Donald Trump's "malignant narcissism" is the only thing stopping the US president plunging the country into a foreign war, according to cult American director Richard Linklater.
The acclaimed maker of "Boyhood", "Dazed and Confused", "Slacker" and the trilogy of romantic hits that began with "Before Sunrise", said that Trump is "instinctually averse to war because it would put the attention somewhere else and not on him."
"If you are at war you got to do a lot of work. You got to show up at meetings, read memos and make decisions. You can't just watch TV all day and tweet," the director told AFP as a major retrospective of his work opened in Paris.
Linklater said he has been glued to the impeachment hearings aimed at the president in the Democratic-led House of Representatives.
"People ask me if I have been watching any good movies. I say, 'No, I'm watching impeachment hearings.' That's the best reality show in town," he said.
The Texan said he was worried major damage will be done to the US political system if Trump is elected for another four years in 2020.
"I am an optimist but my optimism is tinged by cynicism about the system itself. Can Putin put Trump in another time?" he added, referring to reported Russian inference in the 2016 vote.
- 'Not worst president' -
"He probably could because of the electoral college. I read today that he can maybe lose by as many as five million votes (next time) and still maybe stay president. It's horrible."
But Linklater, 59, said Trump was not the worst American president ever.
"At least he hasn't started wars. He is clearly the worst person to be in there but is not yet the worst president.
"He doesn't have a body count. Bush and Cheney killed a lot of people. The only thing keeping us out of wars is his narcissism. This is my theory," the director added.
"This is a case of his malignant narcissism saving us currently from violence -- not that he might resort to that if he thought it was to his advantage," said the maker of "School of Rock".
Hollywood star Ethan Hawke, who has acted in many of Linklater hits, echoed his fears at the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the director's career at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
"We have such a failure of our political and spiritual leadership right now," the actor told AFP.
- 'Moral failing' -
He said America was experiencing a period of "huge moral failing. I keep hoping for some spiritual guidance. I have a 21-year-old daughter and a son who is about to be 18, and so you see the world through the eyes of a parent.
"Who is telling the truth for them" and setting out a path to follow, he said.
"You begin to realise that great leadership and people like Nelson Mandela are so rare."
Hawke, 49, praised Linklater, who was one of the first and most successful directors to emerge from the renaissance in US independent films in the 1990s.
"If I have ever met anyone in my life who is worth a museum exhibition it is Richard Linklater," Hawke said.
The actor worked with Linklater on the Oscar-nominated "Boyhood", which was shot over 12 years following a young boy to manhood, as well as his "Before" trilogy, "Before Sunrise", "Before Sunset" and "Before Midnight", which he co-wrote with Linklater and French-born co-star Julie Delpy.