Moore in New York to promote his memoir Here Comes Trouble, September 2011
|Born||Michael Francis Moore
April 23, 1954
Flint, Michigan, US
|Alma mater||University of Michigan–Flint|
|Occupation||Actor, director, screenwriter, producer, documentarian|
|Spouse(s)||Kathleen Glynn (1991–2014)|
Michael Francis Moore (born April 23, 1954) is an American filmmaker, author, social critic, and political activist. He is the director and producer of Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), which is the highest-grossing documentary of all time and winner of the Palme d’Or. His films Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Sicko (2007) also placed in the top ten highest-grossing documentaries, and the former won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. In September 2008, he released his first free movie on the Internet, Slacker Uprising, which documented his personal quest to encourage more Americans to vote in presidential elections. He has also written and starred in the TV shows TV Nation and The Awful Truth.
Moore’s written and cinematic works criticize globalization, large corporations, assault weapon ownership, U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the Iraq War, the American health care system, and capitalism.
Moore was born in Flint, Michigan and raised in Davison, a suburb of Flint, by parents Helen Veronica (née Wall), a secretary, and Francis Richard “Frank” Moore, an automotive assembly-line worker. At that time, the city of Flint was home to many General Motors factories, where his parents and grandfather worked. His uncle LaVerne was one of the founders of the United Automobile Workers labor union and participated in the Flint Sit-Down Strike.
Moore was brought up Catholic, and has Irish and English ancestry. He attended parochial St. John’s Elementary School for primary school and later attended St. Paul’s Seminary in Saginaw, Michigan, for a year. He then attended Davison High School, where he was active in both drama and debate, graduating in 1972. As a member of the Boy Scouts of America, he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. At the age of 18, he was elected to the Davison school board. At the time he was the youngest person elected to office in the U.S.
Moore dropped out of the University of Michigan–Flint following his first year (where he wrote for the student newspaper The Michigan Times). At 22 he founded the alternative weekly magazine The Flint Voice, which soon changed its name to The Michigan Voice as it expanded to cover the entire state. In 1986, when Moore became the editor of Mother Jones, a liberal political magazine, he moved to California and The Michigan Voice was shut down.
After four months at Mother Jones, Moore was fired. Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard reported this was for refusing to print an article by Paul Berman that was critical of the Sandinista human rights record in Nicaragua. Moore refused to run the article, believing it to be inaccurate. “The article was flatly wrong and the worst kind of patronizing bullshit. You would scarcely know from it that the United States had been at war with Nicaragua for the last five years.” Moore believes that Mother Jones fired him because of the publisher’s refusal to allow him to cover a story on the GM plant closings in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. He responded by putting laid-off GM worker Ben Hamper (who was also writing for the same magazine at the time) on the magazine’s cover, leading to his termination. Moore sued for wrongful dismissal, and settled out of court for $58,000, providing him with seed money for his first film, Roger & Me.
- Roger & Me
- Moore first became famous for his Emmy Award winning 1989 film, Roger & Me, a documentary about what happened to Flint, Michigan, after General Motors closed its factories and opened new ones in Mexico, where the workers were paid much less. Since then Moore has become known as a critic of the neoliberal view of globalization. “Roger” is Roger B. Smith, former CEO and president of General Motors. Harlan Jacobson, editor of Film Comment magazine, said that Moore muddled the chronology in Roger & Me to make it seem that events that took place before G.M.’s layoffs were a consequence of them. Critic Roger Ebert defended Moore’s handling of the timeline as an artistic and stylistic choice that had less to do with his credibility as a filmmaker and more to do with the flexibility of film as a medium to express a satiric viewpoint.
- Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint
- (1992) is a short (23-minute) documentary film that was aired on PBS. It is based on Roger & Me. The film’s title refers to Rhonda Britton, a Flint, Michigan, resident featured in both the 1989 and 1992 films who sells rabbits as either pets or meat.
- Canadian Bacon
- In 1995, Moore released a satirical film, Canadian Bacon, which features a fictional US president (played by Alan Alda) engineering a fake war with Canada in order to boost his popularity. It is noted for containing a number of Canadian and American stereotypes, and for being Moore’s only non-documentary film. The film is also one of the last featuring Canadian-born actor John Candy, and also features a number of cameos by other Canadian actors. In the film, several potential enemies for America’s next great campaign are discussed by the president and his cabinet. (The scene was strongly influenced by the Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove.) The President comments that declaring war on Canada was as ridiculous as declaring war on international terrorism. His military adviser, played by Rip Torn, quickly rebuffs this idea, saying that no one would care about “a bunch of guys driving around blowing up rent-a-cars.”
- The Big One
- In 1997, Moore directed The Big One, which documents the tour publicizing his book Downsize This! Random Threats from an Unarmed American, in which he criticizes mass layoffs despite record corporate profits. Among others, he targets Nike for outsourcing shoe production to Indonesia.
