“I will kill you if you use any of that”: a disturbing documentary about Roger Stone.

Estimated read time 12 min read

Filming a documentary about Roger Stone nearly caused Christoffer Guldbrandsen’s death, which, unlike Stone or Trump’s exaggerated statements, is not an exaggeration.

In his 91-minute documentary, A Storm Foretold, Guldbrandsen experiences a sudden and unexpected turn of events. CCTV footage captures the moment when he suffers a heart attack, loses consciousness, and falls to the floor of a gym. Fortunately, a heart surgeon who was exercising nearby was able to save his life.

At the age of 49, he was experiencing a personal turmoil caused by Stone’s sudden withdrawal of cooperation. Guldbrandsen, speaking via Zoom from his residence in Copenhagen, stated, “It was the pressure of this project that led to it. When we returned and Roger stopped supporting us, our funding was also terminated, which was a major setback.”

While at the gym, if I were to have a heart attack, I usually have my headphones on because I am on the phone raising funds for the film. If I were to experience the heart attack, I would drop the phone mid-conversation with an American financier.

But the heart attack was also an “enormous present”, says Guldbrandsen, now 52, because Stone took pity and agreed to resume filming. It was a rare moment of compassion from the subject of A Storm Foretold, who is seen receiving a get-out-of-jail card from then president Donald Trump and spreading poisonous ideas all the way to the January 6 insurrection.

Reworded: At the age of 71, Stone states in the movie that he has been smoking cigars since he was seven years old. He gained experience working on a campaign for Richard Nixon and frequently mimics Nixon’s signature salute. He even has a tattoo of the 37th president on his back. Stone, who refers to himself as a “dirty trickster,” has been a close associate of Trump for three decades.

Guldbrandsen, who had journeyed from Denmark to create a movie about the 2020 election, chose Stone as an entry point into Trump’s “Make America great again” movement and a concerning change in modern politics.

“I was surprised by the fact that the person who lies the most loudly is the one who comes out on top,” he clarifies. “In politics, we’re accustomed to a certain level of deception being acceptable, but there has been a shift in this dynamic that I found particularly intriguing. As I delved into the world of false narratives, I came across Roger and examined how his tactics could potentially impact the 2020 election.”

Initially, Stone was highly accommodating. Similar to numerous individuals involved in or close to politics, he relished the attention of the camera. Guldbrandsen adds, “I have also created similar films in Europe, particularly those focused on European politics. I have even worked with the Secretary General of NATO.”

The politicians are highly disciplined and skilled, but their characteristics and motives remain consistent. Their actions are driven by a combination of pride and arrogance. They often underestimate the impact of journalists and documentarians, believing they can easily manage any resulting issues.

“Roger is one-of-a-kind in his enjoyment of his own notoriety, something I have never seen in anyone else. He stated that even if the film received 60% negative reviews, he would be satisfied. This unconventional perspective is something I admire.”

Stone could be nasty and wilfully provocative. Early in the film, as he operates an ice maker on a fridge door, he asks about Guldbrandsen’s last name and remarks: “I won’t give you away but you’ve got to admit that’s got, like, Third Reich written all over it, right? It really does.”

Stone pretends to speak with a fake German accent and continues: “Well, well, commander Guldbrandsen. Good evening. Have you brought the list of Jews? Ah, thank you very much.” He then shakes an ice shaker and prepares a martini, smiling as he speaks in his normal voice: “I find it hard to believe that the Danish people are not aware that the filmmaker comes from a family with a history of being Nazis. It’s quite astounding! Of course, I won’t mention it if I end up liking the final version of the film. But, that’s just how politics works, right?”

What was Guldbrandsen’s interpretation of this performance? “It suggests that he takes pleasure in shocking others. That was his goal: to test if he could unsettle me. This ties into a larger conversation about mutual exploitation in the making of observational films and documentaries, which requires a certain level of cynicism. His provocative behavior effectively conveys the story and provides an accurate depiction, from my viewpoint, of the entire movement.”

“I included it for a reason. What I find appealing about it is its audacity. It carries an underlying anti-Semitic message, yet the speaker also declares that they will not reveal their thoughts on the final version of the film. This opening scene embodies the overall approach to politics and political communication that I aspire to.”

Stone discusses Trump’s obsession with the movie Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder, but was hesitant to let Guldbrandsen record his conversations with the former president. The friendship showed signs of strain.

Guldbrandsen stated that even when the camera was not recording, he would call President Trump “Mr. Ungrateful,” due to Stone’s belief that he played a crucial role in getting Trump to the White House. Stone sees himself as a knowledgeable reader with a strong analytical mind and extensive understanding of American political history, while he views Trump as lacking in literacy but possessing strong political instincts. He does not hold Trump in high esteem.

Similar to Trump, Stone was unpredictable and could alter the conditions of the documentary on a whim. The experience was a constant challenge as we had to navigate his impulsive nature and maintain access. It was a risky endeavor since he could have ended the project or removed me at any time without any agreement in place.

After three months of starting production, Stone was apprehended in Florida for seven charges, such as tampering with a witness, obstructing justice, and providing false information to Congress. This was all part of the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into the interference of the 2016 election. As the case progressed, Stone faced stricter gag orders and it became harder to gain access to him. As a result, Guldbrandsen started attending fundraisers and capturing footage of Stone there.

