At the 2006 Academy Awards, after receiving the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for portraying a grizzled CIA agent in the geopolitical thriller Syriana, George Clooney strolled up to the rostrum and delivered an acceptance speech touching on “Hollywood elitism.”
“We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while, I think,” said Clooney. “It’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects, we are the ones—this Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939, when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be a part of this Academy, proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch.”Of course, McDaniel received that Oscar for her role as Mammy, a compliant house slave, in Gone With the Wind—and was required to sit at a segregated table in the back of the room on Oscar night—but Clooney did have a point: Hollywood has historically been ahead of the curve when it comes to tolerance and social-justice issues.
Which brings us to Donald Trump. The 45th president of the United States has consistently characterized Hollywood as out-of-touch elitists who hole up in their gated mansions with their Oscars and personal chefs, blissfully unaware of how the other 99 percent lives. Clooney addressed this misrepresentation (and how hypocritical of Trump it is) in an interview with French journalist Laurent Weil ahead of the César Awards—the French Oscars—where Clooney is set to receive an honorary award.
“There’s a really interesting argument, this is the part that makes you a little crazy,” said Clooney, before touching on Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech criticizing Trump. “When Meryl spoke, everyone on that one side was, ‘Well that’s elitist Hollywood speaking.’ Donald Trump has 22 acting credits in television... He collects $120,000 a year in his Screen Actors Guild pension fund. Uhh? He is a Hollywood elitist.”
Indeed, in addition to being the heir to a real-estate magnate who received millions of dollars from his father to help keep his business afloat (and tens of millions more upon his death to help lift him out of debt), his alleged billionaire status, living in a gold penthouse in New York City, and saying that the most dangerous place he’s ever been to is Brooklyn, Trump received a $110,228 pension from the Screen Actors Guild, according to his relatively vague financial-disclosure forms he submitted during the campaign. Trump has appeared in everything from Home Alone 2 and Sex and the City to Zoolander, and hosted the reality-TV competition series The Apprentice—and its star-fucking spinoff, Celebrity Apprentice—for close to a decade.
Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has some deep Hollywood ties as well. Before he joined the far-right fringe, serving as chief executive of the self-described “alt-right” platform Breitbart, and before he hired the transphobic, homophobic, racist, hebephilia apologist Milo Yiannopoulos and helped mentor the now-disgraced internet troll, Bannon was a failed Hollywood director who wrote, produced, and directed a string of utterly unwatchable documentaries and features. He did, however, cut a sweetheart deal that granted him a piece of the TV sitcom Seinfeld, which made him very rich—an ironic twist, given that Bannon has been accused of anti-Semitism.“Steve Bannon is a failed film writer and director,” added Clooney. “That’s the truth, that’s what he’s done. He wrote a Shakespearean rap musical about the L.A. riots that he couldn’t get made. He made a lot of money off of Seinfeld. He’s elitist Hollywood, I mean that’s the reality.”