Pretentious film snobs (and us, sometimes) are quick to call bullshit when a "based on a true story" movie turns out to be filled with lies. But let's face it, no one wants a movie to get too realistic. We depend on Hollywood filmmakers to omit the depressing real-life bits and just stick to the good stuff -- if we wanted to fill our faces with candy and soda while watching something sad, we'd stay home.
That's why, as we've covered once before, it's surprisingly common for popular movies to leave out shockingly disturbing facts, like how ...
5 Rocky -- The Real Rocky Fought a Wrestling Bear, Went to Jail on Drug Charges
Unless you're Russian or a sentient piece of raw meat hanging from a hook, you probably love famed fictional boxer Rocky Balboa. Rocky has moved countless viewers over the years to follow their dreams. What could be more inspiring than a regular Joe from Philly who goes on to become world champion and punch the physical embodiment of communism in the face?
The punch was so strong, Hugo Chavez spontaneously dropped dead 28 years later.
As Cracked readers already know, the inspiration for the character came from Chuck Wepner, a real fighter whose bout with Muhammad Ali gave a young Sylvester Stallone the idea for the original film. Luckily for cinema history, Stallone didn't take any cues from Wepner's further career for more Rocky adventures, because then the franchise would have inevitably turned a lot sadder than it did. Instead of going on to gain international fame or facing formidable opponents like Ivan Drago and Mr. T, Wepner's second-most-notorious fight after the one with Ali was this:
ESPN/Chuck Wepner via YouTube
All the boxing bears were busy that night.
You might think that "Victor the Wrestling Bear" was simply a nickname for some large, hairy gay man, but nope: it was an actual de-clawed, nearly blind grizzly that Wepner sparred with for the entertainment of a bunch of weirdos. Looking at photos of the fight will make you feel bad for Wepner, the bear, and humanity in general.
The fight only lasted for five minutes before Wepner needed to call for help. Uninterested in stealing picnic baskets or honey pots, the bear was actually going to horribly murder him. And while Ali never demanded a rematch like Apollo Creed did in Rocky II, the bear apparently did. Victor and Wepner faced off again a year later, which went even worse: Wepner was immediately tossed over the ropes, landed on a dinner table, and quit the fight. After that, he somewhat understandably spent half the '80s in a drug-induced stupor, until he was busted with a small mountain of cocaine. According to the book Operation Bullpen, in 2002, Wepner was busted again by the FBI for selling fake Ali autographs.
Also understandably, Stallone didn't use any of these anecdotes in any Rocky movies, although if he had, they would have made for a Rocky V that would have won approximately all of the Oscars.
4 Seven Years in Tibet -- Brad Pitt's Character Was Exposed as a Former Nazi
Seven Years in Tibet is a charming, picturesque true story of an Austrian mountaineer called Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt) who travels to Tibet and ends up tutoring the young Dalai Lama. How many of us can say we met one of the greatest religious leaders in the world when he was at the height of his awkward boner years? But the movie left out the fact that Harrer also rubbed shoulders with other famous figures of the 20th century. Like this one here:
That's Harrer on Adolf Hitler's right, and we don't wanna know what he's doing with his missing hand. It turns out that befriending an Austrian drifter in the '30s and '40s can lead to some nasty surprises. In the movie, which is based on Harrer's autobiography, Brad Pitt's character is sent to a British POW camp just for having German citizenship, even though he hates the Nazis. In reality, he was a Nazi. And he wasn't just dabbling in Nazism because it was the style at the time -- he was an actual member of the SS, with a rank equivalent to that of a sergeant. Include that little detail, and this turns into a completely different "POW on the run hides in Tibet" movie.
Original Title: Seven or So Years 'til Shit Blows Over in Europe.
Harrer even had to ask Heinrich Himmler for permission before he could marry, and wore his Nazi uniform to the ceremony. If you ever decide to propose to someone and get a bit nervous, remember that at least you don't have to get permission from the head of the goddamn Third Reich.
Most of this stuff only came to light in 1997, right before Seven Years in Tibet was released. The director said he did suspect Harrer had a "possible connection" to the Nazis, but not enough to look into it at all because, you know, it would have totally ruined his film. It's worth mentioning that Harrer was never linked to any war crimes, and that the Dalai Lama remained his friend even after finding out this made him Hitler's twice-removed pal.