Based on a true story? Usually more loosely than expected…

By Emma-Louise Hutchinson

I don’t ask for much from the movies I watch, just that they, you know, do what they say on the tin, or the movie poster as the case may be. I’m paying to see Happy Feet 2? I expect cheerful, dancing penguins. I’m paying to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? They better show me a decent spy thriller. I’m dropping ten euro on a ticket to Breaking Dawn? I… well, actually I don’t expect anything much from that but you get the point.

So when we pay to see a “based on a true story” movie, it shouldn’t be too much to ask that it’s pretty close to reality right? If you’re gonna change a substantial amount about the story at least tell us, but apparently that’s a little too difficult for our friends in Hollywood.

Everyone should remember seeing ‘Cool Runnings’, the early 90s film about the Jamaican bobsled team’s first time in the Winter Olympics. The story is of an underdog team, looked down on by the other contestants who had to raise their own funding and frequently embarrassed themselves with poor performances. The reality?  The story is only true in the sense that there was a Jamaican team in the Olympics that year. The real team were actually from the military, travelled to the Olympics on corporate sponsorship and actually had pretty widespread support from the other athletes.

And ‘Good Morning Vietnam’? Again, possibly one of my favourite movies to watch when I was young, who doesn’t like Robin Williams? Unfortunately though, the real-life Adrian Cronauer was no where near as awesome as Williams. Apart from playing some of the same songs, he was pretty much as far away from the anti-war, comedian, radio dj portrayed in the movie as you could get. He even said that most of the shit Williams did would have gotten his ass court-martialed. Also, he wasn’t actually kicked out, he just, you know, went home when he was finished his tour. Exciting, right?

Take ’21’ for another example, the movie shows the MIT Blackjack Team including Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey taking the Vegas casinos for some serious cash. But this one changed the ethnicities of nearly all the main characters and, oh yeah, Kevin Spacey’s character, the team leader, isn’t a real person. The real team was almost entirely Asian, not all of whom even went to MIT, and Spacey’s character is actually a combination of a few different people, including one guy who liked to dress as a woman to get into the casinos.

Remember ‘Catch Me if You Can’? Of course, all you Leonardo di Caprio fans probably will. Well, remember Leo’s character’s relationship with his dad as well? How he’d reach out to him between cons and their beautiful, close relationship where Abagnale Snr could’ve stopped his son from continuing his life of crime if he’d wanted? Actually, the real Abagnale didn’t see or speak to his father again after running away from home. His cons had nothing to do with his father’s approval and everything to do with just liking money and enjoying himself. Definitely sounds like a more realistic, if less likable, criminal to me.

Need some more examples? Will Smith’s character in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ actually got paid, wasn’t quite the father he’s made out to be and did not get successful because of a Rubik’s cube (there goes my career plan) and Erin Brockovich is kind of a bitch who screwed all those cancer sufferers out of a huge amount of their compensation.

So there you go, turns out the “true story” movie heroes are just real-life, mixed-up people, exactly what Hollywood’s claiming to show us. I know Hollywood’s hardly a shining example of good morals and truth but don’t we deserve a little more credit than being deliberately mislead? Just tell us it’s fiction for god’s sake. After all, we have no problem seeing Harry Potter or Transformers when we know they’re not real. At least I hope everyone realises they’re not real…

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