‘Based on a true story,‘ disclaimer in the opening credits.
“It was real bro! Imagine!”
But we take our tears seriously, and so when we’re not watching movies we’re thinking about them. Which brought us to think about those particular true story movies that make us cry. Not ones to let our tears run in vain, we took it upon ourselves to uncover the accuracy of these plot lines and separate fact from fiction. So, without further ado, we bring you the movies that didn’t let us in on the whole truth (in no particular order):
1. Captain Phillips (2013)
Tom Hanks plays Richard Phillips, the captain of a container ship that encounters Somali pirates on its course to Kenya. Sony bought rights following Richard Phillip’s memoir in 2010 paving the way for critical and commercial success, and six Academy Award Nominations. The problem? Crew members of the ship say the film portrayed Phillips in a heroic light that wasn’t entirely true, even bringing up his arrogance. The attorney representing 11 members who have sued Maersk, the container ship company says:
“The crew had begged Captain Phillips not to go so close to the Somali coast. He told them he wouldn’t let pirates scare him or force him to sail away from the coast.”
“I couldn’t tell you exactly the miles, I don’t know,” Phillips has said.
In 2010, Phillips mentioned his ship was 300 miles off shore to news agencies while published reports had him at 240 miles. Warnings about increased piracy had requested him to move off shore by at least 600 miles. Other admissions by crew members reveal that he ordered them to see through a fire drill when the pirates were only seven miles from the ship, and approaching fast. Phillip’s memoir set him up to be the hero of the ordeal and Sony’s non-disclosure agreements with the crew who helped with the film means we may never know the entire truth.
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The film received an R rating and bans in several countries for its violence. Wider audiences were swayed with the true story billing and is regarded as one of the best horror films in history. The film ushered in the portrayal of the killer as a faceless figure and power tools as murder weapons. The film’s “true” credentials were likely stimulated by director Tobe Hooper’s background as a documentary cameraman.
Some of the plot was inspired by the exploits of serial killer, Ed Gein who also served as the basis for notable films Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs but was far from reflective of the truth. The idea of using a chainsaw as the weapon of choice came to Hooper in a hardware store. When questioned on his film’s veracity, Hooper said:
“man was the real monster here, just wearing a different face, so I put a literal mask on the monster in my film”
3. Fargo (1996)
A dark sometimes funny crime thriller, Fargo follows the story of a man (William H. Macy) who hires two men to abduct his wife in return for ransom from his father-in-law. Fargo saw success at the box office and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning two. It has also been included in the 100 Greatest American Movies of all Time. The film begins with the following clause:
“This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”
The closing credits, however reveal the “all persons and events related to this film are fictitious” disclaimer. Puzzled? It gets deeper. The Coen Brothers, who directed and produced the film have changed their stance on this several times. First saying they wrote a fictional story on actual events, even beginning by admitting to not being held to the truth.
“We weren’t interested in that kind of fidelity. The basic events are the same as in the real case, but the characterizations are fully imagined … If an audience believes that something’s based on a real event, it gives you permission to do things they might otherwise not accept.”
They later changed this over the years to drawing back on the location of the actual murders. And not recognising the public’s idea of the real-life character the movie was based on. Go figure.
“completely made up. Or, as we like to say, the only thing true about it is that it’s a story.”
4. Rudy (1993)
A biographical depiction of the life of Daniel “Rudy” Reutigger, who was determined to overcome physical obstacles and play college football at the University of Notre Dame, Rudy has been voted one of the best sports films in history and is an inspiring tale of overcoming odds. Notre Dame football team coach Dan Devine agreed to be depicted as a loud-mouthed, unrelenting version of himself to add to the obstacles Rudy has to go through in pursuit of his dream. Ditto, for Rudy’s real-life father who on screen is a negative harsh father. Other misrepresentations include Rudy’s older brother who constantly rags him, and the scene where Rudy’s team mates walk up to coach Devine’s office and place their jerseys on his desk in retaliation. Devine was furious about the whole scene saying:
“The jersey scene is unforgivable. It’s a lie and untrue.”
In a lighter moment of questioned accuracy, the film’s ending statement “Since 1975, no other Notre Dame player has been carried off the field,” alluding to Rudy’s exit on the shoulders of his mates, was called out by Bob Golic, a former team mate and Rudy’s friend.
“That’s BS. In 1978, I got a concussion and they carried me off on a stretcher”
5. Argo (2012)
Argo is an American historical drama that follows the successful rescue of six US diplomats from Iran under the pretext of filming a sci-fi film. Seven time Academy Award nominee, Argo received criticism for curtailing the role of the Canadian Embassy in the actual rescue. And showing the British and New Zealand embassies in poor light, both of which took significant risks towards the success of this mission. Former US President Jimmy Carter brought these inaccuracies up in a CNN interview.
“90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie is very good. But Ben Affleck’s character in the film was… only in Tehran a day and a half. And the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.”
The film also did not reveal that Iranian cabinet members had advocated the freedom of the American hostages. Affleck who directed and acted in the film consented to taking “some dramatic license.“ An interesting titbit is that apparently the Hollywood production office created to setup the ruse of an actual sci-film shoot proved so real that it continued to receive scripts weeks after the rescue had been completed, twenty six in all. In 2016, it emerged that the CIA had been involved in the production of the film as well.