“Stormy” Documentary Opens SXSW March 8, 2024

The documentary “Stormy” had its World Premiere on Friday, March 8th, at SXSW in Austin, Texas. It premieres on Peacock on March 18th. Directed by Sarah Gibson and executive produced by Judd Apatow, the film was a sympathetic look at Stormy Daniels. It was comprised of film that Stephanie Clifford (Daniels’ real name) shot previously in an attempt to do her own documentary.

Sara Bernstein Executive Produced, while Erin Lee Carr Produced, and  Ben Kaplan and Inbal B. Lessner did great editing work. The score was provided by Jeff Morrow for the 104 minute film. With the Stormy Daniels “Hussia” (hush money) case set to go to court on March 25th this is indeed a timely film. And a good one. Don’t miss it.


Stormy Daniels with Director/Producer Sarah Gibson
Stormy and Director/Producer Sarah Gibson onstage at SXSW (March 8, 2024. Photo by Connie Wilson).

When porno actress Stormy Daniels met Donald J. Trump at a golf outing in July of 2006 at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, she couldn’t have known that her association with the man who was then the star of “The Apprentice” would lead to financial ruin, the end of her marriage and non-stop death threats. She was 27; he was 60. Stormy’s daughter from her third marriage was 7 years old.

Donald J. Trump invited Stormy to dinner. She arrived at the door to The Donald’s hotel room early.  He was attired in black satin pajamas.  Stormy said, “Go put some clothes on. Hefner wants his pajamas back.” Trump did, and they talked for three hours. But when Stormy emerged from Trump’s bathroom (where she noticed gold things everywhere and Old Spice cologne) Trump made a move on her, sexually. She didn’t say no (although she wishes she had).

Trump told Stormy he wanted to put her on his TV show, “The Apprentice.”  From her book “Full Disclosure” we learn that the two watched “Shark Week” together in The Donald’s hotel room. Hillary Clinton called during the program. Trump called Stormy for months thereafter, stringing her along with that promise and suggesting more meetings. He finally admitted that he couldn’t put her on his show. Stormy quit taking his calls after 18 months, saying, “I thought we were done.” The story began in 2006, when Barron Trump was 4 months old (Melania Trump had just given birth to their now-7-foot tall son.) The story re-surfaced in 2011.


Stormy grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with a somewhat indifferent mother in a father-absent home. (She hasn’t talked to her father since she was 17). Sexually abused by a neighbor at the age of nine, she says, “I’ve gotten ripped off by everybody.” We learn that one of her better friends tried to sell the Stormy/Trump story to the tabloids.  Her first attorney, Michael Avenatti, who got her the book deal for “Full Disclosure” in September of 2018, stole $300,000 of Stacey’s book profits. Avenatti ended up in prison for 4 years for defrauding Stormy and received more time for defrauding Nike and other clients. He has been in prison since February 7, 2022 and is now facing 19 years without the possibility of parole. He did send her a text apology.

The betrayal by Stormy’s supposed friend and by her first attorney lend credence to her charge that she has been ripped off by everyone.


Stormy Daniels on March 8, 2024.
Stormy Daniels with Director Sarah Gibson in the lobby of the Stateside Theater at SXSW (March 8, Friday). (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Throughout the documentary at SXSW, Stormy’s love and concern for her third husband Brendon Miller and her daughter are evident.

Stormy’s husband took primary responsibility for the care and feeding of their daughter, when Stormy went on gigs, including her “Making America Horny Again” tour.   On one such tour, she was set up for arrest at the Siren’s Club in Columbus, Ohio. Two female officers attended her show, enjoyed themselves, and then contacted authorities to have her arrested for assault (motorboating). The charges were dismissed within 24 hours when it became clear that the two were MAGA supporters.  Stormy’s lawsuit against the city of Columbus resulted in a $450,000 payout to her when the bias of the officers was revealed.

There was an incident that took place at the Canadian border when border patrol said she could not enter the country because she had 17 assault charges in her FBI file.  Stormy’s FBI file had been tampered with. This occurred during Trump’s presidency. It is yet another example of why Michael Cohen, who went to prison for making the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, texted her and told her he was seriously concerned for her safety as the March 25th trial date nears. Such fears kept Ms. Daniels from walking the Red Carpet. She arrived late with four burly bodyguards.

