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How Oscar-nominated ‘true stories’ differ from real thing


Sunday, February 28, 2016, 8:00 AM

Not everything you see in movies is made up.

Historically, films based on true stories perform very well in theaters and at the Oscars.

Last year alone, four Best Picture nominees were based on real events and people. So far this decade, three winners, “The King’s Speech” (2010), “Argo” (2012) and “12 Years a Slave” (2013), were biographical.


The trend continues in 2016, with four films up for the prestigious title are true stories. But as is often the case with Hollywood, there are some slight differences between the movies and the real facts.


'Spotlight' tells the story of a Pulitzer-winning Boston Globe investigative reporting team.KERRY HAYES

‘Spotlight’ tells the story of a Pulitzer-winning Boston Globe investigative reporting team.

The most heralded journalism movie since “All the President’s Men” gets nearly every detail of its parent story correct.

Chronicling the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer-winning enterprise reporting on child abuse in the Catholic Church, one person took issue with their on-screen portrayal.

Jack Dunn, a communications representative at Boston College High School where multiple students reported being molested by clergy, tried to hide the truth about the claims made in the movie.

After seeing “Spotlight,” he told The Boston Globe, “The dialogue assigned to me is completely fabricated and represents the opposite of who I am and what I did on behalf of victims. It makes me look callous and indifferent.”

“We disagree with his characterization of the scene as misleading,” wrote the film’s distributor, Open Road, in a response to Dunn.


The scene in question features Dunn talking to Globe reporters and trying to downplay the scandal’s severity.

More than anything, though, “Spotlight” perfectly shows the power the Catholic Church has in Boston.

“The Big Short”

Steve Carell plays Mark Baum in 'The Big Short.'Jaap Buitendijk/Paramount Pictures/Regency Enterprises

Steve Carell plays Mark Baum in ‘The Big Short.’

Based on the Michael Lewis book of the same title, “The Big Short” recounts events surrounding the real-life housing and credit bubble.

One glaring difference: The names of the real-life finance whizzes have nearly all been changed.

Michael Burry, portrayed by Christian Bale, is the only character whose name was not altered for the film.

In terms of substance, The New York Times argues the film “places too much blame” on the greed of Wall Street.

“The Revenant”

Legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team in 'The Revenant.'20th Century Fox

Legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team in ‘The Revenant.’

The film for which Leonardo DiCaprio might finally win an Oscar is actually taken from a story which, over time, became more legend than fact.

DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass seeks revenge for the death of his son. But Glass never had a child, nor did he have a Native American wife, according to People.

Since that information is fabricated, so too is the crux of the plot which culminates with Glass killing John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).


Glass didn’t have a son to kill, but as the real story has it, Fitzgerald did leave Glass for dead after the bear attack.

The bear encounter is what made Glass’ story take off, according to The Telegraph.

This led him on a path of redemption, but when he finally found Fitzgerald, the main character spared his life — far different than the final scene of the movie.

“Bridge of Spies”

Tom Hanks' 'Bridge of Spies' gets some things right, but exaggerates other details.20th Century Fox

Tom Hanks’ ‘Bridge of Spies’ gets some things right, but exaggerates other details.

Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller gets most of the 1960 U-2 incident correct.

James Donovan (Tom Hanks), the man who coordinated prisoner negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union, encountered negative feedback from his fellow Americans.

But the movie exaggerates what he went through.

In “Bridge of Spies,” there is a scene where Donovan’s coat is stolen, and another in which the windows at his home are broken.

For all the slack he caught defending Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, Donovan was never in that level of physical danger. But he did have to make his home phone number private, and his children were bullied over their father’s connection to a communist, Donovan wrote in his book “Stragners on a Bridge.”

Donovan was in far greater danger when he traveled to Europe to oversee the exchange of U.S. and Soviet prisoners — which he never actually told his wife about — but unlike in the film, Donovan never watched anyone get shot and killed while scaling the Berlin Wall.

oscars ,
spotlight ,
the big short ,
christian bale ,
the revenant ,
leonardo dicaprio ,
tom hardy ,
bridge of spies ,
tom hanks
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