Ready for Moore?

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There's a moment in Sicko where you interview a woman whose husband was denied a bone marrow treatment and died. And there was a board with easily identifiable people who made that decision. It seems like if this were 5 or 10 years ago, you would be camped outside their houses with a mic.
And where did that get us?

Well, didn't this whole movie come from one of your old TV shows where you got an HMO to give a guy a new pancreas?
[Pause] Right. Yes. And one of the original ideas I had for this movie seven years ago was that I was going to do that 10 times. Ten 10-minute segments. And we could do that and save 10 lives, but then I thought, ''That's great — that we save 10 lives — but we need to save 10,000.'' There are 18,000 people a year dying because they don't have health insurance. I mean, there's much bigger fish to fry here than going after one little board in Kansas City. I guess that would make a good film, but everyone would go, ''There goes Mike again.'' I'm not saying I won't do that again, but at this point in my life it seemed much more dangerous and powerful to do it this way. What I'm suggesting is the elimination of private health insurance, which is a much bigger thing. I don't know any politicians who are going to take that stand, which is too bad. I don't know many liberals who can take that stand. They want to reform the system and put Band-Aids on the system. The system needs to be scrapped and we need to invent something here that will benefit all Americans.

Fox News today called Sicko evidence of a more grown-up Michael Moore.
The kinder, gentler Mike. I've heard that in the last couple of days. Well, Here's Mike and his celebrity smackdown! [was getting old]. Who's he taking down today? Today is Charlton Heston. Tomorrow is George Bush. Yes, the NRA needs to be stopped and Bush absolutely needs to be stopped, but I'm getting older. And you start to realize that you only really see so much time in this world and you hope to see some change in your lifetime. And let's say I was successful with a little hospital in Kansas City, Mo. That's good. But I hope to see a larger change in the not-too-distant future.

You took a bunch of 9/11 workers to Guantánamo Bay to try and get them the same health care that al-Qaeda prisoners have been getting. When that didn't work, you went into Havana and placed them in hospitals. I'm assuming that you had to work with the Cuban government on that.
Yes. That is correct, in the sense that we had unrestricted access to film as we wanted anywhere we wanted with the exception of Guantánamo Bay.

Former senator Fred Thompson recently released a YouTube video criticizing you for that trip, making a crack about how Castro has imprisoned and tortured documentary filmmakers before. What do you make of that?
[Sighs] It makes him look ridiculous, commenting on something he hasn't seen. But what's really ridiculous is that he admitted in The Weekly Standard to having boxes of Cuban cigars, and with each box he helps to financially support a regime that he's saying is a brutal dictatorship. [Thompson has admitted to nothing, though in his article, Standard senior writer Stephen F. Hayes noted boxes of Montecristos in the former lawmaker's office.] I think the American people are smart enough to understand that this is a guy trying to win the Republican primaries and saying, ''The way I'm going to appeal to the base is to go after Michael Moore.''

Do your movies show in Cuba?
They are pirated and bootlegged. I never had a chance to talk with Castro about the money that he owes me for showing my movies for free.

NEXT PAGE: ''We always talk about the negatives: Canadians have to wait two hours or two days or two weeks for this, that, or whatever. Well, okay, let's set up a system where we don't have the Canadian wait.''


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