The photos of Stormy Daniels onstage show a woman under a great deal of stress. She broke down in tears at points.  She has been threatened continuously since the rendezvous with Trump emerged in 2011. Those threats have escalated as the trial date looms close later this  month. One texted threat she read to us said, “You just signed your death warrant.”

Stormy, onstage at the Stateside Theater, used the adjectives “ridiculous, terrifying, and pointless… I have no hope about it any more. She contrasted the current situation in 2024 with 2011 on as, “It is different from 2018. I have more knowledge, but the threats have become more violent.”  Her once promising career as a director of porno flicks dried up by 2019. She has given up full custody of her daughter to the child’s father, reasoning that their daughter will be safer with him. The threats against her life are not to be dismissed lightly. There are a lot of zealots in the  MAGA camp; it only takes one.

She has been called every name in the book, but liar is one epithet she will not take without fighting back. (Stormy passed a lie detector test, which was never released). Said Daniels  in this must-see documentary, “My soul is so tired… I won’t give up, because I’m telling the truth.”


Sarah Gibson
Director/Producer Sarah Gibson at “Stormy” opening on March 8, 2024. (Photo by Connie Wilson)

During the Q&A that followed the impressive documentary Director Sara Daniels said she could not believe the level of stress that Stormy endured. “It makes it very hard to lead your life. I couldn’t believe how stressful this was for her.” All onstage commented on her courage under intense pressure.

Executive Producer Judd Apatow said he had known Stormy Daniels for a long time—ever since she had a small part in his 2006 film “Knocked Up.” He said that his goal was to “Tell an accurate, empathetic story of what she has really been through.” He commented on the difficulty of integrating Stormy’s already shot footage with new footage in the editing room and praised the editors, who did a good job. (Some have criticized the use of the older film, citing phrases like “fruit of the poisoned tree,” because of her relationship with the documentarian shooting the film, but it seems quite picky.)


Crew of "Stormy"
The “Stormy” crew on the Red Carpet for the World Premiere of the documentary “Stormy” on Friday, March 8, 2024, at the Opening of SXSW. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

When Ms. Daniels took the stage she recounted getting the part in Apatow’s movie, but then potentially losing it because of the death of her step-daughter when filming was to take place. Apatow sent flowers to her home in sympathy. He changed the shooting schedule so she could still participate. For someone who expressed the opinion that “nobody ever helped me” and felt as though she were 9 years old again (the year she was repeatedly abused by a neighbor) you can see that she felt genuine gratitude for Apatow’s gesture.

The sentiment was also expressed that, “Nobody cares what the truth is any more.” Describing a never-ending avalanche of court documents, this statement seemed fair: “She deserves to have a voice in a lot louder, larger way.  She was a tax-paying American citizen, and she deserves better.”

“Stormy” is one of the investigative documentaries that the American public needs to see before November’s election.

[*Among the team producing “Stormy”: Director Sarah Gibson and Executive Producer Judd Apatow (“The 40-year-old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”) of Apatow Productions, Olivia Rosenblum, Erin Lee Carr (Producer), Sara Bernstein (Executive Producer), Meredith Kaulfers, Kelsey Field (Imagine Entertainment), Amanda Rohlke, Emelia Brown, Natalie Goldberg, Brooke Snyder, Ben Kaplan and Inbal Lessner (editors), Shiho Fukada, Jonathan Furmanski, Wolfgang Held, RA Barrett (Cinematography), Denver Nicks, Bob Rose, Jason Sager (Co-producer) and an original score by Jeff Morrow.]

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About Connie Wilson

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com ) was the Quad City Times film and book critic for 15 years and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly since 1970. She also publishes books in a variety of genres (www.quadcitieslearning.com), has taught writing or literature classes at 6 Iowa/Illinois colleges or universities as adjunct faculty, was Yahoo's Content Producer of the Year 2008 for Politics, is the author of It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, and writes on a variety of topics at her own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com. Weekly Wilson is also the name of her podcast on the Bold Brave Media Global Network on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. (CDT).