One of the more interesting aspects of the Department of Justice lawsuit filed against former national security advisor John Bolton is the demand that proceeds from the sale of his tell-all book should be deposited in the U.S. Treasury including any revenues from the movie rights. I must admit I had not thought about the plethora of films that might be based on, as of today, the 22 books which chronicle insider views of the Trump White House. My first thought? Wes Craven or Jordan Peele could not do justice to this Gothic horror story, no matter how hard they tried. And Freddy Kruger (Nightmare on Elm Street) and Michael Meyers (Halloween) pale in comparison when it comes to this forthcoming slasher film where the victim is the Constitution rather than promiscuous high school students.
Perhaps my time was better spent looking outside tales of terror. What if the preeminent version of the Trump years was more like a Shakespearean play? Would it be a comedy when everyone gets married in Act V? Or in Trump’s case, married for the fourth time. Or a tragedy ending in the figurative death of the title character? But wait! Maybe it was not about the parts in theater productions, but the actors who star in them. Was Trump a male version of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, a one-time larger than life personality who believed there were not small actors, only small parts, yet at an advanced age was unfit for a cameo, much less a starring role?
Among the devices I encouraged students in my Imagination class at Miami University to keep in their tool kits was patience. Don’t force ideas. Let them come to you. And this morning that is exactly what happened as I read stories about last night’s Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In reference to the underwhelming crowd inside BOK Arena, one headline read, “Someone Is Going to Get Fired for This.” The inside story of the Trump administration was never about the protagonist. It will be about the people tasked with propping up an aging headliner.
And there it was, as plain as the nose on my face. 1983. The Dresser. Peter Yates’ adaption of Ronald Harwood’s play, “the story of an aging actor’s personal assistant, who struggles to keep his charges’s life together.” (Wikipedia) Is it mere coincidence the elderly thespian, played by Albert Finney, is referred to only as “Sir,” the same honorific Trump employs whenever sharing a conversation he has with anyone ranging from a MAGA-head to a member of his cabinet to a four-star general. Sir is described as “of the old school of acting, full of grand gestures and fine oratory.” However in his final performance as King Lear, Sir is uncertain of his lines and begins to improvise his speeches. Sound familiar?
When Sir collapses as the curtain drops on Act V, the title character, Sir’s life-long assistant and companion Norman (Tom Courtenay) helps Sir back to his dressing room. Sensing he is at the end of his career, the actor implores Norman to read to him from an autobiography he claims to be writing. However, Sir has only gotten as far as the dedication in which he thanks everyone from audiences to fellow actors to stage technicians. Everyone except Norman, who has been his most loyal and trusted servant for decades.
May I suggest there will likely be a similar end to the Trump saga. In the final scene, upon his return to Florida next January, an exhausted Trump is helped to his bedroom at Mar-a-Lago. As he lies there, he hands Ivanka a hardcover copy of The Art of the Deal from 1987. He asks her to read him the dedication.
IVANKA: Daddy, there is no dedication. But there is one paragraph of acknowledgements.
TRUMP: Read it to me.
IVANKA: Are you sure? I’m not sure its relevant any more.
TRUMP: Yes, yes. Read it to me.
“I owe special thanks to several people who made it possible for me to complete this book in the face of my other responsibilities. Ivana Trump, my wonderful wife, and my three children were understanding about the many weekends that I spent working on the book. Si Newhouse first came to me and convinced me to do a book despite my initial reluctance. Howard Kaminsky, Peter Osnos, and many others at Random House have been enthusiastic, energetic supporters of the book.”
Daddy, I never realized until now you didn’t mention Tony Schwartz who actually wrote the book.
TRUMP: Why should I? I paid him, didn’t I?
The only question is who will be cast in the title role of the 2021 remake. The possibilities are endless. Roger Stone? Steve Bannon? Steven Miller? Bill Barr? Brad Parscale? Rudy? Ivanka? Jared? Junior? Or all of the above, in which case the Trump biopic is much like the sequel to Alien which James Cameron chose to call Aliens. The remake of the Finney/Courtenay classic might more appropriately be known as The Dressers. Or in honor of Tony Schwartz, maybe a better title is The Ghostwriter.
For what it’s worth.