|Real Stories Behind Oscar Movies|
|By LUCHINA FISHER (@luchina)||Mar 1, 2014, 2:00 AM|
If many of this year's best picture nominees sound familiar, it could be because they are based on real-life stories.
Six of the nine Academy Award nominated films claim to be based in reality, with some resembling the truth more than others. "American Hustle" makes no bones about playing fast and loose with the facts, providing a disclaimer at the beginning that says, "Some of these things actually happened."
Just how much of "American Hustle" resembles the real ABSCAM sting in the late '70s? Click through to find out the real story behind that movie and more.
David O. Russell's star-studded comic caper is very loosely based on the FBI sting known as Abscam that began as a simple investigation into stolen property and ended up netting six members of Congress, one U.S. senator, the mayor of Camden, N.J., Philadelphia city council members and an Immigration and Naturalization Service official. Russell was more interested in the characters surrounding the sting than the outcome. And, because this is Hollywood, he made them more complicated and anguished than their real-life counterparts.
Though Martin Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio have been forced to defend the outrageous depictions of drugs and sex in "The Wolf of Wall Street," the film, according to Time magazine, hews close to the memoir of New York stock broker Jordan Belfort, who conned his way into hundreds of millions in the 1990s. But, as Time points out, Belfort "was a scam artist — he made a living by lying," leaving much of his account up for debate. That may be why DiCaprio played Belfort as a not-so-reliable narrator of his own story. Remember the Quaalude scene?
"12 Years a Slave" is based on the 160-year-old memoir of Solomon Northup, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery for 12 years. Over the years, scholars have questioned how much of Northup's account was fictionalized to conform to certain popular slave narratives of the time, though its most important facts were authenticated by historians Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon in their landmark 1968 edition of the book. As for the film, according to Slate's Forrest Wickman, except for a few small scenes, "nearly all of the most unbelievable details come straight from the book, and many lines are taken verbatim."
Matthew McConaughey dropped nearly 50 pounds to play real-life AIDS patient Ronald Woodroof, in the "Dallas Buyers Club." The film's name comes from the venture Woodroof started after he was diagnosed with AIDS in the mid-1980s to distribute AIDS drugs not yet approved by the FDA to those who couldn't afford AZT or had a negative reaction to it. While the film accurately portrays Woodroof, who was interviewed at length by one of the screenwriters a month before his death, Jared Leto's transgender character Rayon and Jennifer Garner's Dr. Eve Saks are actually composites of people the writers interviewed in developing the script.
"Philomena" is based on BBC reporter Martin Sixsmith's book, "The Lost Child of Philomena Lee," about a woman who was forced to give up her son after giving birth at age 18 in an Irish home for unwed mothers back in 1952. For 50 years, she returned to the home for news of her son but was never told what happened to him. Finally, with the help of Sixsmith, she traced her son to the United States only to find out that he had died nine years earlier from AIDS and had been told by the Catholic church that she had abandoned him. Recently, the real Lee was invited to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis, whom she hopes will help the 60,000 unwed Irish Catholic women who were forced to give up their babies reunite with their children.
"Captain Phillips" condenses the true story of the 2009 Maersk Alabama container ship hijacking with Tom Hanks in the titular role of the merchant mariner taken hostage by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. Since the film's release, some of Phillips' crewmembers, including those suing the ship's owners, say the film paints a too heroic picture of the real-life Richard Phillips. But director Paul Greengrass, who also directed the 9/11 film "United 93," is standing behind its authenticity. "I'm 100 percent satisfied that the picture we present of these events in the film, including the role playing by Captain Phillips, is authentic. I stand by the picture I give in the film, absolutely," he wrote during a Reddit AMA last fall.