Michael Moore Biography


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Birth Name: Michael Moore
Born: 04/23/1954
Birth Place: Flint, Michigan, USA


Born on April 23, 1954 in Flint, MI of working class Irish stock who emigrated to the United States in the nineteenth century, Moore was reared in nearby suburban Davison by his dad, Frank, an assembly line worker for AC Spark Plug, and his mom, Veronica, a secretary for General Motors. He attended St. Paul's Seminary in preparation for becoming a Catholic priest, but left his sophomore year after realizing it was not meant to be. Instead, he attended Davison High School, where he was active in both drama and debate. When 18-year-olds were given the right to vote in 1972, Moore ran for the Davison school board and won on the platform of firing the high school's principal, becoming one of the youngest elected officials in the country. An effort to remove him, however, was undertaken by a group that took offence to a play he wrote in high school about Jesus being taken down from the cross, only to be renailed by the town bigots. The coupe effort failed.

After dropping out of the University of Michigan following his freshman year, Moore got a job at the Buick plant where his grandfather worked, only to be seized by an incredible fear his first day that kept him from showing up. Instead Moore went on to found and edit The Flint Voice (later The Michigan Voice). He had also served as a commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and had a brief stint as executive editor of Mother Jones magazine, until he was fired in September 1986 for not printing a story that attacked the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Without a job - but with his wife Kathleen and daughter Natalie - Moore moved back to Flint to discover that General Motors - then the biggest job source in the city - was closing its factory doors. After seeing CEO Roger Smith announcing more layoffs and plant closings, Moore became determined to make a movie. With the help of documentary filmmaker Kevin Rafferty, who taught Moore how to use a camera, he began shooting what became "Roger & Me" (1989), a harsh, but humorous pursuit by Moore to land an interview with Smith after 30,000 employees had been laid off.

In order to make the film, Moore sold his Flint home for $27,000, held garage sales, settled for $58,000 with Mother Jones after suing for wrongful termination, and hosted bingo games for $300 a week. It took him three years and $250,000 to complete this darkly ironic film that followed Moore attempting to track down General Motors chairman Roger Smith in order to show him how factory closings had devastated Flint. Along the way, he made a co-star of Sheriff's Deputy Fred Ross, who coolly and efficiently traveled around the town, pounding on doors and evicting families from their homes. "Roger & Me" savagely exposed the heartlessness of the Reagan '80s, lampooning such establishment lackeys as the Reverend Robert Schuller ("Tough times don't last, tough people do") and Anita Bryant (singing a buck-up rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone"), who arrive to offer lip service as balm for the disenfranchised of Flint. Charges that Moore tampered with chronology were rampant - Pauline Kael said he "improvises his own version of history" and uses "leftism as a superior attitude" - but he concocted with his non-objective cinema-verite, a bit of "alternative" propaganda so entertaining, it could only reside on comedy shelves in video stores.

Following the success of "Roger and Me," Moore established the Center for Alternative Media, a foundation devoted to supporting independent filmmakers and social action groups. He also made a short sequel, "Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint" (1992), revisiting Bunny Lady Rhonda Britto from "Roger and Me" fame, before venturing into TV with the irreverent "TV Nation" (NBC, 1994). Working with three partners -Columbia TriStar TV, the BBC, and NBC - Moore served as executive producer and anchor, as well as writing, directing and reporting man-on-the-street segments that earned him the 1995 Emmy for Outstanding Informational Series. Despite critical acclaim, "TV Nation" - which also aired in England - remained a summer replacement. Though Fox did revive the series in the summer of 1995, the network chose to keep it off the regular season schedule. Moore's merry band of troublemakers included Janeane Garofalo, Steven Wright and investigative reporter Crackers the Corporate Crime Chicken, opining on such subjects as pets on Prozac, a real-estate broker pushing houses along a toxic dump site, a day with Dr. Death (Jack Kevorkian), and Avon ladies in the Amazon.

Moore segued into fiction films with "Canadian Bacon" (1995), a fanciful political satire in which the USA declares war on its northern neighbors. Though Moore claimed it tested badly because audiences were reluctant to laugh with the late comic John Candy -who suffered a fatal heart attack after filming - critics universally panned it. He rebounded nicely, however, with a return to guerrilla tactics for "The Big One" (1997), an anti-corporate screed that attacked the billions of dollars of welfare received by companies from the U.S. government. On the 47-city book tour promoting his best-selling 1996 book, Downsize This! Random Threats from an Unarmed American, Moore journeyed to Centralia, IL, where a good year at the Payday candy bar factory - a $20 million dollar profit - had enabled ownership to sell the company, resulting in the plant's closing and prompting Moore to say, "In other words, if the workers had done a lousy job, and the plant only made $100,000 dollars in profit ... " and the manager finished his sentence: "They'd have had to keep it open."

