Lunch With The FT: Michael Moore

Eating with the Oscar-winning documentary maker

Looking round Hakkasan, an underground restaurant near Tottenham Court Road, Michael Moore provides a description of the decor that develops seamlessly into a scathing assessment of British culture:

“What is this place? It’s like something out of A Clockwork Orange. What passes for hip, these days, in London! You used to give us some wonderful, creative things. It started around Swift and Shakespeare and stopped at the Sex Pistols.

“What have you given us since then? The Teletubbies? I mean, come on! This is Great Britain. Not every country gets an adjective.”

The restaurant was chosen by his PR team, charged with helping to promote his new film, paperback and London stage show.

He’s no more impressed by the menu. “It’s faux Chinese. They’ve taken basic things and tried to make them foo-foo. ‘Sweet and sour organic pork’. Who gives a fuck about it being organic? You’re eating pork, right, so that’s like eating ‘clean’ dirt.”

Moore is famous for straight talking, but this is not a promising start to our lunch.

[Hey – thanks for reading so far. To be completely transparent, this story is from my archive. I dug it out of the grave because I thought it might amuse you]

To ingratiate myself, I tell him straight away that I’ve just seen his new film, Bowling for Columbine – an inquiry into American gun culture – and consider it brilliant.

I’m not the only viewer to feel this way.

At Cannes, where it was the first documentary shown in 46 years, it received the longest standing ovation in the history of the festival.

Opening in the US, with the Washington sniper still at large, it broke box-office records.

“I’m glad you like it. That means a lot to me,” he says politely.

In the film, Moore travels all over America, but looks closely at Colorado, where – after an early morning session at the local bowling alley – two students went on a murder spree at Columbine High School.

That day, April 20 1999, was also the day the US conducted its largest bombing in Kosovo.

Not far from Columbine, Moore interviews a representative of the arms manufacturer, McDonnell Douglas.

Standing before a vast missile, this spokesman tells him he simply can’t fathom the violent conduct of American youth.