“Do they think I did it?” Michael Moore said, his eyes darting back and forth. “Do they think the pharmaceutical companies did it so maybe they could destroy the box office for this movie? No! That wouldn’t happen, would it?”
With a conspiratorial laugh, Moore admitted that he has no idea how “Sicko,” his new documentary about the health care industry, found its way on the Internet two weeks before the national theatrical release on June 29. But he doesn’t seem to mind.
“I’m just happy that people get to see my movies,” Moore said. “I’m not a big supporter of the copyright laws in this country. I thought Napster was a good idea.”
While that’s a noble statement coming from the country’s most famously outspoken liberal filmmaker, the businesspeople behind “Sicko,” including distributor the Weinstein Company, aren’t nearly as enthused.
“They’re out there listening to this right now and they’re going crazy that I’m in here saying that it’s OK,” Moore said.
Going crazy? Maybe. Getting really angry seems more accurate. In a statement to MTV News, Peter Hurwitz, general counsel for the Weinstein Company, said his company is outraged by the illegal pirating of the film.
“Every DVD screener that comes from the Weinstein Company is watermarked and traceable,” the statement read. “We are actively investigating those who illegally uploaded ‘Sicko’ to the Internet, and we will take the strongest possible legal action.”
Indeed, MTV News has confirmed that the Weinstein Company has hired Kroll Associates — the internationally famous security firm whose clients include the U.S. government and, before 9/11, the World Trade Center — to track down the Internet pirates.
By early Monday, YouTube had removed all versions of the film that had been uploaded to its site, releasing a statement that read: “We cooperate with copyright-holders to identify and promptly remove infringing content.”
Yet Moore doesn’t seem to care. “I don’t understand bands or filmmakers or whatever who oppose sharing, having their work be shared with people, because I think it only increases your fanbase.
“You know, when I was a kid, there were vinyl record albums and then cassette tapes came along, and people started making cassette tapes,” Moore continued. “And I remember one day someone giving me a cassette tape of an album called London Calling by a group called the Clash. And I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ And suddenly I became a Clash fan. From that point on, I bought their albums and I went to their concerts. And they ended up making money off me — because somebody gave me a free tape of their music.”
Perhaps Moore hasn’t noticed the declining revenue of the music industry. But he does know what his intentions were for “Sicko.”
“Let me say this: I’m a filmmaker, and I made this film for you to see it on a 40-foot screen,” Moore said. “If I just wanted to make a TV show on a little screen, I’d do that. Or if I wanted to do something for your laptop or your iPod, I would go do that.
“There’s a real visceral, emotional response people have in my documentaries, and I want you to come to the movie theater and have that collective feeling with people,” he added.
Bucking tradition, several newspapers on Tuesday (June 19) published reviews of “Sicko.” Typically, editors wait until the film’s actual release date before printing the reviews.
Moore has taken everything in stride.
“When television was invented, they said, ‘Oh, that’s the end of the movies. TV’s killing the movies.’ Didn’t kill the movies,” Moore said. “Then they invented the VCR. ‘Oh, that’s gonna kill the movies. People are just gonna stay home and watch movies.’ Didn’t kill the movies.
“Nothing’s gonna kill the movies because people want to get out of the house on a Friday night and go somewhere and do something,” he continued. “People are still going to ask people out on dates, and it’s a cheap way to go and spend a couple of hours before you go and do the thing you really want to be doing on the date.”
That doesn’t mean that the liberal baron isn’t above a little conspiracy theory on how the film made it onto the Internet.
Moore said that based on his film’s opening-weekend gross, his distributor will then decide how many screens to put the film on throughout the country. Therefore, if so many people watch “Sicko” on the Internet that the opening-weekend gross is less than expected, “Sicko” won’t be released on as many screens nationwide. Fewer people will get to see the movie. According to The New York Times, the Weinstein Company announced Tuesday that they are offering a “sneak peak” of “Sicko” in 27 markets this weekend. The company said the early opening was not related to the film’s leak.
“Perhaps these people who are downloading it are becoming tools and stooges of these pharmaceutical companies,” Moore said.
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[This story was originally published at 3:10 p.m. ET on 6.19.2007]