Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump once won an award for acting in a 1989 romantic comedy that tells the story of a horny ghost who conspires to commit murder so that he may once again have sex with his much younger—and still living—spouse. The movie also stars ‘70s sex symbol Bo Derek, and features one of the dumbest, least funny rape jokes in modern movie history.
There are no typos in the paragraph you just finished reading.
During the first year of George H.W. Bush’s presidency, actress Bo Derek and her late husband, writer/director John Derek, made a movie together—crisply titled, Ghosts Can’t Do It. (The “it” here refers to “sexual intercourse.”)
Here’s the synopsis, which I’m posting below and not paraphrasing because it is too perfect:
“Elderly Scott [played by Anthony Quinn] kills himself after a heart attack wrecks his body, but then comes back as a ghost and convinces his loving young hot wife Kate [played by Derek] to pick and kill a young man in order for Scott to possess his body and be with her again.”
In the movie, the couple is also trying to strike a business deal with real estate mogul Donald Trump. And who better to play Donald Trump than… Donald Trump. The film’s credits even include the tongue-in-cheek parenthetical of “(And yes, that was Donald Trump).”
In one scene, Derek’s character (the “hot wife”) plugs Trump’s book The Art of the Deal. In another, Kate and The Donald appear to flirt during aggressive business negotiations. The deceased husband, visible only to Kate, feeds her advice as they negotiate.
“But be assured, Mrs. Scott, that in this room there are knives sharp enough to cut you to the bone—and hearts cold enough to eat yours as hors d’oeuvres,” Trump assures her. (He is talking about figurative, businessman-related knives.)
“You’re too pretty to be bad,” Kate fires back.
“You noticed,” Trump replies, with a “pout that will forever haunt your dreams,” as Business Insider described.
“I think you like to make mischief,” Kate later observes in the boardroom.
“You noticed that, too,” Trump says.
The acting, line delivery, and attempts at tense dialogue are laughably bad all around.
Trump has made cameos in other films such as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Zoolander. But he actually managed to win a prize for his work in Ghosts Can’t Do It. The film was released in Australia straight-to-video in 1989, and then enjoyed a brief theatrical run in the United States the following year. In 1991, Trump was awarded a “Worst Supporting Actor” award at the Golden Raspberry Awards (or “Razzies”), which has served as the annual antidote to the Oscars since 1981.
The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation has presented statuettes to “winners” in the past. However, Trump never picked up his.
“We were ahead of the curve on thinking he was a dork,” John Wilson, founder of the Golden Raspberry Awards, told The Daily Beast. “It truly is an atrocious little movie… The most insulting Razzie is the one you get for playing yourself. And the only other person I know of who has won one as himself was President Bush... for [Michael Moore’s documentary] Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Wilson has always thought that Trump’s role in the film “sticks out like a sore thumb, even in a movie as ludicrous as this—what is Donald Trump doing here.” He is less amused at Trump’s current political fortunes.
“Trump will be the only Razzie winner who went on to become the presidential nominee for [a major political party],” Wilson said, sighing, adding that it was “sadly” going to happen.
“I think the joke only goes so far, and I don’t know if we really want a joke in the Oval Office,” he continued. “I’m not a big fan of Hillary Clinton… but most of what Donald Trump has espoused and proposed is offensive… Other than for a Razzie, I would not ever vote for Donald Trump.”
Trump wasn’t the only one involved with Ghosts who walked away a loser that year. Ghosts Can’t Do It snagged awards for Worst Picture, Worst Director, and Worst Actress. And these, uh, awards were well-deserved. The film was universally panned by critics—then and now.
“You can’t believe how much they’re fucking up here,” The Cinema Snob said last year.
“The picture operates somewhat like a black hole, dragging all signs of intelligent life down with it,” John Hartl wrote for The Seattle Times in June 1990.
“Trump squints and makes fish lips after every line of dialogue,” San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle wrote that same month. “Interesting choice,” he added.
“He was actually imitating [fascist dictator] Mussolini already with the lips thing he was doing,” LaSalle told The Daily Beast, recalling the film nearly three decades on. “He was being subliminal … [Seriously, though,] it seemed he was trying to be seductive, but instead he was repellant. But also mystifying. You were wondering why he was doing that with his mouth. But I think we found out later that that’s just his face.”
The San Francisco Chronicle film critic is also having a tough time wrapping his head around the rise of Trumpism in 2016.
“If in 1990, someone had told you that the guy in this movie had some kind of mass [political] appeal, you would just wonder about the mentality of people a quarter-century into the future,” LaSalle said.
In his original review of Ghosts Can’t Do It, LaSalle bashed some of the movie’s “dim-witted writing,” which includes a rape gag that LaSalle still calls “offensive and weird.”
“In one scene Kate is chased from the shower to a swimming pool by a hit man. ‘I will not let you rape me,’ she says. Derek says this as though she were yelling at the family cat. Then when the man makes it clear that he has no intention of raping her but plans to kill her instead, she changes her tune. ‘Rape me!’ she says. Bo Derek is even a worse actress than John Derek is a writer, and that’s saying something.”
“[The rape joke] is absolutely not funny—it wasn’t funny in 1989, and it is definitely not funny now,” LaSalle said.
Bo Derek could not be reached for comment regarding the film, Trump, and whether she would support The Donald in the general election. “She is out of the country at the present time,” Derek’s publicist emailed The Daily Beast. (The 59-year-old actress previously campaigned for both Bush presidents and endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president in 2007, but says she ended up voting for Barack Obama in 2008.
“It’s a nice, intimate entertainment,” Derek told the Los Angeles Times in 1990.