Perhaps the most surprising thing about Funny or Die's surprise Donald Trump movie—starring a totally gonzo Johnny Depp as the blustering presidential hopeful—is how factually accurate it is. The hourlong webisode is presented as a cheesy TV movie adaptation of Trump's 1987 book The Art of the Deal, with the Donald offering ridiculous platitudes (Get the Word Out! Fight Back!) interspersed with flashbacks to some of his biggest—excuse us, yugest—deals. It's a delightful time capsule (Alf and Spuds McKenzie show up, and Kenny Loggins wrote the theme song) with a great cast (Henry Winkler, Alfred Molina, Kristen Schaal, etc. etc.), but what really makes the whole thing work is that Trump's real life shenanigans are so ridiculous that they make for some really good comedy. We went through and fact-checked some of the New York real estate deals that get the fictional treatment—here are five of those, explained.
Trump started out in the real-estate business with a $1 million loan from his father.
Trump's father, Fred, was also a controversial real estate developer who created housing in Brooklyn and Queens—including Trump Village, a Coney Island low-income housing development that still stands today. (The elder Trump also infamously incurred the wrath of folk singer Woody Guthrie, who lived in Coney Island and accused the developer of stoking racial tension in his developments.) In the movie, Depp-as-Trump explains his origin story thusly: "I had to start up with nothing. I had the shirt on my back and a small million dollar loan from my father." And that's true—the "small loan" from Fred helped Donald kickstart his real estate business in Manhattan.
Trump was sued by the Justice Department for discrimination against African Americans.
Considering that we're talking about a guy who's doubled-down on banning Muslims from entering the United States, this isn't particularly shocking: In 1973, the Justice Department sued the Trump Organization for discrimination, on the grounds that the company either outright refused to rent to African Americans, or lied to them about prices. With typical Trump bravado, he then counter-sued for defamation—and, just as it's portrayed in Funny or Die's movie, he hired notorious McCarthyite Roy Cohn to represent him. Depp's Trump defends himself in a way that sounds remarkably familiar to anyone who has followed real estate in NYC for some time: "New York should be a place where everyone, no matter their race, religion, creed, or color, can be priced out of their own neighborhood." Yikes.
Trump tried to move homeless New Yorkers into a Central Park building to force out rent-controlled tenants.
Yep, that's true. Trump wanted to tear down the building at 100 Central Park South; longtime rent-controlled tenants dug in their heels, even suing the developer for harassment. Trump wanted to move homeless New Yorkers into the building in an attempt to push those longtime residents out; the city rightfully balked at the proposal, in one of the Donald's many fights with former mayor Ed Koch. Eventually Trump bought the building outright and renamed it Trump Parc East. (You can read the story, in Trump's own windbaggy words, in this Vanity Fair excerpt from The Art of the Deal.)
Trump bought the air rights to Tiffany's Fifth Avenue flagship to build the Trump Tower.
In order the construct the 663-square-foot behemoth on Fifth Avenue, Trump needed to secure the air rights around it—including those above the famous Tiffany & Co. flagship that sits on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. He bought those for only $5 million—and went on to name his youngest daughter, Tiffany, for the store thanks to that deal. "Everything involved with Trump Tower has been successful," he told the New York Times in 1993. "And Trump Tower was built with Tiffany's air rights." (Seriously. You can't make this stuff up.)
Trump fought preservationists over the demolition of the old Bonwit Teller building.
In Funny or Die's retelling, two nebbish preservationists from the Metropolitan Museum of Art attempt to stop Trump from demolishing the "big stupid Bonwit Teller building" to build his "masterpenis" (lol), the Trump Tower. That's not so far from the truth: The Art Deco building, which opened in 1929, was known for a series of decorative friezes over its entrance that appeared to depict naked women dancing. When Trump's plans for the building—tear it down and replace it with a hulking skyscraper designed by Der Scutt (played, in Funny or Die's version, by 30 Rock's Jack MacBrayer)—became clear, the Met requested that those reliefs be preserved and given to the museum. Though Trump initially agreed to do so, he later reneged, saying that they were "without artistic merit" and too expensive to preserve, and smashed the limestone ornamentation without warning. People, understandably, were less than enthused. "They turned me into some kind of art-smashing rich guy," Depp-as-Trump grouses, and indeed, at the time, he was excoriated for barreling forward and doing what he wanted. Which isn't all that different from today, really.