According to George Clooney, Donald Trump is part of the Hollywood elite he has regularly criticized on the campaign trail and after taking office, calling him a “Hollywood elitist” because of the money he receives because of his previous film and television roles.
In an interview with Canal+, the actor claimed that Trump benefits from his membership of the Screen Actors Guild pension scheme and makes a substantial sum each year from it. “He collects $120,000 a year in his Screen Actors Guild pension fund. He is a Hollywood elitist,” he said.
According to a disclosure the president released in 2015 he received $110,228 from the union, but it’s not clear whether this amount was an annual fee or a combined total.
Trump has made multiple appearances on the small and big screen from his film cameos in Home Alone 2, to turns in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and his most well known role as himself on the Apprentice. His work on the Apprentice and the Celebrity Apprentice reportedly earned Trump $213.6m over 11 years, and along with his other work made him eligible for a pension from SAG.
In the interview Clooney also said Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon was a member of the elite he and Trump have been so vocal in criticizing.
“Steve Bannon is a failed film writer and director,” Clooney said to the French channel. “That’s the truth, that’s what he’s done. He wrote a Shakespearean rap musical about the LA riots that he couldn’t get made. He made a lot of money off of Seinfeld. He’s elitist Hollywood, I mean, that’s the reality.”
Bannon still receives royalties from Seinfeld, the seminal 90s sitcom created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, a fact that one of the show’s writers called “galling”.
Peter Mehlman told the Guardian in December 2016 that the fact he’d made “all this money off a show that’s associated with Jewish humor – that’s pretty galling”, because Mehlman felt Bannon had showed himself to be a “raging antisemite”.
In an interview with Businessweek, Bannon explained that he didn’t expect that much from his initial investment in Seinfeld, a show which continues to pull in millions in syndication money. “We calculated what it would get us if it made it to syndication,” said Bannon. “We were wrong by a factor of five.”
In January, Clooney joined in the criticism of Trump after Meryl Streep used a speech at the SAG awards to launch a scathing attack at the president. After Trump responded by calling Streep “over-rated” on Twitter, Clooney replied: “Aren’t you supposed to be running the country?” He added: “I didn’t vote for him, I don’t support him, I don’t think he’s the right choice.
“At this moment in our lives we have to hope that he doesn’t destroy everything. The reality is you have to hope he will do a decent job because if the United States fails, really terrible things happen, so you have to hope that he can.”