- Bowling for Columbine
- This 2002 film probes the culture of guns and violence in the United States, taking as a starting point the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. Bowling for Columbine won the Anniversary Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and France’s César Award as the Best Foreign Film. In the United States, it won the 2002 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. It also enjoyed great commercial and critical success for a film of its type and became, at the time, the highest-grossing mainstream-released documentary (a record now held by Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11). It was praised by some for illuminating a subject avoided by the mainstream media.
- Fahrenheit 9/11
- Examines America in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, particularly the record of the Bush administration and alleged links between the families of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. Fahrenheit was awarded the Palme d’Or, the top honor at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival; it was the first documentary film to win the prize since 1956. Moore later announced that Fahrenheit 9/11 would not be in consideration for the 2005 Academy Award for Documentary Feature, but instead for the Academy Award for Best Picture. He stated he wanted the movie to be seen by a few million more people via a television broadcast prior to election day. According to Moore, “Academy rules forbid the airing of a documentary on television within nine months of its theatrical release”, and since the November 2 election was fewer than nine months after the film’s release, it would have been disqualified for the Documentary Oscar. However, Fahrenheit received no Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The title of the film alludes to the classic book Fahrenheit 451 about a future totalitarian state in which books are banned; according to the book, paper begins to burn at 451 °F (233 °C). The pre-release subtitle of the film confirms the allusion: “The temperature at which freedom burns.”
- As of August 2012, Fahrenheit 9/11 is the highest-grossing documentary of all time, taking in over US$200 million worldwide, including United States box office revenue of almost US$120 million. In February 2011, Moore sued producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein for US$2.7 million in unpaid profits from the film, claiming they used “Hollywood accounting tricks” to avoid paying him the money. In February 2012, Moore and the Weinsteins informed the court that they had settled their dispute.
- Moore directed this film about the American health care system, focusing particularly on the managed-care and pharmaceutical industries. At least four major pharmaceutical companies—Pfizer, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, and GlaxoSmithKline—ordered their employees not to grant any interviews or assist Moore. According to Moore on a letter at his website, “roads that often surprise us and lead us to new ideas—and challenge us to reconsider the ones we began with have caused some minor delays.” The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2007, receiving a lengthy standing ovation, and was released in the U.S. and Canada on June 29, 2007. The film was the subject of some controversy when it became known that Moore went to Cuba with chronically ill September 11 rescue workers to shoot parts of the film. The United States is looking into whether this violates the trade embargo. The film is currently ranked the fourth highest grossing documentary of all time and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
- Captain Mike Across America
- Moore takes a look at the politics of college students in what he calls “Bush Administration America” with this film shot during Moore’s 60-city college campus tour in the months leading up to George Bush’s 2004 presidential election. The film was later re-edited by Moore into Slacker Uprising.
- Capitalism: A Love Story
- On September 23, 2009, Moore released a new movie titled Capitalism: A Love Story, which looks at the late-2000s financial crisis and the U.S. economy during the transition between the incoming Obama Administration and the outgoing Bush Administration. Addressing a press conference at its release, Moore said, “Democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a participatory event. If we don’t participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy. So Obama will rise or fall based not so much on what he does but on what we do to support him.”
Moore has written and co-written eight non-fiction books, mostly on similar subject matter to his documentaries. Stupid White Men (2001) is ostensibly a critique of American domestic and foreign policy but, by Moore’s own admission, is also “a book of political humor.” Dude, Where’s My Country? (2003), is an examination of the Bush family‘s relationships with Saudi royalty, the Bin Laden family, and the energy industry, and a call-to-action for liberals in the 2004 election. Several of his works have made bestseller lists.
Moore has dabbled in acting, following a supporting role in Lucky Numbers (2000) playing the cousin of Lisa Kudrow‘s character, who agrees to be part of the scheme concocted by John Travolta‘s character. He also had a cameo in his Canadian Bacon as an anti-Canada activist. In 2004, he did a cameo, as a news journalist, in The Fever, starring Vanessa Redgrave in the lead.
Between 1994 and 1995, he directed and hosted the BBC television series TV Nation, which followed the format of news magazine shows but covered topics they avoid. The series aired on BBC2 in the UK. The series was also aired in the US on NBC in 1994 for 9 episodes and again for 8 episodes on Fox in 1995.
His other major series was The Awful Truth, which satirized actions by big corporations and politicians. It aired on Channel 4 in the UK, and the Bravo network in the US, in 1999 and 2000. Moore won the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in Arts and Entertainment for being the executive producer and host of The Awful Truth, where he was also described as “muckraker, author and documentary filmmaker”.
Another 1999 series, Michael Moore Live, was aired in the UK only on Channel 4, though it was broadcast from New York. This show had a similar format to The Awful Truth, but also incorporated phone-ins and a live stunt each week.
Moore has directed several music videos, including two for Rage Against the Machine for songs from The Battle of Los Angeles: “Sleep Now in the Fire” and “Testify“. He was threatened with arrest during the shooting of “Sleep Now in the Fire”, which was filmed on Wall Street; and subsequently the city of New York City had denied the band permission to play there, even though the band and Moore had secured a federal permit to perform.
