5 Movies Based on True Stories (with Depressing Epilogues)
Every year, after Hollywood's supply of explosions runs out at the end of the summer, audiences get to relax by watching smaller, more realistic movies based on real people like Captain Phillips and Machete. These true stories tend to be inspiring tales meant to uplift the human soul, and hopefully score an Oscar nomination or 10.
However, as we've pointed out before, if these movies showed you what happened after the last scene, many of them would go from "uplifting" to "sadomasochistic." Real people don't simply stop existing after the credits roll, but when you find out what they did next, you'll probably wish they had.
Ray -- Ray Charles Was a Jerk to 'the Love of His Life,' Drank Himself to Death
Before Jamie Foxx was shooting white people to save Kerry Washington in Django Unchained, he was shooting heroin in front of her as Ray Charles in the biopic Ray. The movie ends when Charles finally kicks his drug addiction, as poetically represented in a touching scene where the ghost of his mother makes him promise: "You'll never let nobody or nothing turn you into no cripple, ever again."
If only modern medicine recognized the therapeutic benefit of ghosts.
And then, even though he was a womanizing devil throughout the entire film, the renewed Charles is welcomed back into the open arms of his one true love, his wife, Della Robinson (Washington). In the last scene, the two kiss during an official "Ray Charles is awesome" ceremony in the '70s, surrounded by their three happy children.The Unpleasant Epilogue:
Absent from that scene: Charles' six to nine additional kids (apparently he lost count somewhere along the way) with up to eight other mothers. His complete inability to keep it in his pants eventually led Della to get fed up with all the cheating and procreating, and she took him to court in 1976. Charles didn't let a nasty divorce proceeding sour him on the joys of hooking up with ladies, so he did that again. And again, and again.
Due to a misunderstanding, he was technically married to Kermit between 1975 and 1976.
As for getting clean, Charles did kick his heroin addiction, only to immediately replace it with a different one (besides women and baby-making). He started drinking massive quantities of liquor for breakfast, with a side of marijuana for dinner every day, because it was what "kept him going." Yeah, that's an addict. Even the man himself admitted that he had successfully drank himself to death when, shortly after being diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease, he said: "If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself."
"At the very least I would've spent more actual time in Georgia, instead of just reminiscing."
His liver self-destructed in 2004, taking the rest of him with it. Presumably, he's still being scolded by his ghost mom in the afterlife for lying to her about that whole "staying clean" thing.
Invictus -- The Winning Rugby Team Was Plagued by Racism, Crazy People
Invictus is the Clint Eastwood film about how one rugby team defeated the odds and punched racism in the face. Shortly after becoming South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) devises a plan to use the 1995 Rugby World Cup to unite the country, despite the growing tensions between blacks and whites. Inspired by Mandela and by team leader Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), the national team goes from being the underdogs of the entire tournament to defeating New Zealand in the finals and becoming world champions.
At which point everyone in the theater, only half paying attention, starts chanting "USA!! USA!!"
The movie ends with Mandela wearing the team's jersey (which was previously the "wearing a shirt with the Confederate flag" of South Africa), as black and white players hug and look toward a bright future.
Just goes to show that literally anything's possible when Morgan Freeman is president.
That cozy feeling of racial unity apparently lasted about a month. Shortly after winning the World Cup, Pienaar organized a standoff with the South African Rugby Union and offered the other players sweet deals to sign with the World Rugby Corporation ... except black player Chester Williams, who got offered less money than the others despite being one of the most popular on the team. Dick move, Jason Bourne. Another player who apparently didn't pay much attention during Mandela's speeches was Geo Cronje, who refused to share rooms or showers with black teammates in 2003.
He eased up on his team restroom refusal after a horrific scrum accident.
Then there's the succession of insane people who followed World Cup-winning coach George Christie after he was diagnosed with leukemia and had to step down. The first one was Andre Markgraaff, who was fired in 1997 after his racist outburst was aired on national television. A series of coaches followed, each more unsuccessful than the last, leading the team from humiliating defeat to humiliating defeat, with the occasional outburst of crazy violence thrown in between. In less than a decade, South Africa's rugby team had gone from sitting on top of the world to being the laughingstock, but in 2003, new head coach Rudolph Straeuli was determined to turn things back around by employing a method that in no way could backfire: forcing his players to get naked and crawl across gravel during freezing temperatures. You know, to increase camaraderie because the World Cup was looming.
Somehow, they didn't win.
Chicago -- The Real Roxie Had a Mental Breakdown and Died of Tuberculosis
The musical Chicago is based on the real-life stories of 1920s murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gartner. While there are no records of the two teaming up for a two-woman show in real life, and we're guessing they didn't do a lot of dancing in prison either, the general details of the story are the same: Annan was arrested for shooting her lover, became a media sensation during her trial, and ultimately got off by claiming that the gun basically shot itself during a struggle -- just like Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) in the 2002 movie version, but without a jazz band following her around and accompanying every other sentence.
The musical ends when the two deadly but lovable ladies are released from prison and finally find the fame they've been looking for all along. Yay for murder!
The fact that they instantly got their own show is actually the most plausible part.
Being released from prison was a death sentence to Annan, but don't feel too bad for her: She proved to be an awful human being. And we're not just talking about the "shooting her lover" thing.
