Films based on a true story... but aren't really

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Post by The_Amber_Spyglass on Sat Feb 05, 2011 4:26 pm

We all know that movies based on true stories have a bit of Hollywood dust sprinkled all over them. The same sort of dust used more liberally in fictional films, that allows explosions in medieval times ('Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves') and gives any teenager with a laptop the ability to hack into the most secure of computer systems ('Jurassic Park'). But in fact-based movies they can sometimes take it a bit too far.

Frost/Nixon

Peter Morgan's compelling story of how a fluffy, playboy British journalist (David Frost) managed to elicit an admission of guilt from former disgraced US president (Richard Nixon) was a box office and critical hit.

Played out like a boxing match, it focuses on the battle between Michael Sheen's plucky underdog and Richard Langella's powerful yet vulnerable world leader, complete with heavyweight verbal jabs and commanding presence.

It's a riveting piece of work, and Morgan should be congratulated on wringing out as much suspense as he does. However, it should be noted that Langella's barnstorming speech in his hotel is completely made up, and Frost's 'victory' is a hollow one when you realise that Nixon's 'confession' was planned by the former president in a bid to gain public sympathy. Predictably, this carefully planned admission of guilt was excised in favour of David Frost appearing as a tired and weary journalistic battler held aloft after his 'victory'. We presume there is an alternate ending where he screams 'Yo Adrian, we did it!'.

A Beautiful Mind

Ron Howard directed 'Frost/Nixon' and Russell Crowe's 'A Beautiful Mind' – both focus on true events and both have been accused of glossing over, well, the truth. Crowe's performance as a troubled genius, who overcomes his mental problems thanks to his wife Alicia, was rightly lauded. However, in real life Nash, who did go through a period of hearing voices, didn't have any visual hallucinations (a central point in the movie). The film also glossed over unsavoury personal moments in Nash's life, and completely disregarded the fact that he and his wife divorced six years after they married. They eventually remarried in 2001. Oh, and that heartfelt speech he makes after receiving his Nobel Prize. Yup, never happened. Perhaps because of his fragile mental state, Nash wasn't asked to make an acceptance speech.

The Hurricane

The stirring biopic of a boxer wrongly accused of murder saw Denzel Washington at his best. It's based on a thought-provoking story that even spawned a Bob Dylan song. However, the film wasn't as true to the story as it initially made out.

We'll steer away from the movie's alleged distortion of Rubin Carter's character (He was by many accounts not the model citizen the film purported him to be), and instead focus on a scene in the film where Carter is seen pummelling white boxer Joey Giardello, only to lose out due to the decision of racist white judges. In real life, Carter is widely judged to have been beaten fair and square by Giardello, who actually sued the filmmakers over the scene.

He said, “This is a joke. He never hit me that much in 15 rounds. Virtually every boxing expert then and now will tell you I won the fight.”

He received an undisclosed settlement from the film's bosses.

21

Based on the book 'Bringing Down The House', '21' was embroiled in huge controversy upon its release in 2008. The real MIT Blackjack Team, which used card counting strategies to beat several casinos, was comprised of mainly Asian Americans.

The film version, however, was relatively Asian free – with Jim Sturgess in the lead role. Even the professor who teaches the team, played by Kevin Spacey in the film, was Asian.

Jeff Ma, who was the real life inspiration for the lead character, tried to downplay the row, saying at the time, “I'm not sure they understand how little control I had in the movie-making process; I didn't get to cast it.”

He added in another interview, “I would have been a lot more insulted if they had chosen someone who was Japanese or Korean, just to have an Asian playing me."

Good Morning Vietnam

The 1987 film saw Robin Williams playing a liberal army shock jock during the Vietnam war in the 60s. He defied the establishment with his rock 'n' roll music selection and anarchic wordplay. In real life Adrian Cronauer's story was nothing like the one seen on screen – bar him playing some excellent songs. The staunch Republican has himself admitted that he would have been court marshalled if he said half of the things Williams got away with. And as for being thrown out by the military, it never happened. In fact, he simply headed home after his tour was over.

