz.”
The real story is slightly less fantastical.
Late last summer comedy writer Joe Randazzo had an idea for a plot-twisting farce about the 2016 election starring Trump and took it to Funny or Die’s new editor-in-chief, Owen Burke. Burke liked Randazzo’s concept but the shooting schedule — just four days — would be too tight for something so plot heavy.
“What if we just did the movie version of ‘Art of the Deal?'” Burke recalled suggesting. The pair pitched that idea to McKay, who then suggested Owens take it to Depp. It just so happened that the Oscar-nominated actor had been “taking meetings” with McKay about potential comedy collaborations. The site’s send up of the cult of the celebrity seems like a good fit.
“We were shocked,” said Burke. “He was like yeah that sounds awesome. It was really that quick.”
Keeping the momentum going, it took Randazzo just nine days to write the script. Things happened so quickly said Burke, the project’s executive producer, because the team thought it was working within a ticking time bomb scenario.
“We’ve got to make this right away because he could go away at any second,” said Burke of the behind-the-scene decision making. “And then a month later we’re like ‘We’ve got to make this right away because he could go away at any second.’ And then he didn’t go away. It’s amazing [Trump’s] staying power.”
In December, Depp began filming alongside other Hollywood heavyweights such as Alfred Molina, Henry Winkler, Patton Oswalt and Alf. According to the production team “The Pirates of the Caribbean” star was incredibly gracious on set and had the most fun improvising lines with the cast, a large chunk of whom were The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade alums.
“He dived in, or dove in? I don’t know. He went deep,” said Burke. “He really took care to make sure he was giving a fantastic performance. Here’s someone who’s been acting for 30 years, such a professional, who’s just killing it.”
Trump hasn’t weighed in on Depp’s performance, yet.
“I know he’s got other things on his mind,” said Burke, “but hopefully when he’s on a flight to wherever he’s going to next he’s going to watch it.”