Michael Moore says he made his latest documentary, "Capitalism: A Love Story," as though it were his last. And it might be.
The George W. Bush antagonist of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and gun-control champion of "Bowling for Columbine" closing up shop? The General Motors jouster of "Roger & Me" and health-care trouper of "Sicko" no longer in the documentary business?
"I'm saying it's a possibility, yeah," Moore said in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Capitalism" played in advance of its limited release in theaters Sept. 23 and nationwide rollout Oct. 2.
"I've done this for 20 years. I started out by warning people about General Motors, and my whole career has been trying to say the emperor has no clothes here, and we better do something about it," Moore said. "I've been having to sort of knock my head against the wall here for 20 years saying these things.
"Two years ago, I tried to get the health-care debate going, and it did eventually, and now where are we? We may not even have it. What am I supposed to do at a certain point?"
Moore, 55, whose nonfiction projects include the television shows "TV Nation" and "The Awful Truth," is thinking he wants to return to fiction. He wrote and directed one fictional film, the 1995 comedy "Canadian Bacon," starring John Candy in his next-to-last role as an American county sheriff who goes on the warpath after the U.S. president (Alan Alda) tries to boost his sagging image by provoking hostilities with Canada.
The movie was a critical and commercial dud, but Moore said he is anxious to do more narrative flicks. Moore said he has been working on two fiction screenplays while making "Capitalism," a documentary in which he pegs corporate inroads into the federal government during the Reagan years as a key factor in today's economic meltdown.
In "Capitalism," Moore offers a glimpse of the rosier America in which he grew up in Flint, Mich., where his father worked at a spark-plug factory. Moore and his dad revisit the sprawling site of the defunct plant, now just barren lots and demolition debris.
"I had not seen it leveled. It was pretty shocking, actually. I was affected by just standing there," Moore said. "That place represented a good, middle-class living for our family, and it's now surrounded by a town that's dying. Where the only people left there are the people struggling, really struggling, to survive."
The film presents a condo shark brokering deals on foreclosed units and chronicles the despair of people evicted from their homes. It details corporate profiteering through "dead peasant" insurance policies companies take out on employees and captures tongue-tied experts unable to explain investment derivatives that are blamed for much of the economic chaos.
Moore's conclusion: Capitalism doesn't work.
"I started this film before the crash. The crash happens, I'm thinking, oh, somebody's going to start talking about what I'm talking about in this movie," Moore said. "I've yet to see a talk show or read an op-ed where somebody has just named it, just come out and said, `Folks, what has to happen here is capitalism's got to go.' Because we can't have a system where the richest 1 percent own as much as the bottom 95 percent. That just isn't democracy. That's not America."
"Capitalism" goes after the "big enchilada here," the root of problems he's examined in his earlier films and TV shows, Moore said. The sort of film that, if he retired from the documentary field, would stand as a summation of his work.
"Look, I love the movies, I love going to the movies, and I love making movies. I think making a good movie is about telling a good story, and you can do that through fiction or nonfiction," Moore said. "I've made a body of work of nonfiction that I'm very proud of, and like any filmmaker, I'm looking for different challenges, and things that will keep me interested and excited about what I'm doing."
"Capitalism" serves as something of a call to arms for others to step in and fill the void as Moore moves on to other things.
"I think people will be maybe somewhat disappointed because there's so many things we need to deal with right now, and they wish I would make a film about it. But I want other people to make those films," Moore said.
"I am tired of feeling like I'm doing this alone. All through the eight years of Bush, you Google ‘Bush' and ‘nemesis' and I'm the first name up. And there aren't a whole lot of other names," Moore said. "It doesn't work with Michael Moore and Sean Penn and Ted Kennedy and a few others. The people have got to get involved in their democracy."