Producer Gerald Molen has worked in movies for more than 35 years, but he’s been politically conservative for much longer. His first producing credit, for “Hook” in 1991, led to a series of collaborations with Steven Spielberg, one of the more politically liberal figures in Hollywood. Molen went on to produce “Jurassic Park,” “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “Minority Report” and “Schindler’s List,” which won them both Oscars, but throughout he’s mostly kept his politics to the private realm.
That will change in a big way when his first film in nine years, the documentary “2016: Obama’s America,” written and directed by John Sullivan and “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” author Dinesh D’Souza, hits theaters July 27. Both Molen and the film have already stirred up some controversy recently — Molen was prevented from delivering a graduation speech at a Montana high school and “2016” provoked buzz last week when a clip included the film of an interview with the president’s half brother hit the Internet. The film opened in a single Houston theater this weekend and grossed an estimated $31,750, a surprisingly strong result. (An Obama-themed narrative fim, "The Obama Effect," also opened in 25 theaters and grossed just $2,920 per theater.)
With a press screening scheduled for July 18 at the Harmony Gold Theater in L.A., Molen spoke with Indiewire about his major problems with Obama, why he doesn’t see the film as a “hit piece” and what he imagines Spielberg will make of it.
How did you get involved with the documentary?
Dinesh was looking for an attorney and contacted this gentleman in Los Angeles, and during the course of the conversation he told the attorney that he had a gentleman named Jerry Molen recommended to him about producing his project. The attorney said, “I know him, I can contact him.” He did. Actually, I had the book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” and after we had talked about [the film], it got me busy looking at it. I liked the premise, I called back and said, “I’m in, let’s do it.”
How would you describe your political views? Have they changed much over the years?
Oh, I’d like to use the word “evolve.” I’ve always been basically a fiscal conservative. I’ve always believed in the strength and the power of the human spirit, and I’ve always been for people who take responsibility for themselves. I’ve always been a strong believer in giving people a hand up when they need it — not so much a hand out, but a hand up. I’m very generous when it comes to helping people, and I donate to certain charities. But I’m also a strong proponent of individuals looking out for themselves and taking responsibility for themselves. It’s something that bothers me just a little bit about the entitlement society that we live in now. It’s pretty scary.
I think so. I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than the visual image. We’ve had some great films over the years, like “Schindler’s List,” that had a great impact on society. And I think in this particular case, this story, if nothing else, will prompt people to do their homework, do a little research, and find out for themselves — and just kind of wake people up.
There are a handful of documentaries that can be considered political from a left-wing standpoint or from a filmmaking team that would be considered liberal that have actually done fairly well in the mainstream. But conservative documentaries and films that are political generally haven’t done that well. Do you think this movie has a better chance of getting people into theaters because your reputation and resume give it more weight?
Well, I hope so. I really hope so. I feel strongly enough about it, if that’s part of what I bring to the project then yes, that would be a blessing. I do believe that there’s room for more conservative filmmaking. There just haven’t been a lot of them. And those that have come out, you haven’t seen the media get out and support them, for, I guess, obvious reasons. So you’re fighting that uphill battle also. But we had a screening in Houston last night at the Edwards cinema that was phenomenal, so now it’s opened there. Next week, we’ll have a screening in Los Angeles, and we’ll see where that goes. I’m excited about it, I think that there’s a great opportunity here and a need to get people to see this work.
You worked with Mr. Spielberg on many films, and he’s a pretty committed Democratic supporter.
Have you showed him the film?
Well… Let me put it this way: The film just being finished, we haven’t been in a position to show anybody yet really, other than the screenings, and we’re still making a few tweaks to it, even before the screening next week in L.A. Would I show it to him? Absolutely. Would he like to see it? Um… [laughs] Realizing what his politics are? I don’t know!
Are you going to invite him?
Everybody’s invited. All of them are.
I know you both have long been big supporters of the Shoah Foundation, but did you guys ever have political arguments?
No. When we were working on a film, that’s basically what the mission was — getting the film done. My job was always to support Steven in allowing him the freedom and the space to be creative. And I took my job with him very, very serious. I would imagine that over the years there may have been some discussions about issues. I’ve never backed away from how I feel about things, but I’m also not a rabble-rouser, either. I don’t go on a set and start beating a tom-tom over issues. There’s a time for that, and it’s certainly not during the work day.