#3. The Last King of Scotland
The Hollywood Version:
The Last King of Scotland is not about Scotland at all, but instead chronicles the quirky relationship between brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and a young Scottish doctor.
It follows Nicholas Garrigan, an adventurous Scottish medical school graduate who decides that, being adventurous and all, going to work in Uganda in a missionary clinic might be a good time. He is mistaken.
"No one told me we had to wear ties! This sucks."
Garrigan soon meets Amin, played by Forrest Whitaker and his terrifying eyes, and soon after Amin takes power in Uganda he takes a shining to the young doctor.
After becoming one of Amin's most trusted advisors, Garrigan commits the tiny little faux pas of impregnating one of his wives. One thing leads to another, Garrigan's lover is murdered by Amin's forces, and soon Garrigan is trying to stop the madman Amin by plotting his assassination. It doesn't happen, but Garrigan escapes torture and imprisonment and is able to flee the country and alert the world to Amin's insanity.
For starters, there was never anyone named Nicholas Garrigan. So there's that.
Instead, the character was based on a man named "Major" Bob Astles. He wasn't a doctor. He wasn't from Scotland. And while we've never actually met Astles, we do know he earned the nickname of "The White Rat" from the people of Uganda, and was considered the second most hated man in the country. So there's that, too.
He had worked as an advisor under the regime overthrown by Amin, and soon after Amin took power he was imprisoned and tortured for 17 weeks. And then Amin decided to give him a job, which makes the imprisonment pretty much the most brutal application process this side of The Apprentice.
Unlike the movie's representation of the Garrigan character seeing the light and trying to take Amin down from the inside, Astles remained by Amin's side until the regime was finally overthrown in 1979, when the Brit fled the country before being brought back to Uganda to face criminal charges and become someone's bitch in prison.
Oh, and he never became romantically involved with one of Amin's wives, either. That part of the movie is based in a little bit of fact, it's just that the doctor in question was an African man named Mbalu Mukasa. And Amin's wife died during a botched abortion by Mukasa, who then killed himself.
How can you cut this stuff, Hollywood? This is gold here!
The Hollywood Version:
Oh, look. Gene Hackman again.
One of the true underdog stories in American sports history, Hoosiers tells the tale of an ornery and disgraced former college coach who takes a job coaching high school basketball in Indiana, where basketball comes in just behind God, family and farming, and well ahead of education and hygiene.
Initially his drill instructor tactics and emphasis on discipline are met with bewilderment and scorn by the townsfolk, who unsurprisingly change their tune when the wins start piling up. The team predictably shocks the basketball world when they take home the title.
The movie's "true story" claim was based on Milan High School and their championship run in 1954. It was not, however, coached by a grizzled guy with a short temper and demands for military-style discipline (Hackman's coach character was actually based on legendary college coach Bobby Knight).
The many faces of Bobby Knight.
In reality, tiny Milan High was coached by 26-year-old Marvin Wood, a former standout player at Butler University who was actually in his second year coaching the tiny high school when they took home the state championship.
More importantly, it also wasn't like Milan surprised anyone with their run in the state tournament. They were a small school, sure, but they'd been on the big stage before. Like, the previous year. In Wood's first season as the head coach, he took the team to the state semifinals, and almost all of the key players from that squad returned the year that they won it all.
Not pictured: A rag tag group of underdogs coached by a Bobby Knight clone.
In the film, the point is made and re-made that there are barely enough young men in the school to make up the team. In reality, Coach Wood wasn't exactly hurting for depth. It turns out 58 kids tried out for varsity that year, and the roster consisted of 10 players all season long. Compare this to the movie where Coach Hackman sends only four players out onto the court, due to a short roster and also to teach a rebellious player a valuable life lesson. And also to prove that he had the biggest dick in the room.
Wood was also married with two kids, so the entire awkward romantic subplot between Hackman and Barbara Hershey was fictional, which means that by showing us a truly brutal kiss between the two actors, the filmmakers were really just trying to make us queasy for no good reason. Mission accomplished, fellas.
The Hollywood Version:
Richard Nixon. He was paranoid, angry, sweat like Patrick Ewing during his televised debates and was basically the most despised president in U.S. history. Oh, and then he ordered felonies to be carried out to help him get re-elected and then covered it up.
Yet no one could ever get an admission of guilt out of ol' Tricky Dick, a schemer and manipulator who was pretty much the presidential version of Snidely Whiplash. But, if the movie Frost/Nixon is to be believed, along came David "Dudley Do-Right" Frost, a British journalist who, through a series of televised interviews, made like Tom Cruise and got Nixon to admit to ordering the code red.
"You can't handle how not-a-crook I am!"
While David Frost was an admirable fop who tried his damndest to get Nixon to admit to his culpability in the whole "stealing information from the Democratic Party" thing, the movie glosses over the fact that it wasn't so much Frost's triumph as it was a Nixonian PR move that led to his finally admitting the role he played and offering a half-hearted apology to the American people.
In the film's version of the final interview, Frost uses his tricky journalistic tactics to ambush Nixon into an admission of guilt. Nixon is trapped, and Frost has won. Huzzah! Pip pip, cheerio and such!
In reality, it turns out that the "apology" was carefully scripted by Nixon and his people well ahead of time. They realized that if he went through the entire interview series without changing his stance, he'd have gained nothing and would be viewed as the "same old Nixon," out to do the classic politician image rehabilitation.
So Nixon delayed the final interview for two months, allowing him to carefully script exactly what he'd say, and how he'd say it. In other words, the whole thing was just another Nixon ploy. When Frost/Nixoncame out earlier this year, many critics were surprised that the disgraced ex-President was the most sympathetic character in the film, and commended for it's daring decision to humanize a monster. Kind of seems less daring when you realize the script was based on a story that unfolded exactly the way Nixon scripted it.
Find more of Jeff's stuff at TheLastGaffe.com.
For more bullshit that people actually believed, check out 11 Movies Saved by Historical Inaccuracy and 7 Clearly Fake News Stories That Fooled The Mainstream Media.
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