I don’t know about you, but when I see a movie is “based on” or “inspired by” a true story I’m suddenly more interested and excited to watch it. The film may not be anything close to what actually happened, but afterwards you better bet your sweet bippy that I’m on IMDB searching for trivia and poring over that Wikipedia page. When you learn what really happened and what was true you feel like some sort of movie knowledge wizard. You’re suddenly ready to drop your pop culture trivia bombs on people left and right. So if you want to impress your friends with useless trivia (and don’t we all!) read up on these movies surprisingly based on true stories:
50 First Dates
The craziest thing, besides the premise of this romantic comedy led by Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, was that it was based on a true story. The film was reportedly inspired by a woman who suffered severe head injuries and essentially had to live the same day over and over. She had to be constantly reminded by her husband that they were married with the help of a photo album. How disturbing to wake up every day with no memory of your life only to find out you have a baby, a husband, and god knows what else going on in your life?
I thought this was just a touching made up story about a little guy who really wants to play football only his jerk of a coach won’t let him. Then the whole team stands up for him and he plays and we all bawl because our hearts are so warmed. Turns out it was all true! Sort of. The true story of Rudy Ruettinger is that he was too small to play for Notre Dame, but the real coach of the team actually encouraged walk-on players. So after Rudy trained and proved himself he earned a spot on their scout team. Then, the next year when a new coach, Dan Devine entered the picture, he actually encouraged Rudy to dress for his last game and let him on the field for three plays. Dan Devine wasn’t the big mean coach from the film at all! And real Rudy got carried off the fields by his teammates in victory and we all bawled again at realizing the true story is just as heartwarming as the film.
When I was a kid just seeing a picture of Chucky terrified me. I couldn’t actually watch the movies because I found the idea of an evil living toy so scary. I was shocked to discover the Child’s Play movies were actually based on a true story. Well, sort of. Supposedly a woman placed a curse on a doll belonging to the painter Robert Eugene Otto. He would talk to the doll (also named Robert) and his family would sometimes hear him screaming at night or find things moved or misplaced around the house. When the doll moved onto its next owner they reported similar mischief on behalf of Robert the doll, and claimed he could even move and tried to kill them. Today Robert lives in a museum in Florida. I won’t be visiting him anytime soon.
This is the movie that made Sylvester Stallone’s career. He wrote and directed Rocky and I dumbly thought he came up with the idea himself. I mean, it’s not super original to have an underdog sportsman eventually going the distance. But it’s an excellent movie so I was delighted to learn Sylvester was inspired by a few stories of real boxers. But the main plot came from the story of boxer Chuck Wepner, who was able to last 15 rounds going up against Muhammed Ali before getting knocked out. Apparently Stallone called him shortly after the fight and said he was going to make that fight a movie. And he did and we rejoiced.
The Big Lebowski
So this is really more a case of The Dude being based on a real guy than the film being based on true events, though many things did happen or were inspired by various things in the Coen brothers’ lives. But The Dude is real. A real man named Jeff Dowd. The real life Dude is nowhere near as much of a slacker as movie Dude, but he was a member of the Seattle Seven like The Dude and was the source of many of The Dude’s strange habits and mannerisms. And the iconic name – The Dude? That was all Dowd’s, given him to when he was just in sixth grade.
You know that claim at the beginning of the film and now TV show that what you’re about to see is based on real events? Lies! This is just a flat out lie in the case of Fargo to get the audience to accept some of the crazier things that happen in the story. Well played, Coen brothers. Well played.