Michael Moore: Why I Had to Hire 9 Bodyguards After Winning an Oscar
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Amy Goodman: In this Democracy Now special, we spend the hour with one of the most famous independent filmmakers in the world, Michael Moore. For the past twenty years, Michael has been one of the most politically active, provocative and successful documentary filmmakers in the business. His films include Roger and me; Bowling for Columbine for which he won the Academy Award, Fahrenheit 9/11, SiCkO ; and his latest, Capitalism: A Love Story. I began by asking Michael Moore why he first became a filmmaker.
Michael Moore: I had a newspaper in Flint, Michigan called the Flint Voice , and so it was a, you know, underground, alternative newspaper that I edited and put out for about ten years. And we were always going up against General Motors and the powers that be in town and not getting very far.
And so, there was a magazine out in San Francisco that had been subscribing to my paper and asked me if I would come out and be the editor of this magazine. And so I thought that sounded like a cool idea, to do what I was doing in Flint and do it on a national scale, so I took the job. And right away there were—obviously there were problems with the owner of the magazine and me that we didn’t see eye to eye on a number of things. I wanted the magazine to try and reach more of a working-class audience, and they were more concerned, I think, about reaching more of a, you know, college-educated, liberal group of people, and—which are good people. But so, I was fired on Labor Day, about four months into it, and so I was out of work.
And I had given up everything in Flint. I had sold my paper and the house and everything. I don’t know if you’ve ever been unemployed, but it’s not pleasant, and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Of course, I just had a high school education, so I wasn’t qualified to do anything or whatever. So I went back to Michigan and just to visit friends and family. And while I was there, there was a news bulletin that came on TV saying that Roger Smith was announcing that he was going to lay off another 30,000 people at GM, 10,000 of which would be at Flint. And Flint had already lost about 20,000 jobs at that point. Now, this is 1986. So I just thought, you know, I should just make a movie about this.
And I didn’t know anything about making a movie, and I hadn’t gone to film school or whatever. But the year before, these people had come to Flint to make a movie about the Klan and the Nazis that were kind of preying upon the unemployed at that time in Michigan, and they asked me if I would help them. And so, I said, "Sure," because, you know, they knew of my paper. And I kind of thought it was kind of cool, you know, how they did this, and I was watching how they did it. And one of them had made a film called The Atomic Cafe , a documentary back in the '80s. Remember that? It was very funny, you know, a cool documentary. And then the second person, Anne Bohlen, had made a film that I think won the Oscar. It was called With Babies and Banners . It was about the women's involvement in the Flint sit-down strike of 1936 and '37. And a third person was Jim Ridgeway, who was a great columnist of the Village Voice .