U-571

The submarine WWII drama is packed with factual and technical inaccuracies, but the main ire from a British point of view was reserved for the filmmakers decision to airbrush the British army's involvement in capturing the German's Enigma cipher machine.

If you believe Hollywood (and many do), the real reason why we're not all speaking German is thanks to the heroic efforts of a submarine crew comprising of Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton and Jon Bon Jovi.

In fact, the British press were so outraged Tony Blair himself agreed that the film was an “affront” to the naval forces.

The film's screenwriter David Ayer later admitted, “It was a distortion… a mercenary decision… to create this parallel history in order to drive the movie for an American audience. Both my grandparents were officers in World War II, and I would be personally offended if somebody distorted their achievements.”

Braveheart

Where to begin with Mel Gibson's epic? It's fun, bold and adrenaline pumping, but it's about as historically accurate as 'One Million Years B.C'.

First off, Brave Heart was actually a tag given to Robert the Bruce – seen in the film as a coward flip flopping his allegiance at every opportunity before finally becoming inspired by Wallace's heroics. While Bruce did change sides for political reasons he never betrayed Wallace, and certainly didn't side with the English army at the battle of Falkirk.

Wallace neither met nor had a romantic moment with Princess Isabella (probably due to the fact that she was 10 at the time!), neither did King Edward allow English Lords the right to take the virginity of Scottish brides on the night of the wedding.

Gibson has defended the film's controversy, arguing that the changes were made to be "cinematically compelling".

That's alright then.

http://uk.movies.yahoo.com/blog/article/140218/films-based-on-a-true-story-but-arent-really.html
And speaking of Braveheart, I can think of a few more factual errors.

* The Scots were dressed as Picts and in reality would have been as well armoured and equipped as the English
* Not all Scots were behind Bruce and Wallace; the lowland Lords were very pro-England and not because they feared the consequences or because they felt rebellion would be futile
* Wallace and Edward I did not die at the same moment
* Edward I was not a pagan (did Gibson forget Edward Longshanks was the mastermind of a Crusade?)
* Wallace was a noble, not a peasant farmer

And let's not get started on Gibson's other travesty "The Patriot".
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Post by TexasBlue on Sat Feb 05, 2011 4:45 pm

Also, I don't like it when I read a book, then the movie comes out and it's not like the book. I understand that certain things have to be shortened but there's plenty I've seen over the years that have radical changes made when it's sent to the screen.

Don't get me started on remakes.
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Post by The_Amber_Spyglass on Sun Feb 06, 2011 5:04 am

They're two of my pet hates too
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Post by i_luv_miley on Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:07 pm

TexasBlue wrote:Also, I don't like it when I read a book, then the movie comes out and it's not like the book. I understand that certain things have to be shortened but there's plenty I've seen over the years that have radical changes made when it's sent to the screen.

Don't get me started on remakes.
"Lord Of The Rings" Shocked I saw the movies before I read the book and I when I did read it, I was suprised (not in a good way) about just how much was either left out or changed.
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Post by Guest on Tue Aug 02, 2011 4:49 am

Even movies that are really based on true stories are often quite Hollywood-ized, if one gets the drift. The Other Side of the Mountain, which is about Jill Kinmont, a famous downhill skier who was a sure shoo-in for the Olympics, who had a devastating skiing accident on her last try-out before the Olympics that winter that left her a quadripelegic. Through extensive and intensive rehabilitation and physical therapy, she regained some use of her hands, and went on, despite many obstacles, to earn a teaching degree, paint, and teach Native American children in a nearby reservation not far from where she lived, even after she got married to a John Boothe. Although I really enjoyed the movie, the book The Other Side of the Mountain was far better.

Interestingly enough, Jill Kinmont also worked as a technical consultant and advisor for both movies that were made about her.

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