Helmer insists on U.S. distribution before election day

Michael Moore admitted Sunday that his “Fahrenheit 9/11″ still does not have a distrib — “Maybe some distributors are afraid of the film” — but vowed the film must open in the U.S. before the election. “George W. Bush has to be removed from office,” he declared.

In his first public interview here, Moore did a one-on-one with Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart as part of the Variety Conference Series.

Referring to the pic, which bows tonight in competition, he said, “From the beginning, there was pressure to try to stop it.” Though Icon had originally agreed to finance the docu, Moore was told that Icon topper Mel Gibson got a call from a honcho in the Republican Party who said, “Don’t expect any more invitations to the White House if you fund this movie.”

Harvey Weinstein and Miramax agreed to distribute the film (“Same deal, same money, same everything”). But Moore said that on April 23, Disney senior veepee of production Brad Epstein viewed the pic and reported back to Eisner: “One viewing from a low-level production exec” was enough to end a firm deal for distribution, he said, apparently because “the potential of this film to have an impact on the election is greater than they thought.”

Disney’s official explanation is that it doesn’t want to do political entertainment in an election year, though Moore pointed out that Disney and its various channels and programs air Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson.

The distribution problem “is intended to stop this film and make sure Americans don’t see it,” helmer said.

Taiwan and Hong Kong have no deals for the pic, but otherwise it has a distrib everywhere in the world except the U.S.

One of the sticking points with a distrib is the insistence on opening the July 4 weekend: “We won’t accept a release date that conveniently pushes the film past the election.”

Distribs have been mum on whether they’re in talks to handle the pic.

Referring to Bush as “the dumbest man who ever ran for the presidency,” Moore said Al Gore and the Democrats were unable to inspire voters to turn out for the 2000 election. So the film is important: “We decided we were not going to leave it up to the Democrats to fuck it up again and lose it.”

Promising “you will see things you have not seen before and learn things you have not learned before,” Moore said the film evolved during its making and now is half about Iraq. He had crews working on the docu who were embedded in Iraq who uncovered great stuff. Talking of the forces behind the war, he exclaimed, “They are totally fucked! And that’s all I want to say.”

The DVD release is targeted for October, and Moore said he plans to include commentary and include info on the problems of distribution.

Asked by Bart if people will view his attacks on the administration as unpatriotic, he said, “I’m the most patriotic American who believes the principles of his country.” Saying America had created a lot of global havoc, he added, “My job is to be an American and try to turn things around.”

On a lighter note, Moore said he has ideas for both fiction and nonfiction films. “I’m already down the road on a few of those.” Among his potential docu targets: U.S. health care, Israeli-Palestinian relations and an impending oil crisis.

Moore and Bart got big laughs when they agreed that the audible booing at Moore’s 2003 Oscar speech was disproportionately loud; no one in the audience was seen heckling, so they wondered where that sound came from. Moore also had the audience whooping with laughter as he did a Gollum impression debating whether to make his acceptance speech benign or incendiary.

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