When I last spoke with Danny DeVito at the Sundance Film Festival in January, he was feeling the Bern pretty strong. But now that Bernie Sanders has closed the gap with frontrunner Hillary Clinton, winning seven of the last eight Democratic primaries, the lovable star of films such as Twins, L.A. Confidential, and Romancing the Stone, has ramped it up to 11.
Last month, DeVito introduced the Vermont senator at a rally in St. Louis, Missouri. With a wooden box in tow, he stepped up to the lectern, and, addressing a crowd in the tens of thousands, proclaimed, “We need you Obi-Wan!”
I’m seated with DeVito in Tribeca, where he’s promoting his heartwarming short Curmudgeons, which made its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Last night, of course, his candidate went toe-to-toe with Clinton at a CNN-hosted debate in Brooklyn, and DeVito felt the moderators gave his guy a raw deal.
“The debate last night was like the Clinton News Network,” he says. “I was hoping somebody would time the amount of times Wolf Blitzer butted in on Bernie Sanders and let Hillary continue. I think that red light was blinking like crazy—we couldn’t see it—and every time Bernie raised his hand, they just let Hillary go.”
As far as the contenders’ performances go, DeVito took issue with the way Hillary handled a question posed several times to her by CNN moderator Dana Bash about her continued refusal to release transcripts of the six-figure speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs.
“Show us the transcripts of the speeches to Goldman Sachs,” DeVito says of Clinton, “Time and time again she’s been asked that question. Look, I think she’s an intelligent woman and I voted for her husband twice. She’s a lawyer from Illinois who’s adopted New York State because it was the smart thing to do, and that’s OK because, hey, that’s politics. But why won’t she answer a question? Why does she keep saying, ‘I’ll show you the transcripts when anyone else does?’”
One of the biggest moments of Thursday night’s Democratic debate concerned Israel, and the way it’s treated the Palestinian people. On the heels of Hillary’s recent pro-Israel comments at AIPAC (which Bernie did not attend), both candidates were asked about the ongoing situation in Gaza. While Hillary double-down on her pro-Israel stance, Bernie scolded Israel, calling its 2014 war on Gaza a “disproportionate” response to Palestinian terrorist attacks, acknowledging the high civilian death toll, and closing with a message to the Israeli prime minister: “There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that [Benjamin] Netanyahu is not right all of the time.” Oddly, the comments came the same day the Sanders campaign chose to suspend a staffer for being critical of Netanyahu.
Watching at home, DeVito says he was impressed with Bernie’s answer, and disappointed in Hillary’s canned response.
“I thought last night, in New York City, where the Israeli lobby is big and everybody is talking about Israel, Bernie really stood up for the Palestinians,” says DeVito. “Just say that you think there was excessive force the last time the Israelis attacked Gaza! No. She couldn’t say it. It’s gettin’ sticky because you don’t want the same thing to happen there that happened in South Africa. You don’t want that.”
DeVito is also adamant that, despite Hillary’s imposing superdelegate advantage over Bernie, her current lead among pledged delegates, and her presumed victory in Tuesday’s New York Democratic primary, Bernie can carry his current momentum all the way to the nomination.
“It’s a lot of people thinking, ‘I don’t matter. My vote does not matter.’ And every vote does matter. If we can mobilize people this week, get ‘em to the polls on Tuesday, that’s the thing that will lift up the Democratic Party and absolutely take the nomination for Bernie,” he says. “I really think he can win. I do,” continues DeVito. “The superdelegates, we all know they can change your mind. But the will of the people can win; it’s not so much anything else. You can try to pour tons of corporate money into the system and steer it by having the mainstream media be run by all these corporations in this club, but the people—the middle class, the students, the people in debt up to their eyeballs—those people are the ones that will get out in the streets and get things done. If you put Bernie Sanders in the White House, the rest is gonna fall into place, because what he wants people are going to give him, because he’s a man people trust.”
To play devil’s advocate, I asked DeVito why, if Bernie cares so much about issues like racial prejudice and inequality, he’d choose to decamp from his native Brooklyn to Vermont because, as he’s said, he was “captivated by rural life.” While Vermont is indeed a beautiful state, with its 94 percent white population—the second in the country behind Maine—it’s not all that representative of modern America.
The question seems to stump DeVito. “Right… Why did he go to Vermont?” he says, before breaking for a long pause. “That’s a great question. Did anybody ever ask him why he moved to Vermont? We need to get to the bottom of this.”