Johnny Depp skewers Donald Trump with The Art of the Deal spoof biopic

Funny or Die

Johnny Depp stars as the US Republican candidate circa 1988 in Funny of Die's spoof autobiography.

Johnny Depp has played a loopy pirate, a mad hatter and a demon barber. But will he be a convincing Donald Trump?

The humour website Funny or Die on Wednesday began streaming a 50-minute comedy that has Depp portraying the businessman turned politician, full-blown comb-over and all.

Kept a secret for months – no small task in Hollywood – Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal: The Movie was released to coincide with Trump's victory on Tuesday in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary.

Donald Trump...or is that Johnny Depp.  Donny Depp, maybe? We just can'r tell anymore.

Donald Trump...or is that Johnny Depp. Donny Depp, maybe? We just can'r tell anymore.

"It was a crazy, completely nuts idea that somehow we pulled off," said Adam McKay, a co-founder of Funny or Die, which also counts Will Ferrell​ and Judd Apatow​ as principal partners and produces exclusive material that often features well-known stars.

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Johnny Depp as Donald Trump in Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal: The Movie.

Johnny Depp as Donald Trump in Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal: The Movie.

McKay, director of The Big Short, which is a contender for best picture at the coming Academy Awards, added that the site's newest skewering of Trump will "with any luck" annoy the presidential hopeful.

The Art of the Deal, which takes its title from Trump's 1987 bestselling business advice book, may establish a new Hollywood genre: the fake television movie of the week.

As a narrator (director Ron Howard, playing himself) tells viewers at its start, the movie was made in the 1980s and had Trump as its writer-producer-director-star. But a football game went into overtime, and so an angry Trump ordered the prime-time special pulled and forever tucked away in a vault.

Johnny Depp stars in Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal: The Movie.

Johnny Depp stars in Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal: The Movie.

Howard supposedly discovered this Hollywood relic. McKay, speaking by phone and keeping up the joke, said that his site "views this movie as an important historical document that has been hidden away, much like Jerry Lewis' Holocaust clown movie". (The Day the Clown Cried, a 1972 film written, directed and starring Lewis as a clown being held in a concentration camp, was never released.)

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Depp, who was not available for an interview, spent four days in early December taping the faux movie.

Other characters are played by Jack McBrayer, Patton Oswalt, Alfred Molina, Henry Winkler, Andy Richter and Jacob Tremblay, among others. Michaela Watkins, known for her work on Saturday Night Live and the Fox sitcom New Girl, was cast as Ivana Trump.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

In keeping with the 1980s setting, Kenny Loggins wrote the theme song.

The script for The Art of the Deal was written by Joe Randazzo, a former editor of The Onion and a writer for the Comedy Central series @midnight. Jeremy Konner, a creator of the television series Drunk History, directed The Art of the Deal.

Like most comedy outlets, Funny or Die has mocked Trump before.

In September, for instance, McKay was a co-writer of the script for a video called Mexican Donald Trump, which found George Lopez playing Donaldo Trumpez and proposing a border wall to "keep the lazy Americans out"; it has since been viewed more than 10 million times across multiple platforms, according to a Funny or Die spokeswoman.

The idea for The Art of the Deal started with Owen Burke, who became Funny or Die's editor in chief in September. Burke pitched the concept to McKay, who in turn proposed it to Depp. (Fun fact: Burke's father, while working at ABC in 1980, helped put Nightline on the air.)

"The plan was to move really fast because we thought Trump would go away, as least as a presidential candidate," Burke said.

"When he bizarrely didn't go away, we had a little more time. But that meant keeping the secret for longer."

How did they zip everyone's lips?

"We had a few people sign non-disclosures, but mostly we just begged people not to say anything," Burke said. (Underscoring the difficulty of keeping these kind of productions secret, especially when they involve major stars, word leaked last spring that Ferrell and Kristen Wiig​ were working privately on a Lifetime movie called A Deadly Adoption, which ran in June.)

"Absolutely bananas" is how Burke described Depp's performance. "Because we tend to move so fast, we're usually just slapping wigs on people," he said.

"But Johnny brought, like, a whole team of professionals to help him get into character. Or at least style his hair."

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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