6 Real Innocent People Famous Movies Made Look Horrible
The most compelling movie characters often stem from reality; Charles Foster Kane was loosely based on W.H. Hearst, Biff Tannen took his cues from Donald Trump, and the stars of Twilight drew inspiration from some discarded planks of wood left beside a construction site. Sometimes, though, these fictional inspirations take unfortunate dramatic licenses, enshrining real-life figures in the annals of cinema in a craptastic light.
From famous people to random dudes, no one is safe from being turned into a major dickhead by Hollywood long after their death. That's exactly what happened to ...
Inside Llewyn Davis Recast A Real Folk Icon As A Huge Prick
Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers' drama about the folk music scene of the 1960s, was acclaimed for its eccentric characters, original songs, and the closest we'll ever get to a Star Wars movie where Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron put aside their differences to jam with Justin Timberlake.
The Real-Life Inspiration:
For the character of Llewyn Davis, the Coens took their inspiration from Dave Van Ronk, a legendary folk musician who, like Davis, played the New York coffee house circuit. They straight up took scenes from Van Ronk's biography and put them in the movie, such as when he tries to rejoin the merchant marines but realizes he's missing his seaman's papers or his painful audition for the '60s folk equivalent of Simon Cowell. On top of that, Van Ronk had an album titled Inside Dave Van Ronk, whose cover looked like this:
The only problem? Despite the fact that the two share so much in common, the Coens made their character a self-centered douchenozzle whose talent for folk music is surpassed by his knack for mooching and womanizing. While the late Van Ronk was a friendly figure who encouraged and influenced young up-and-comers like Bob Dylan and went on to have a long career, his thinly disguised film version is a pathetic sad sack who clearly went nowhere.
This was a problem for at least some of Van Ronk's friends, who were unhappy to see the iconography of his life's work attributed to some fictional jackass. One folk singer remarked that they were "outraged that the Coens took such a colorful character and interpreted him as a doofus." How would the Coen Brothers like it if someone made a movie where their friends are sad losers being chased by Nihilists and almost castrated? Wait, never mind, the Coens did that movie themselves.
James Cameron Turned One Of The True Heroes Of The Titanic Into A Drunken Idiot
We all remember Titanic, James Cameron's epic story of love that tested the resolve of movie-going bladders everywhere, and gave us the Celine Dion song that tested the resolve of society's will to live.
The Real-Life Inspiration:
Leaving aside the movie's fictional leads, Titanic is chock full of real-life figures, from socialite Molly Brown, to Captain Edward Smith, to even some of the peripheral characters. Take the guy in the chef's uniform swilling booze from a flask -- you may not remember him because his presence is somewhat usurped by the film's true star, "Propeller Guy."
The moment plays almost as comedic, as if this poor schlub might as well fill his belly with Jim Beam as long as people are pinballing off of propellers. Well, it turns out that the inspiration for the character, Charles Joughin, was far more than a mere county fair caricature of Nick Nolte -- he was a goddamn hero.
It's true that Joughin, the ship's baker, was drinking that night, but he actually started before the ship hit the iceberg, while he was off-duty and had every right to get shitfaced. Once disaster struck, he organized the distribution of bread to the lifeboats and even refused his own spot on a boat in favor of women and children. If all that wasn't enough, he then started hurling deck chairs into the water -- not in a drunken Axl Rose-esque display, but as a way to provide people with flotation devices. Amazingly, the baker survived by clinging to an overturned boat, which some have attributed to his getting hammered beforehand. While that doesn't really make sense, others have theorized that the hooch may have kept him calm where others panicked.
That's right, not content with turning a brave crew member into a murderous asshole, Cameron had the gall to make a mockery out of the Titanic's biggest hero: alcohol.
Everyone Who Endured The "Perfect Storm" Looks Like A Goddamn Idiot In The Movie
The Perfect Storm tells the story of the Andrea Gail, a fishing boat that was lost at sea during the titular shitty weather event of 1991. George Clooney stars as the boat captain who sadly could have changed careers if he'd only realized that he had movie star good looks beneath that mangled baseball cap.
The Real-Life Inspiration:
The movie was based on a book, which itself was based on a true story -- and it may have massaged some of the finer details. Even the heroes, that rag-tag group of fishermen, weren't accurately represented. In the movie, they decide to endure the storm because they're in financial danger of losing the boat and need the money their catch will bring in. They could have just gone home and not gotten caught up in any storm, perfect or otherwise, but Captain Tyne (Clooney) goads his crew like a schoolyard bully.
The thing is, the ship was lost at sea -- so no one knows what the hell happened. Specifically, there's no evidence that Captain Tyne turned into a total dickhead and got all his friends killed. In fact, Tyne wasn't in any financial trouble, so there's really no reason why he would act like that. Tyne's family (unsuccessfully) sued the filmmakers for depicting the Captain as "unprofessional" and "incompetent" -- but, to be fair, also handsome. Even they have to admit he was pretty handsome.
Arguably even worse was the case of crew member David "Sully" Sullivan, who had the misfortune of being portrayed by typecast shady bad guy William Fichtner.
In the movie, Sully is an angry shithead who clashes with other crewmembers and brings unnecessary conflict into an already bad situation, but in real life, he was "a funny guy with a loud laugh and a big smile." He was also an actual hero who saved the lives of his crew in another ship by jumping into icy water to untie some ropes. Where's the movie about that?
And finally, there's the B-story about the yacht that gets caught up in the storm, which mainly seems to exist to contrast the scruffy heroism of the fishing boat with some entitled yuppie douchebags who think boating equals eating gourmet food on a trip to Bermuda.
