Stossel: How True Is 'Monster'?

ByABC News
February 12, 2004, 4:21 PM

Feb. 13 — -- The Academy Awards are coming up with Charlize Theron favored to win the Best Actress award for her role in Monster, which claims it is "based on a true story." But it is not as true as you might think.

Theron has already picked up the Golden Globe for Monster, and I'd give Theron an award too she transformed herself for the movie.

Theron gained 30 pounds by doing things like eating Krispy Kreme donuts, and with the help of makeup artists, she changed her glamorous self into a dead ringer for serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was convicted and then executed 12 years ago in Florida.

In the movie, Wuornos is presented as a killer with a soft side in a loving lesbian relationship with her girlfriend, as played by Christina Ricci.

But the real criminal had a deadly side, too. And here's the problem: If filmmakers say their movie is "based on a true story," shouldn't the heart of the story be true?

Down on Her Luck, or Brutal Killer?

Wuornos was a prostitute and hitchhiked across central Florida to find customers. In the movie, she tries to go straight but society lets her down, making it difficult for her to find a job, so she returns to the streets.

As Monster tells it, one john brutally beats and rapes Wuornos in some very disturbing scenes. When the attacker threatens to kill her, she shoots him in self-defense. When moviegoers see the graphic rape scene, many feel Wuornos is the victim. This has family members of the real victims unhappy.

Theron helped produce the film, and talks about the research she did while promoting the film. I would think the research would include talking to the prosecutor, John Tanner, who spent years investigating Wuornos and the seven men she killed. But he was not consulted.