As we've repeatedly pointed out, in Hollywood the words "Based on a True Story" are usually just a code for "Vaguely Resembling a True Story, but Mostly Bullshit." Sometimes, the filmmakers feel like they have to lie and make up stuff to make the story more interesting -- but it turns out that other times, they actually have to cut stuff that really happened because it's all so awesome that no one would believe it.
Here are some mind-blowing moments from real life that Hollywood decided were too fantastic, even for their movies.
#5. Public Enemies -- John Dillinger Didn't Take Three People Hostage With a Wooden Gun ... He Took 17
About halfway through Public Enemies, a biopic of Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp), Dillinger manages to break himself out of jail by whittling a chunk of wood into a shape resembling a pistol, painting it black with shoe polish and then taking three guards hostage as he raided their weapons stores. By the time the guards realized the pistol was fake, Dillinger was already loaded up with real guns.
"Looks like you just got Dillingered."
According to director Michael Mann, when Dillinger escaped from that prison in real life, it wasn't three guards he tricked into imprisoning themselves like they showed in the movie -- it was 17. If our math is correct, that means that reality is almost six times as awesome as what we got. Dillinger himself wrote in a letter to his sister that it was actually eight deputies and 12 trusties (prisoners with special privileges), bringing the total number of people he duped with a piece of wood up to 20.
Even more impressive was the time he captured an armored car by disguising a hoagie as a bazooka.
Mann, however, decided to make the scene less realistic because it was already unbelievable enough with three hostages. Johnny Depp tricking a bunch of guards with some ridiculous ploy that ends up working seems like something out of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, not a biopic based on reality. There's just no way to put Depp on screen tricking more cops than the number of bullets they thought he had into locking themselves in a jail cell without it looking silly.
Then again, maybe we shouldn't be so surprised that the stunt worked, because the wooden gun apparently still exists, and it turns out that Dillinger cleverly wrote "Colt 38" on one side.
And "Actual Gun, Not a Piece of Wood" on the other.
#4. Cloverfield -- They Made the Statue of Liberty's Head Bigger Than Reality So It Looked "Right"
One of the first images we saw from the movie Cloverfield was that moment where the Statue of Liberty's head is hurled down the street by the as-yet-unseen giant monster attacking New York City. It was by far the most memorable scene in that Internet-breaking first teaser trailer, and possibly in the entire movie itself. As for the rest of the statue, it was plastered on every poster.
Why do you hate freedom so much, Cloverfield monster?
The scene sets the tone of the movie pretty nicely: No matter where you're from, odds are you're familiar with the Statue of Liberty. By now, we've all seen Lady Liberty's face from a hundred different angles in movies and on postcards and patriotic underwear. It's one of the best known and most iconic monuments in the world, and that's why they chose it for the movie -- if the monster had punched out the top of the U.N. building, no one would give a shit.
Of course, the irony is that the filmmakers chose the Statue of Liberty because we all know it so well ... when in fact we really don't. When the special effects people were working on that scene, they tried to make the statue's head as accurate as possible, but they ran into a little problem: People thought the head's actual size was too small and unrealistic. So they had to make it 50 percent larger than it really is.
Here's the head as we see it in the teaser trailer, before the special effects were finished:
And here's what we see in the actual movie:
"Inaccurately larger heads up!"
Immediately after the teaser was released, people on the Internet started complaining that the head looked too small. Sure, we're used to seeing the statue by itself on the coast of New York, but bear in mind that for most of us, our only point of reference for its size relative to people is things like this poster for Escape from New York (where the head is about 500 percent too big).
And the streets are about 500 percent too clean.
So in order to decrease the number of people on the Internet bitching about how this space monster movie is inaccurate, the filmmakers had to make it more so. Good job, Internet.
#3. Valkyrie -- Colonel von Stauffenberg Was a Bigger Action Hero Than Tom Cruise
In Valkyrie, Tom Cruise plays Claus von Stauffenberg, a Nazi colonel who tries to assassinate Adolf Hitler and ends up getting executed for his trouble. The movie starts with von Stauffenberg's troops being ambushed by Allied fighter planes, and then we see his wife visiting him at the hospital and learning that he has lost one eye, one hand and two fingers in the explosion.
Von Stauffenberg doesn't let his injuries stop him from doing stuff like planting bombs, shooting guns and trying to overthrow the Nazi government. Hell, just the fact that he learned to dress himself all alone with only three fingers was impressive enough. But movies merge historical figures all the time -- all the badass stuff Tom Cruise does in the movie was probably done by von Stauffenberg and a bunch of other (presumably fully limbed) guys, right?
Nope, the real von Stauffenberg did all the stuff that's in the movie ... and more. Director Bryan Singer had to tone down some of his more badass moments because people wouldn't buy them. For example, we've mentioned before that when von Stauffenberg was being operated on after his injury (that is, when they were amputating 70 percent of his hands), he refused to take any kind of painkiller because he needed to be on top of his game, since orchestrating the assassination of one of the most paranoid dictators in world history is significantly more difficult when you're giggling at the elephant-men humping at the foot of your bed.
"I know you're just an actor, Mr. Chaplin, but would you like to help me kill Hitler?"
Another bit they cut -- presumably for the same reason -- was after von Stauffenberg was released from the hospital and his friends and family saw that he had lost most of his fingers. In the movie, Cruise's kids just sort of look at him with sadness. In real life, however, von Stauffenberg actually joked that he had never known what to do with so many fingers in the first place.
Imagine those words coming out of Tom Cruise's mouth, and how you'd immediately lose all ability to take the film seriously as a true story ever again.