When Hollywood has exhausted its creativity producing prequels and sequels, it often turns to unbelievable real-life events for inspiration. Unfortunately, as we've pointed out twice before, many of these stories are total bullshit.
That doesn't mean every single one is fantasy -- in fact, some of the most notable "true life" movies are relatively factual. Unfortunately, however, these amazing stories often have terrible aftermaths that even Hollywood wouldn't dare to film.
The Story You Saw: Erin Brockovich
Julia Roberts, venturing outside of her comfort zone by playing someone we're supposed to like, is Erin Brockovich, an unemployed and divorced mother of three. She gets a low-level job as a clerk at a law firm and devotes herself to standing up for the little guy.
With no legal training to speak of and a closet full of shirts that push her breasts out like they haven't paid rent in three months, she proceeds to bring a huge class-action lawsuit against major gas company PG&E for poisoning the water supply of Hinkley, California. Erin and her boss, Ed, work tirelessly to bring justice for the town's residents, and in the end, Brockovich wins $333 million for 648 residents and receives a $2 million bonus check.
"Wow. Guess I can pay Richard Gere back for those clothes. Too bad I still dress like a hooker."
The Unpleasant Epilogue
As soon as she received that check, the real-life Brockovich became exactly like the film's rich-dick villains, only richer and dickier, like when Shredder turned into Super Shredder.
Instead of taking PG&E to court in full view of the public, Brockovich's firm convinced the residents of Hinkley to settle through private arbitration, where everything would be secret and the lawyers were basically accountable to nobody. After settling on the $333 million, the money wasn't given to the townspeople to pay for their medical bills until six months later. That's how long Erin's firm held onto the cash, giving the lawyers just enough time to have their way with each and every $100 bill.
"The money needed time to marinate. In our juices."
When Hinkley's residents contacted Erin about their concerns ("concerns" is a term that here means "money for our cancer bills"), they found that their one-time advocate was now unreachable. Once they finally received the money, they noticed that it was far less than they expected. That's because the law firm, wanting more than the agreed-upon 40 percent of the settlement ($133 million), took an extra $10 million for "expenses."
Then, in an act that would make Satan himself issue a public apology, Brockovich's firm screwed the kids with cancer by taking a third of their settlements, even though it's an extraordinarily unusual and universally frowned upon practice to take more than 25 percent. Hinkley's residents also noticed that there was no rationale behind how much money each resident received, but the rules of private arbitration prevented them from finding out the formula used to determine the settlements.
"We just shoot babies at random numbers and jot down the results."
In the meantime, Brockovich has used the movie's portrayal of herself to launch successful careers as an environmental activist and motivational speaker, although we're assuming she leaves the whole "ripping off cancer patients" thing out.
Clubbing baby seals on her days off probably gets a mention, though.
The Story You Saw: Moneyball
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the brilliant general manager of the Oakland Athletics who hates every piece of furniture he comes into contact with.
Beane is tasked with assembling a winning team despite having the third-lowest payroll in the league. Realizing that he is totally screwed by every conventional definition of the term, Beane adopts a radical new method of evaluating players called sabermetrics, a system that values statistical analysis over the traditional practice of sitting around and deciding which guy looks best in uniform.
"He's got the ass of a champion!"
Ridiculed by industry professionals at every turn, the A's eventually prevail, winning 103 games during the regular season and earning a spot in the playoffs. Despite not making it to the World Series, Beane's fancy book-learning theories gain recognition for their genius and he flips over the entire inventory of an Office Depot in celebration.
The Unpleasant Epilogue
After the struggling Athletics made the playoffs three years in a row, other teams got suspicious and wanted to figure out exactly what Beane was up to. Evidently eager to help them out, Beane authorized the publication of a 288-page book, Moneyball, which provided some very specific details about Beane's thought process throughout the 2002 season. And by specific details, we mean it explained which statistics he thought were the most important and why, which players he liked and didn't like, his trading strategies and the ways he inflated the values of his players. It would be like Coca-Cola hand-delivering its secret formula to Pepsi, or the Weekly World News disclosing its investigative techniques to the CIA.
"In our research we found that KFC's special ingredient is just ground up baseballs and dead mascots."
Not surprisingly, other teams began to use the same strategies outlined in the book. Nine teams hired sabermetric analysts following Moneyball's publication. This included not only poor teams that were looking to level the playing field, but also some of baseball's richest franchises, like the Mets, Red Sox and Yankees.
Pictured: The Yankees, winning one for the little guys.
Predictably, the Athletics began to suck really fast, making the playoffs only once since 2003 and ranking among the worst in the league for the last five years. Despite this, their payroll actually increased and is now only the 10th worst in the league. Moneyball's author, Michael Lewis, has openly admitted that the book "probably cost the A's an opportunity or two," which is something that he maybe should have mentioned before the book was written.
The Story You Saw: Schindler's List
Oskar Schindler, as played by Liam Neeson, is a money-obsessed industrialist in early 1940s Germany. His munitions factory is poised to make a killing using free Jewish labor when Schindler suddenly snaps out of the money-induced coma he's been in for the previous five years and realizes that his free work force is made up of real, actual human beings who are being exterminated by the Nazi regime.
"Wow, Jewish people come in technicolor now."
Schindler then does everything in his power to collect as many Jews as he can to work in his factories and keep them protected, including making friends with Lord Voldemort. By war's end, Schindler has saved over 1,000 Jews, has spent all of his money and is a shoe-in for sainthood on the first ballot. However, since he is ostensibly a member of the Nazi Party, Schindler is considered a war criminal by the Allies and is forced to flee to avoid capture, presumably in a van with Bradley Cooper and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
"I love it when a plan falls apart in a mess of misunderstandings."
The Unpleasant Epilogue
OskarSchindler.com sensitively describes Schindler's post-war life as "a long series of failures," which might be the gentlest euphemism since your parents "took Barkley to the farm." Despite Schindler's remarkable feats, he was only known to the rest of the world as one of the many ex-Nazis who were not to be trusted. He was unemployed for a long time and survived solely on the care packages sent to him by the people he had saved.
Eventually he was given full welfare from the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish relief organization, and after receiving some not-too-pleasant love letters from embittered former Nazis, Schindler left for Buenos Aires to start a farm. He brought along his wife, some of the Jews he saved and his mistress, which must have been history's most awkward plane ride next to the one that carried home all the survivors of that rugby team from Alive.
"Hey baby, what's a nice girl like you doing in a -- oh God, never mind. Really sorry. Hey, have a job."
Growing crops and raising pigs proved too challenging for the man who fooled the most oppressive regime in history by running a munitions factory that never produced a single shell, and the farm quickly went bankrupt. Schindler packed his bags and flew back to Europe, stranding his wife and mistress in Argentina without so much as saying "Adios." In fact he never spoke to or saw his wife ever again.
"I'm gone. Hook up with Mengele or something."
Back in Europe, Schindler tried to establish a cement factory, but that also went bankrupt. He continued to bum around like a hobo, surviving on nothing but donations and care packages from Jewish people, because telling Oskar Schindler to get his shit together would be like telling Gandhi to eat a McDouble.
"Wait, you're in this movie, too?"
Don't take any of this to mean we're diminishing what he did during the war -- the sad epilogue in Schindler's life actually makes his heroism during the Holocaust all the more remarkable. This was not a particularly competent or driven or talented man -- he had no other successes to his name. But goddamn did the guy step up when the human race needed him to.