Although Moore has been noted for his political activism, he rejects being labeled as a “political activist” saying such a description is redundant as a citizen of a democracy: “I and you and everyone else has to be a political activist. If we’re not politically active, it ceases to be a democracy.” According to John Flesher of the Associated Press, Moore is known for his “fiery left-wing populism,” and publications such as the Socialist Worker Online have hailed him as the “new Tom Paine.”
Moore was a high-profile guest at both the 2004 Democratic National Convention and the 2004 Republican National Convention, chronicling his impressions in USA Today. He was criticized in a speech by Republican Senator John McCain as “a disingenuous film-maker.” Moore laughed and waved as Republican attendees jeered, later chanting “four more years.” Moore gestured his thumb and finger at the crowd, which translates into “loser.”
During September and October 2004, Moore spoke at universities and colleges in swing states during his “Slacker Uprising Tour”. The tour gave away ramen and underwear to students who promised to vote. One stop during the tour was Utah Valley State College. A fight for his right to speak resulted in massive public debates and a media blitz. The Utah event was chronicled in the documentary film This Divided State.
Despite having supported Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election, Moore urged Nader not to run in 2004 so as not to split the left vote. On Real Time with Bill Maher, Moore and Maher knelt before Nader to plead with him to stay out of the race.
Moore drew attention in 2004 when he used the term “deserter” when he introduced Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark at a Democratic Presidential debate in New Hampshire. Noting that Clark had been a champion debater at West Point, Moore told a laughing crowd, “I know what you’re thinking. I want to see that debate” between Clark and [George W.] Bush – “the general versus the deserter.” Moore said he was referring to published reports in several media outlets including The Boston Globe which had reported that “there is strong evidence that Bush performed no military service as required when he moved from Houston to Alabama to work on a U.S. Senate campaign from May to November 1972.” 
In 2007 Moore became a contributing journalist at OpEdNews, and by May 2014 had authored over 70 articles published on their website. On April 21, 2008, Moore endorsed Barack Obama for President, stating that Hillary Clinton‘s recent actions had been “disgusting.” Moore was an active supporter of the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City and spoke with the OWS protesters on September 26, 2011. On October 29, 2011, he spoke at the Occupy Oakland protest site to express his support.
Moore’s 2011 claims that “Four hundred obscenely wealthy individuals, 400 little Mubaraks – most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout of 2008 – now have more cash, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined” and that these 400 Americans “have more wealth than half of all Americans combined” was found to be true by PolitiFact and others.
In an op-ed piece for The New York Times published on December 31, 2013, Moore assessed the Affordable Care Act, calling it “awful” and adding that, “Obamacare’s rocky start … is a result of one fatal flaw: The Affordable Care Act is a pro-insurance-industry plan implemented by a president who knew in his heart that a single-payer, Medicare-for-all model was the true way to go.” Despite his strong critique, however, Moore wrote that he still considers the plan a “godsend” because it provides a start “to get what we deserve: universal quality health care.”
Moore married movie producer Kathleen Glynn on October 19, 1991. He filed for divorce on June 17, 2013. At the time of his divorce, he was estimated to have a net worth of $50 million. On July 22, 2014, the divorce was finalized.
Following the Columbine High School massacre, Moore acquired a lifetime membership to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Moore said that he initially intended to become the NRA’s president to dismantle the organization, but he soon dismissed the plan as too difficult. Gun rights supporters such as Dave Kopel claimed that there was no chance of that happening; David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke wrote that Moore failed to discover that the NRA selects a president not by membership vote but by a vote of the board of directors.
In 2005 Time magazine named Moore one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Later in 2005, Moore founded the Traverse City Film Festival held annually in Traverse City, Michigan. In 2009, he co-founded the Traverse City Comedy Festival, also held annually in Traverse City, where Moore helped spearhead the renovation of the historic downtown State Theater.
- Moore, Michael (1996). Downsize This! Random Threats from an Unarmed American. New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 0-06-097733-7.
- Moore, Michael; Glynn, Kathleen (1998). Adventures in a TV Nation. New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 0-06-098809-6.
- Moore, Michael (2002). Stupid White Men …and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!. New York: Regan Books. ISBN 0-06-039245-2.
- Moore, Michael (2003). Dude, Where’s My Country?. New York: Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-53223-1.
- Moore, Michael (2004). Will They Ever Trust Us Again?. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-7152-1.
- Moore, Michael (2004). The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-7292-7.
- Moore, Michael (2008). Mike’s Election Guide 2008. New York: Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-54627-5.
- Moore, Michael (2011). Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life. New York: Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-53224-X.
- Roger & Me (1989)
- Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint (1992)
- Canadian Bacon (1995)
- The Big One (1997)
- EDtv (1999) (cameo as himself)
- Lucky Numbers (2000) (as actor)
- The Party’s Over (2001)
- Bowling for Columbine (2002)
- Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
- Sicko (2007)
- Captain Mike Across America (2007)
- Slacker Uprising (2008)
- Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)