The rabble-rousing Moore had great on-camera fun writing checks for 80 cents ("The first hours wage for a Mexican worker") that he tried-along with a Downsizer of the Year Award - to present to Johnson Products of Milwaukee. He also sent a $100 check for Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign from Abortionists for Buchanan and checks from Satan Worshippers for Dole, Pedophiles for Free Trade (Perot), and Hemp Growers for Clinton - all of which were hilariously cashed. But the big coup of "The Big One" was his on-camera corralling of Nike CEO Phil Knight. Unlike Roger Smith, who had consistently dodged Moore, Knight welcomed the pesky miscreant with open arms, then amazingly spoke with more candor than business savvy about his company's use of cheap Indonesian labor - some as young as 14 years of age - to manufacture its trendy sneakers. Nike's attempted damage control afterwards did not persuade Moore to remove the CEO's imprudent comments, though a deal could have been struck if Knight had acceded to the filmmaker's request that he build a factory in Flint. Knight, however, remained true to his original statement that "Flint's not on our radar screen."

Moore next turned up on TV with "The Awful Truth" (Bravo, 1999), claiming: "I loved 'TV Nation', but 'The Awful Truth' is the show that we always wanted to do but could never get past the censors." For one segment, he invited the employees of an HMO that denied a transplant to a sick man to attend his funeral - before his death. Thoroughly embarrassed, the company reconsidered in the man's favor. Other stunts included leading a merry bunch of carolers - sans voice boxes due to laryngeal cancer - to the homes and offices of tobacco executives, and attempts to give Bill Gates a weed-wacker and some Martha Stewart sheets for the multi-billionaire's new $60 million house. In one hilarious bit, Moore tried to find a date for Hillary Clinton once she was "officially free" from husband Bill Clinton after his leaving office in 2001. Moore's brand of satire may have been even more popular in England, where Channel 4 wasted no time outbidding the BBC to commission the uncensored 12-part series.

In 2002, Moore produced the documentary "Bowling for Columbine," a characteristically sardonic and scathing examination of America's gun-obsessed culture. The film, while typically presenting Moore's very particular viewpoints and not always interested in fair and balanced coverage, was hailed as brilliantly constructed and entertaining at the least; enthralling and eye-opening at best. For this controversial film, Moore received a special award along with the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival - which marked the first time a documentary was allowed into the festival in 50 years - an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and many other plaudits, including a surprising Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen - despite being a documentary. At last embraced by the Hollywood elite, Moore did, however, create a minor scandal at the 2003 Academy Awards, when he used his acceptance speech as an opportunity to lash out at President George W. Bush for launching war against Iraq. The outburst shocked and offended many in the audience at the Kodak Theater and watching at home, though he later was proved prescient when two-thirds of the country had turned against the war by 2007. Meanwhile, attendance for "Bowling For Columbine" skyrocketed after the Oscar speech.

In 2004 Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" - which focused on the U.S.-Middle East relationships and events - particularly the long-standing, but virtually unexplored links between the Bush and bin Laden families - that contributed to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks on America and the subsequent fallout resulting in a disastrous war in Iraq. Once again, Moore fanned the flames of controversy, forcing distributor Disney -then headed by CEO Michael Eisner - to decree that the film would harm the company's negotiations with Governor Jeb Bush for favorable treatment at its Florida theme parks. Miramax co-chairs Bob and Harvey Weinstein instead bought back the film rights and distributed it independently - teaming with Lions Gate and IFC Films - thus relieving Disney of any corporate responsibility for the film. Disney even donated the buy-back fee, estimated at about $6 million, to charity - all done to distance itself from the project.

The pre-release furor only heightened interest in the film, and that interest subsequently skyrocketed when "Fahrenheit 9/11" won the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival almost two months prior to the film's release, resulting in the film becoming the first documentary in history to debut as its opening week's top-grossing film, netting $21.8 million. Although Moore's outsized everyman" personality and his socio-political agendas typically stood squarely at the center of most of his previous films, in "Fahrenheit 9/11" he served primarily as the narrator and guiding force, with only a handful of appearances. Instead, the auteur saved his real-life role for the bigger battle on the American political and media stages, using his distinctive image to ensure that audiences would see the film and hear its message. "Fahrenheit 9/11" went on to become the highest-grossing documentary of all time, taking in over $200 million in international box office receipts.

Moore took quite a beating from the left after Bush was re-elected in November 2004, which claimed the antagonistic filmmaker fanned the flames of the right and actually mobilized them against Democratic nominee John Kerry. He remained off the public radar screen while he filmed his next polemic, "Sicko" (2007), a frolicking, rambunctious and often poignant look at the poor quality of healthcare in the United States, as compared to other Western countries like Canada, France and England. In one vignette after another, Moore systematically picked apart the U.S. system, focusing not on the 50 million or so uninsured, but the millions of middle class Americans under the illusion of adequate coverage. While traipsing the world in his typical comic-relief role of clueless buffoon, Moore nonetheless went for maximum emotional impact by showing the tragic extremes of a dysfunctional system.

Though taking great pains to point out that healthcare was not a political problem, but one that affects everyone regardless of affiliation, Moore incurred the wrath of the right once again with a button-pushing attempt to get 9/11 rescue workers the same healthcare as al-Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. His trip to Cuba sparked the U.S. Treasury Department to mount an investigation, with the potential of stalling the film's release over allegedly obtaining footage illegally. While the outcome of the investigation remained uncertain leading up to the June 29, 2007 release, Moore basked in the glow of a triumphant premiere at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, where "Sicko" was shown to a packed crowd of 2,000 at the Lumière Theater. Naturally, the documentary received lavish applause and praise from the crowd, though Moore did battle Canadian journalists about his oversimplification of their system - they later admitted they would not trade theirs for the American one.




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