VENICE, Italy — Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris said when he interviewed Steve Bannon for his latest film, "American Dharma," Morris likened him to Satan, and was surprised when President Donald Trump's former chief strategist "embraced the idea."
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday at the Venice Film Festival, Morris said, "My wife had mentioned to me that, you know, 'Bannon is a little bit like Lucifer in 'Paradise Lost,' and I mentioned this to him. I said, 'You know, that Lucifer character — aka Satan — reminds me of you!' I think that's learning something, because he embraces the idea."
The Oscar-winning director continued, "How many characters — I've interviewed all kinds of characters over the years — how many characters have embraced the idea that they might be Satan? I can't think of any, except for one: Steve Bannon. He loved the idea."
"American Dharma" is based on Morris' interview with Bannon, in which he questions him on his current beliefs, his feelings about Trump and his influences.
Morris said he "struggled" with the idea that he was giving a platform to Bannon and his views, but he feels that with the film, he's done "something different.
"I don't think there is anything quite like this movie out there. Bannon has this extraordinary ability — maybe call it clickbait or whatever, Trump also has that ability — of getting attention from the media. Maybe that's an argument I don't really want to comment on — whether it's an argument for doing the same thing again and again and again, but it's certainly not an argument against doing something different or trying to explore something in a deeper, more interesting way."
At the press conference, Morris went on to defend himself against criticism from one journalist who asked whether he was "ashamed" to have given a voice to Bannon.
"If you're trying to tell me that this is evil or this is bad or this is pernicious or this is destructive, you should be scared, and you also should be scared because you'll learn nothing because you don't want to learn anything. All people today want to see is journalists sitting in front of a table discussing what they think about x, y and z. They don't want to see people going out and trying to find things out. Easy to say you did nothing, but even if I did nothing, I tried."
Bannon was absent from the press conference and didn't appear as part of the official delegation at the film's afternoon premiere, which took place soon after the press conference. Bannon made headlines earlier this week when his invitation to The New Yorker Festival was canceled after an outcry from other scheduled speakers. Bannon called that decision "gutless."
"American Dharma" is showing out of competition at this year's festival.