Roger Stone leaves federal court in 2019

Stone abruptly ended the project, seemingly due to receiving a more attractive offer from a competing documentary team. This left Guldbrandsen’s project in limbo and he had to go back to Denmark without any progress. He reflects on the situation, stating: “It was incredibly crushing, but it’s within his rights and not uncommon in the challenges of gaining access during the lengthy process of observational documentaries.”

“It is not uncommon, but I have never encountered a situation where someone else has taken over the rights to the film I was working on. This was a significant escalation and resulted in a disastrous outcome. However, I must take responsibility for this failure as I underestimated the risk involved.”

Stone informed Guldbrandsen that the opposing documentary did not come to fruition due to the fact that the team assumed Stone would be imprisoned, but he was ultimately spared by Trump’s commutation and subsequent pardon.

The accumulated stress reached its peak when Guldbrandsen suffered a heart attack. Although it was a difficult experience, he was lucky to have a heart surgeon who happened to be working out in the gym nearby and was able to save his life.

As a young and healthy individual, it can be challenging to comprehend the immense stroke of good fortune that allowed me to survive a potentially life-threatening event. I am still coming to terms with the fact that I narrowly escaped death and am grateful to still be alive.

It was challenging for the director to choose whether or not to include this scene in the documentary, as they typically prefer to work behind the camera. The director’s previous films were not similar in style, but including this scene allowed for a more well-rounded portrayal of the character Stone. While he may appear cynical in most scenes, this particular scene reveals a more empathetic side of him, making it significant to include in the film.

Stone warmly greets Guldbrandsen after the heart attack and filming is able to continue. This decision would prove to be significant as Trump ultimately lost to Joe Biden in November 2020 and later encouraged a group of his followers to violently invade the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Roger Stone had a close relationship with the far-right organization known as the Proud Boys, led by Enrique Tarrio. Tarrio was later sentenced to 22 years in prison for his involvement in the attempted coup. Guldbrandsen confirms that Stone is viewed as an ideological leader by many members of the Proud Boys.

Roger strongly advocated for a forceful response in the event of an election loss and he did so with a close group of people. This closeness continued until January 6 and even afterwards. While Roger Stone did not physically take part in any violent actions, he has motivated and influenced the most aggressive groups that were involved in the January 6 attack.

There has not been sufficient focus on the significant role he played in the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, particularly in terms of his instigation. While the extent of coordination and planning leading up to the attacks is still unknown, he was undoubtedly the ideological inspiration for the Proud Boys.

What was Stone’s response to January 6th? “Upon returning to Florida, he was filled with fear. He was convinced that he would be arrested and I could see that he was communicating with Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, who was on the run with Joshua James, the head of Stone’s self-proclaimed Oath Keepers security team. It was chaotic and fueled by a genuine worry that he would be taken into custody. The atmosphere was tense and unsettling.”

Rhodes received a prison term of 18 years for charges of seditious conspiracy and other crimes. James admitted guilt in the charge of seditious conspiracy and, as part of the plea deal, pledged to assist in the government’s ongoing investigation.

Stone is seen in the back of a car, angrily speaking on the phone and referring to Trump’s daughter Ivanka as an “abortionist bitch” when the president declines to pardon him for a second time. He then threatens Guldbrandsen by saying, “If you use any of that, I will kill you.”

Roger Stone with arms raised

Three years have passed and with another election approaching, Guldbrandsen asserts that the effects of the “stop the steal” movement are still present. This movement sparked a larger movement that influenced the Republican leaders and convinced many Americans to lose faith in the integrity of democratic elections. This has far-reaching consequences and is more concerning than the violent events of January 6. In a historical context, Guldbrandsen holds great responsibility for his involvement in this movement.

He states, “The events that occurred from November to January will be difficult to undo. This is compounded by the fact that it has only been enforced since then and it will not be limited to just America. It is truly terrible.”

Guldbrandsen continues to face consequences for his association with Stone. The production of the film was extremely expensive, leading him to have to sell his home. At the recent congressional hearing on January 6, where scenes from his film were presented, Stone shared on social media that he hoped Guldbrandsen would suffer a second heart attack and die when Stone sues him for $25 million.

Despite everything, Guldbrandsen saw layers of intricacy in a notorious figure of American politics who is often viewed as unredeemable. “He has the ability to be quite charming and possesses a great deal of knowledge and intrigue. I gained a great deal of insight into American politics from him, although it may cause Americans to become frustrated. He has been a firsthand witness to presidential politics for numerous years.”

One of the main themes of the film is the importance of having conversations with people you strongly disagree with and making an effort to include others in those conversations. This could be seen as the central philosophical idea of the film. While it may seem obvious, it’s worth mentioning that the controversial aspects of the main character are simply part of his personality and there are other facets to his character as well.

He states: “One of the difficulties that have arisen due to social media is the pressure it puts on journalism and documentary making. It can be incredibly harsh and dehumanizing. I often feel tempted to do the same when promoting the film.”

“When I use social media, I notice the underlying mechanisms at play. However, it is crucial to continue emphasizing the importance of treating each other as humans, even in light of the events on January 6. While Roger Stone’s involvement is concerning and harmful, I do not want to resort to similar actions.”

  • The film A Storm Foretold is currently being shown in certain theaters in the US and will also be available for digital release in the near future, with a UK release date yet to be revealed.

Source: theguardian.com

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