Just because a story is true that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, for drama’s sake. It seems that the less a movie resembles reality, the more awards it tends to win. Like these films:
This meant-to-be-uplifting 2018 film is supposedly a true story about the “real life friendship” between Don Shirley, a black jazz musician on tour in 1962 Jim Crow South, and his white chauffeur, Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga. But according to Shirley’s surviving relatives, the two were never friends at all! “It was an employer-employee relationship,” they told IndieWire, nothing more. They revealed that not only did Shirley fire Vallelonga, but their working relationship didn’t even last two months — a far cry from the 18-month friendship depicted in the film.
You know you screwed up when you make Jimmy Carter mad. This 2012 film which won Best Picture at the Oscars depicted a covert operation that got Americans out of Iran during the 1979 revolution by pretending to be a Hollywood film crew making a science fiction movie, made it appear as if Americans pulled off the caper, led by the CIA, but according to the U.S. President at the time, Jimmy Carter, the operation was almost entirely planned and carried out… by Canadians. In reality, the character Ben Affleck played in the film was only in Tehran for a day and a half.
A Beautiful Mind
This movie about a Nobel-winning economist played fast and loose with details. For instance, John Nash, a real person, was shown working at a lab that doesn’t exist at MIT and for the Defense Department (which exists, but never employed him). But the biggest lie was the grand speech Nash gave at the Nobel award ceremony, thanking his wife. He never gave a Nobel acceptance speech, for he was not invited to the ceremony. He did give a short speech at a party at Princeton, but only to complain about not winning the award alone so he could keep all the prize money. Not exactly the stuff of inspirational movie moments. No doubt giving the film a sentimental twist helped secure it the Oscar for Best Picture.
Another Best Picture winner, 2015’s “The Revenant” is best remembered as the film where Leonardo DiCaprio is mauled by a bear. It’s hard to believe the story of frontiersman Hugh Glass needed any embellishment, but it got it anyway, in terms of the entire plot. While Glass really did fight a bear and drag himself through the wilderness after being left for dead, he did not do it to avenge his dead son — because he did not actually have a son. So, what was the reason for his revenge quest in real life? To get his belongings back that the men who had buried him had taken with them.
Never has a real trial differed from its movie version so drastically. Instead of the happy resolution after successfully suing a utility for polluting a town’s water supply, the plaintiffs were left holding a mostly empty bag. The law firm for which Brockovich clerked dragged their feet on getting the $333 million settlement money to the people affected, way overcharged their expense fees, and helped themselves to money earmarked for the children.
The Blind Side
This 2009 film has the distinction of not being inspired by a book, but instead inspiring one in order to set the record straight. Sandra Bullock won a Best Actress Oscar as a suburban white woman who adopts a troubled black youth who becomes an NFL player, but that player in real life, Michael Oher, was less than thrilled at the movie’s inaccuracies. Not the least of which was that in the film, his adopted mother not only tutored him into academic excellence, but she taught him how to play football, too.
Charlize Theron not only starred in this 2005 biopic of a female serial killer (for which she won a Best Actress Oscar), she also co-produced the film, which was a pet project for her. But she made one massive change to the character: she made her sympathetic. Unlike the movie version, the real Aileen Wuornos was not tied up, beaten up, or brutalized. By her own testimony at trial, she did not kill in self-defense. She actually was the monster the film named itself for.
The Sound Of Music
If you can’t trust Julie Andrews, who can you trust? Apparently the depictions of the kind, sweet, music-loving nun and the grumpy, stern, temperamental captain were reversed from real life. The Von Trapp children were less than enthusiastic about how their story of escape from Nazi-controlled Austria because their father was the kind, sweet, music-loving one. The temperamental one? Yes, that was Maria. But who wants to hear a grumpy nun sing? Certainly not Broadway musical fans.