As a top adviser to Jeb Bush’s failed 2016 presidential campaign, Mike Murphy was unable to convince Republican voters that Donald Trump was a disastrous businessman and charlatan unfit to run the country.
Now Murphy is hoping to have the last word, this time via the big screen.
The veteran Republican political strategist is shopping an unflattering movie project about Trump’s ill-fated Atlantic City days.
Eighteen months ago he quietly bought the film rights to the book Trumped! The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump — His Cunning Rise and Spectacular Fall, a first-hand account by John O’Donnell of his agony as a top executive at Mr Trump’s Atlantic City casinos in the 1980s.
Dan Sterling, writer of the current Hollywood hit Long Shot, has helped turn it into a screenplay, which the two have begun circulating.
“We see it as kind of an origin story about young Donald Trump, who took his bad initial habits and kind of got worse in Atlantic City,” Murphy explained. “And our main character, Jack O’Donnell, is kind of a metaphor for the country — attracted to the success gospel and everything but the more he learns about Trump and the more he works for him the more he sees that the emperor has no clothes and, in fact, has massive character flaws.”
The pair’s screenplay, titled The Drop, opens with a shocked O’Donnell, then a 33-year-old executive, being rushed to Trump’s new Taj Mahal casino on the eve of its grand opening in 1990 to discover a chaos that, Sterling writes, “feels like the fall of Saigon.”
The casino has not secured its licenses from state authorities.
A panicked Trump comes into view.
His first words are an expletive.
And then a meek plea for help.
One year after opening the massive casino in Atlantic City, it sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Despite Trump’s promises, the Taj Mahal was unable to generate enough gambling revenue to cover the massive costs of building the facility.
Trump was forced to relinquish half of his ownership in the casino and sell off his yacht and his airline.
The Taj Mahal was over $1.2 billion in debt.
Two more Trump properties, The Castle Hotel & Casino and The Plaza Casino, entered bankruptcy in March 1992.
Together they put thousands of people out of work.
Trump’s Plaza Hotel was more than $550 million in debt when it entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Trump gave up a 49 percent stake in the company to lenders, as well as his salary and his day-to-day role in its operations.
Later, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, a holding company for Trump’s three casinos, entered Chapter 11 in November 2004 as part of a deal with bondholders to restructure $1.8 billion of debt.
Finally, Trump Entertainment Resorts, the casino holding company, entered Chapter 11 in February 2009.
In total, Trump has declared bankruptcy six times since 1990.
Murphy has never been shy about his distaste for Trump.
He has run campaigns over the years for John McCain and Mitt Romney, and was a charter member of the so-called “Never Trump” contingent of the Republican party.
Less appreciated is that in addition to his political work, he has spent the past 10 years toiling as a writer in Hollywood.
Sterling, meanwhile, is no hack: Besides Long Shot, he has also produced episodes of Girls and written for The Office and South Park, among other shows.
The two men believe the recent revelations in the Washington Post and New York Times about Trump’s business stumbles — denting the image of the self-proclaimed Master of the Deal — have given their project urgency.
In attempting to bring Trump to the big screen, they face the dramatic challenge of telling a story about one of the most visible — and polarizing — characters on earth.
Love him or hate him, audiences may already feel they know everything they care to know about the 45th US president.
But Murphy and Sterling believe they have a fresh take.
Unlike other Trump observers, O’Donnell worked alongside the man for three years, giving him an insider’s perspective.
Moreover, it is not the Trump from the White House or reality television so familiar to the public but an earlier version.
“This is Trump in his mid-30s . . . which is not the caricature we see on Saturday Night Live,” Murphy explained. “This is young, chasing Marla Maples down the elevator, swinging bachelor Donald Trump in 1988.”
Asked if he had a star in mind, Murphy did not hesitate: “Ryan Gosling would kill it!”
Attribution:The Financial Times