In the film, it's implied that Roxie's loyal-to-a-fault husband (John C. Reilly) will finally walk out on her upon her release, after one indignity too many. In real life, Annan's husband Albert (who paid for her attorneys during the trials, nearly bankrupting himself in the process) dutifully stuck by her, but instead of repaying him with a year's worth of free blow jobs, Annan announced to the press she was going to divorce him on the very same day she was acquitted. Her reason? "He is too slow."
It was the '20s: There were plenty of stocky, bow-tied fish in the sea.
With her dull husband no longer slowing her down, Annan married a boxer, which was the "marrying a basketball player" of the prohibition era. She probably figured it would be all jazz parties and moonshine after that, but the relationship ended just three months later, after she discovered that the guy was already married. Still believing her bad luck with men would evaporate if she got with enough of them, Annan married two more times before being institutionalized for having a mental breakdown.
Karma's a bitch.
It was there that she died from tuberculosis, just four years after being released from prison. At least this assures that Hollywood will never do a sequel to Chicago, because it would be the most depressing musical ever.
Conviction -- The Wrongly Incarcerated Man Died Six Months After Being Released
Conviction is the inspiring true-life story of Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell), a man sentenced to life in prison for a murder he didn't commit, and his sister, Betty Anne (Hilary Swank), who promised to get him out. How do we know it's inspiring? Because check out the music in this damn trailer:
OK, that's a movie where you know you're gonna leave the cinema smiling like a moron, with a renewed faith in mankind. And sure enough, the movie shows how Betty Anne, a single mother working as a waitress, put herself through law school, spent 18 years trying to clear her brother's name, and finally succeeded. She was so convinced her brother was innocent that, using previously overlooked DNA evidence, she managed to overturn his convic- ohhhh, we just got the name of the movie.
Unfortunately, it lost the 2010 Golden Globe for Best Double-Meaning Film Title to You Don't Know Jack.
The movie ends with Kenny a free man and text letting us know that, years later, the City of Ayer formally apologized to the Waters family by way of $3 million. Woo!The Unpleasant Epilogue:
Unfortunately, Kenny never saw a dime of the civil settlement, because he was dead just six months after leaving prison. One night he decided to pay his brother a visit. Because prison had already robbed enough of his time, Waters did not feel like walking the long way to his brother's house, so he took a shortcut instead, and by shortcut we mean he tried to scale a 15-foot wall. He slipped, fell down the wall, and that's as much detail as you'll get from a comedy website. His sister hasn't taken a case since.
It takes a lot to end 18 years of dedication with: "Fuck it, I'm out."
The studio even did some screenings with the crawl "Tragically, Kenny Waters died six months after release from prison" at the end, but test audiences were put off by it. To be fair, we'd feel the same way if at the end of Star Wars, they put up text saying "The Empire killed everyone 15 minutes after the ceremony." The sleazy part is that they didn't even allow a simple "For Kenny" at the end, because it would raise too many questions, and this is a feel-good movie, dammit! It's supposed to make you cry, not think.
My Left Foot -- Christy Brown Was Neglected by His Prostitute Wife
My Left Foot is perhaps best remembered as that movie where Daniel Day-Lewis forced extras to carry him around the set in a wheelchair, beginning his legend as the most dedicated method actor ever, but the plot of the movie itself is pretty impressive too. It follows the true story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy who could control only his left foot, and how he used that foot to become a well-known artist and writer.
"That's not all I can use it for ..."
After being rejected romantically by several women, at the end of the film Brown finally scores with Mary Carr, his nurse, and we last see them frolicking on top of a hill, in love. The credits warm our hearts even more when we are informed the two got married soon after ...The Unpleasant Epilogue:
... and that's when things went to shit. Not even Day-Lewis is dedicated enough to his job to portray Brown's married life to a harpy from hell.
"Even I have my limits."
As soon as they got married, Carr took her husband as far away from his family as possible and went back to her true calling: other people's penises and vaginas. It's a mystery how a prostitute secured a job nursing one of the country's most gifted minds, but once Brown was in her clutches, the charade was over and she started leaving him home alone most nights while she went off to meet her clients (being bisexual, she probably had twice the workload as her colleagues). Meanwhile, Brown survived on nothing more than the bottles of whiskey she generously left him.
He should have seen the warning signs when this was all that she brought for a picnic.
Other sources claim Carr was actually a former prostitute who simply had lots and lots of affairs. Whether she was getting naked for money or for the heck of it, Carr apparently spent her time in an alcoholic daze, tormenting and possibly abusing her husband. As a result, Brown became morose, and so did his work, something which critics and audiences did not appreciate. His final books were critical and commercial failures.
The final insult came when he choked to death on a piece of meat during dinner, at age 49. And that's why you should never again complain about Hollywood not telling you the complete story.
If you were planning on evading politics by burying yourself in holiday flicks, guess what? You can't! In our latest podcast, Jack O'Brien and David Wong complain like a bunch of old ladies about how every Christmas movie is actually just a load of political garbage. You can download it here and subscribe to it on iTunes here.
Related Reading: Some stories are too badass for any movie. Read about the man who fought evil with a Chili coated fist and you'll agree. At their worst, twins can create horror far more unsettling than a billion Wes Cravens. These Swedish twins who went simultaneously mad should convince you of that. If you're more interested in some based-on-a-true story movies that were bullshit, click here.
Watch this video for the awful truth about movies based on a true story.