The yacht's captain brags about not plotting a course and, naturally, ends up smack dab in the middle of the storm and has to get his inept ass rescued by the coast guard. However, he was based on an experienced seaman who actually did everything right and didn't appreciate seeing himself turned into a live action New Yorker cartoon gag.
The Patriot's Bad Guy Wasn't A Child-Murdering Psychopath
Presumably, because some studio executive saw Braveheart and realized that America also had a pretty significant gore-filled squabble with the British, Mel Gibson was again enlisted to fight for freedom against the tyranny of those evil limeys -- his third-worst nemesis after highway patrol officers, and his own racist-ass brain.
The Real-Life Inspiration:
Since having Gibson fight an anthropomorphic tea bag with crooked teeth was apparently just a shade too on the nose of this movie, the villain is just a regular old psycho sadist redcoat, played by England's most evil-seeming thespian, Jason Isaacs.
You can tell we might be slightly off the beaten track of recorded history here because Isaacs actually plays the role with more over-the-top wickedness than when he portrayed a straight-up evil wizard. Most memorably, in one scene, he orders his men to burn down a church full of women, children, and old people, for no particular reason other than the movie seemingly wants to imply that taxation is the gateway to genocide.
Oh, and he also murders the protagonist's young son in cold blood, so child-killing was sort of his signature move, apparently.
However, Col. Tavington was inspired by a real soldier with the soundalike name Tarleton, who is considered a hero in his hometown, Liverpool. While he was no boy scout (he was nicknamed the "butcher"), there's no indication that he ever burned down a church or killed a single defenseless child. Not surprisingly, people in England weren't super-thrilled about the flick that made them out to be bloodthirsty demon-people on a one-sided terror campaign against the innocent yet heroic folk of America. Also deviating from the real guy's biography, instead of being bayoneted to death in the name of America ...
... he survived the war, went back to England, and became a Member of Parliament. Luckily, he didn't live long enough to befriend H.G. Wells, go for a spin in his time machine, and get enraged at The Patriot.
The Rocketeer Turned Errol Flynn Into A Literal Nazi
In Disney's throwback adventure movie The Rocketeer, a WWII test pilot becomes a superhero thanks to a jetpack he accidentally finds -- which, in retrospect, is a pretty insane origin story. It's like if Bruce Wayne just randomly stumbled upon a cave full of expensive crime-fighting gear and small orphan boy.
The Real-Life Inspiration:
With its 1940s setting, The Rocketeer occasionally references actual historical figures. Famed millionaire Howard Hughes shows up at one point (though, this being a Disney movie and all, he bottles all of his urine off-screen) and Timothy Dalton's character, Neville Sinclair, is clearly inspired by screen legend Errol Flynn -- both are dashing movie stars who seemingly order their mustaches from the same catalogue.
Also, when we first meet Sinclair, he's filming a movie that looks almost copyright-infringement-close to Flynn's most famous film, The Adventures of Robin Hood.
In the movie's big twist, it turns out that Sinclair is secretly working for the Nazis -- which isn't totally out of left field. There actually was a rumor that Flynn was a Nazi, stemming from a biography that made that claim:
The book goes as far as to imply that Flynn was partly responsible for Pearl Harbor, after sending Japan footage of the base. So, The Rocketeer's screenwriters drew their story from this biography -- the only problem being that the whole thing is almost definitely bullshit.
The infamous biography has been "denounced by Flynn's former wife, colleagues and other biographers," and there's no credible evidence supporting its claims. Even worse, new evidence has come out suggesting that Flynn did offer to become a spy, but for the allies. Either way, it's probably hard for '90s kids not to envision him as the Nazi dickhead who died jetpack-crashing into the Hollywood sign.
Mad Men Kept Portraying Real Companies As Rapey Shitheads
OK, so this isn't technically a movie, but you can still binge it all in one sitting if you have as little willpower as, well, the people on the show. Mad Men is, of course, the award-winning 1960s-set drama following Don Draper and his inspiring journey from being a piece-of-shit ad man to ... being an ever-so-slightly less of a piece-of-shit ad man.
The Real-Life Inspiration:
A lot of Mad Men's authenticity stemmed from the fact that it mostly used real companies in its fictitious agencies -- Peggy Olson never had to land the Bloca-Bola account or anything. When Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce was absorbed into another ad agency in the final season, they even used a real agency, McCann-Erickson. The still-thriving company was so excited about the development, this is what their lobby looked like the next day:
They were less thrilled when they saw the next week's episode, though.
To be fair, that likely was the way women were treated at an agency like that in the '60s. Still, they sure sandbagged today's company, who were so excited about their inclusion in the popular show, they were live-tweeting the episode, not knowing things were about to take an unfortunate turn.
Even worse was the show's portrayal of SCDP's client Jaguar, who also weren't consulted about their inclusion in the show. When character Lane Pryce tries to kill himself using car exhaust, he chooses a Jaguar as his instrument of suicide (and even worse, the damn thing won't start).
Even more horrifyingly, Jaguar only agrees to give our heroes their business if Joan had sex with their Vice President of Disgusting Pervy Creepiness -- leading the real-life Jaguar company to feel that the show had "tainted" their brand.
And it's not just companies -- individuals also had their histories re-written. The last episode of the show implies that Don's newfound sense of hippie beatnik-ism gave him the inspiration to come up with the famous "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" ad. Believe it or not, that highly influential ad was created by an actual person (at McCann-Erickson), who now has to contend with a fictional character stealing his thunder. The real-life Don Draper, legendary ad man Bill Backer, didn't seem to really care, though, since he didn't like the show anyway -- probably because it portrayed his life's work as consisting mainly of getting hammered and wrestling with existential ennui.
Follow us on Facebook, and we'll follow you everywhere.