It’s ironic that this is one of the biggest lies that movies dish out. The very line carries a disclaimer. We see this line at the start of a movie and assume that it’s a true story. And therein lies the catch. It’s not. It’s not a true story. It is based on one. Somewhere in the plotline lies an event or an incident that has in fact actually happened. But everything else in the movie has been hazed out, woven in, morphed, or in some cases, changed completely. Everything else is the masala required to turn that turn that true story into a blockbuster plotline.
Based on a true story.
But there are certain crucial aspects, attributes and facts pertaining to real people who’ve been portrayed in cinema by their fictional counterparts that end up having an adverse effect on their reputation. Basically, sometimes this scripted stuff is so far away from reality that it ends up screwing the people it’s trying to portray, along the way.
Here are 10 blunders by movie portrayals of real people that went haywire.
1. Rosalyn Rosenfeld from American Hustle
The 2013 American black comedy crime film American Hustle was based on the story of conman Irivin Rosenfeld, who is forced into cooperating with the FBI on a sting operation. In the movie, Irvin’s wife Rosalyn was portrayed as a sadistic, cheating and abusive spouse, but the truth couldn’t be further away.
The names in the movie were changed, Irvin and Rosalyn Rosenfeld were based on actual people named Melvin, and his wife, Marie Weinberg – who in reality is known to be an extremely kind wife and loving mother. In this case, the change happened when Melvin Weinberg – sinister man that he is – spread rumours about his wife and concocted stories pertaining to her, which eventually made it to the movie. This was in a bid to avoid having his wife ruin his big chance at the film deal that he was being offered and was completely focused on at the time.
2. Commander Alastair Denniston from The Imitation Game
2014’s American historical drama thriller The Imitation Game raved in positive critical and audience reception. But the real Commander Alastair Denniston (played by Charles Dance in the movie) ended up getting a sour deal. In the movie, the Commander and cryptologist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) are shown as rivals, where Denniston belittles Turing’s state-of-art code-breaking machine (and the idea of fighting wars with numbers), decommissions it and orders him to be fired.
In reality, the Commander himself had served as a cryptologist during the First World War for the US Navy, and eventually made head of the Government Code and Cypher School. In fact, he was the one who vouched for the Enigma project and sought out Turing to work on the project. Which means that the real Commander Denniston and Alan Turing probably cuddled together the first time they met. Bromance!
3. John du Pont from Foxcatcher
The 2014 crime drama thriller that saw Steve Carell deliver one of his career’s most profound performances, Foxcatcher is the story of wrestling coach John du Pont who ends up murdering David Schultz for having driven brother Mark Schultz away from him. Also, because he was kind of a nut job. In the movie, this unhealthy fascination the coach harbours for his student had deep-rooted sexual connotations and undertones.
In reality, Mark Schultz was one of the advisors on set and asked for these subliminal indications to be removed from the movie since they weren’t true, and he found it insulting. But, the director eventually let the sexual undertones be and ignored the request – for which the movie received quite a bit of flak. Schultz later went on a social media rampage denouncing the movie. After all, they made it seem like the man was sleeping with his coach.
4. William Murdoch from Titanic
You might still recognize the douchebag First Officer aboard the Titanic in the 1997 romantic disaster film. He took bribes for letting passengers aboard life boats while the ship sank. That, before our man shot desperate folk trying to save their lives and turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.
You see, this happens to be one of the most fundamentally flawed portrayals of the person in question. William Murdoch was indeed the First Officer aboard the Titanic, although what he did for the passengers and how he died are completely opposite to what you’ve been told. Murdoch, as a matter of fact, was remembered for having saved as many lives as he possibly could by way of securing lifeboats, before leaving himself among the last men standing. He died saving people. Bet you didn’t know that!
5. Sonny Wortzik (based on John Wojtowicz) from Dog Day Afternoon
Al Pacino’s character from Dog Day Afternoon, Sonny Wortzik, was based on real life robber John Wojtowicz. The movie showed him striking a deal with the FBI to snitch on his partner in crime, portrayed as Sal Naturile in the movie. Which eventually leads to his partner’s death.
