On this day in 1989, Roger & Me, a documentary by Michael Moore about his quest to interview Roger Smith, who was then chairman and chief executive officer of General Motors, opens in theaters. The film examines the devastating impact on the people of Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, following the closing of several General Motors auto plants in the area. Roger & Me launched Moore’s filmmaking career and became the top-grossing documentary in history, a record that would eventually be shattered by Moore’s later movies, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11.
Moore was born on April 23, 1954, and raised in Flint, where his father was an auto worker. After a stint at the University of Michigan at Flint, Moore founded the alternative magazine The Michigan Voice and later served briefly as the editor of the liberal publication Mother Jones. Following the success of Roger & Me, Moore wrote, directed and hosted an investigative newsmagazine show called TV Nation, which aired from 1994 to 1995. He also penned and directed a big-screen comedy, Canadian Bacon (1995) about an American president who attempts to start a war with Canada to boost his approval ratings. The film, which starred John Candy and Alan Alda, was a box-office disappointment. From 1999 to 2000, Moore starred in another muckraking TV show, The Awful Truth, which focused on politicians and big corporations, among others.
In 2002, Moore’s documentary Bowling for Columbine, about guns and violence in America, was released in theaters. The film examines the 1999 massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School, in which two students went on a shooting rampage that left 13 people dead and more than 20 others wounded before the pair turned their guns on themselves and committed suicide. Bowling for Columbine, which contains Moore’s trademark dark humor, includes an interview with the then-president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Hollywood giant Charlton Heston, as well as one scene in which Moore gets a free hunting rifle for opening a bank account and another in which he goes to K-Mart headquarters with two Columbine survivors in an attempt to get a refund for the bullets lodged in their bodies. Bowling for Columbine won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.
Moore’s next documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, a critical look at the George W. Bush administration’s war on terrorism and its coverage by the media, opened in theaters in 2004. The film earned the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and grossed more than $100 million, the first documentary ever to do so. Moore followed up on Fahrenheit 9/11 with Sicko, a documentary about the American health-care industry that premiered in 2007. Sicko also received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary.
In addition to his film and TV work, Moore is an outspoken political and social activist as well as the best-selling author of the books Downsize This! (1996), Stupid White Men (2002) and Dude, Where’s My Country? (2003).