This never happened in reality, and Wojtowicz never betrayed his friend, which doesn’t really help because during his time in jail, Wojtowicz got the living daylight beaten out of him for being a snitch. They take this kind of stuff seriously in prison. The writers later admitted to have made up the whole ‘deal with the FBI’ part and regretted Wojtowicz having his ass whooped for it as an accident. Well, what’s done is done, I guess.
6. Max Baer from Cinderella Man
Perhaps one of the single greatest boxing movies made after the Rocky series, Cinderella Man saw Russell Crowe playing the role of James Braddock, a world boxing champion being defeated by the economic decline of the US state during the depression. In the movie, Braddock’s final fight has to be against the quintessential antagonist, Max Baer, who’s portrayed as a womanising, murderous psychopath, who’s killed boxers in the ring.
Max Baer, as it turns out, was quite the sweetheart actually. He did have an accident in the ring and mistakenly killed an opponent, Frankie Campbell. But apparently Baer was so devastated by the accident that he’s reported to have spent the rest of Campbell’s days sitting on his bedside, and even raising money for Campbell’s family. Baer also helped pay for his children’s education. He lost quite a few fights afterwards, because he was so scared that he might accidentally hurt someone else. Bummer!
7. David Ferrie from JFK
In Oliver Stone’s film JFK, Kevin Costner plays District Attorney Jim Garrison, who found evidence suggesting the Kennedy assassination being contrived by a certain David Ferrie. Apparently, in the movie, Ferrie is meant to be the central character planning out the assassination and even confesses to it at the end.
The real David Ferrie had nothing to do with the conspiracy. As a matter of fact, the only reason that he was ever included into the investigation was because Ferrie served with Oswald (the assassin) in the Civil Air Patrol, and some random nutjob called Jack Martin told the FBI that Ferrie had used his hypnotist powers to control Oswald into assassinating Kennedy. That’s just shit luck!
8. The FDA fromDallas Buyers Club
In the movie, cowboy Ron Woodroof (played by Matthew McConaughey) is diagnosed with AIDS and given only a month to live. In a desperate attempt to survive, he bribes his way into clinical trials for FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved HIV medication called AZT – which eventually poisons his blood due to its side effects. This catapults the cowboy to begin the Dallas Buyers Club, where he smuggles replacement drugs like Peptide T, DDC, and Compound Q, and peddles them to those in need.
The truth is that AZT was the only drug out of the ones being counted out that actually had the least amount of side effects. Drugs like Peptide T, DDC and Compound Q were largely considered useless. While in the movie, FDA agents were portrayed as heartless bureaucrats, in reality they actually approved the only drug that worked the best. It was just that at the time they didn’t know how much the average dosage should be, which led to drug trials being hard to get.
9. British sailors fromU-571
U-571 is the story of a US Navy crew attempting to hijack a damaged German U-Boat and steal their Enigma Machine. Since this is Hollywood, obviously the Americans needed no help and did all the ball busting themselves, saving the world like they always do (the joke’s deeper than you think; let it sink in. Get it? Sink in?)
The movie is actually based on a real operation to raid a German U-boat, only that it was British soldiers who fucking did it. That’s right the movie pretty much stole an important British battle victory and gave it to America. By the way, even the British Prime Minister condemned this film for its historical inaccuracies. Freedom freedom bolke kuch bhi karoge?
10. Dolores Fuller from Ed Wood
Tim Burton’s 1994 biographical film Ed Wood showed Wood’s girlfriend Dolores Fuller as an unsupportive and dejected partner that finds it difficult to accept Wood’s odd behaviours (like cross-dressing) and dumps him. Which is cool, ’cause in the movie he moves onto finding the love of his life elsewhere.
In truth, Dolores is reported to have mentioned that the cross-dressing didn’t bother her at all. She claims that the real reason she left him was because Wood was an inconsolable alcoholic, who used to “wake up drunk.” Now that doesn’t sound too shallow at all. Does it?