Hollywood is often accused of rehashing, reinventing and creating too many unnecessary sequels. For some film fans ‘based on real events’ can sometimes lead to a rolling of the eyes ‘ yes, it probably is based on real events but the actual events have little resemblance to the film. Sometimes, it puts out something seemingly new and interesting without such a tag line. Surprisingly, these ideas will be based on real events. Here is a list of the ten most surprising.
1. The Hunt for Red October
Based on a book by Tom Clancy, this Jack Ryan book (who also appeared in Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games) came close to portraying an actual event. In this tale, both the Soviet Union and the USA are chasing renegade submarine commander called Ramius. The Soviets think he is defecting and the Americans think he will try to start a nuclear war. In the real story, a submarine commander in the Soviet Navy took his vessel into the Baltic and broadcasted revolutionary information feeling that the state was about to collapse.
2. 50 First Dates
A film about a woman who has lost her memory and must be wooed every day by her boyfriend (the titular 50 first dates) is based on the story of a British woman who suffered head injuries and whose memories are now very selective. She is Michelle Philpots who, despite remembering meeting her husband, does not remember their wedding day and must be reminded of it every day. She enjoys television shows such as Eastenders but never remembers what happened in the last episode.
Most people seem to accept that the film is based loosely on a series of killings but what they don’t realise is that this film, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs were all based on the same killer ‘ Ed Gein. The most similarities were with the iconic character of Norman Bates. Both people had an obsession with his mentally ill mother. The similarities with the other films were that he made body suits out of human skin and ate human flesh.
The original template of sport films everywhere was itself inspired by a real figure ‘ and that figure was not Rocky Marciano (who admittedly did share some of his character traits). The actual inspiration was a little-known boxer named Chuck Wepner. Like Rocky Balboa he fought a wrestler in a charity exhibition, went up against the greatest boxer of all time and lost (Muhammed Ali) and had a phenomenal win record. The courts agreed that Rocky was based on his life and awarded him damages in 1976.
5. The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Primarily a courtroom drama about a so-called exorcism gone horribly wrong, the fictional events in the film are based on a tragic reality. A severely disturbed German woman by the name of Anneliese Michel was diagnosed with a number of psychological and neurological illnesses. The local Catholic priest though (Ernst Alt) was convinced of her possession, dismissing all medical diagnoses and set about freeing her from the demon that had taken over her body. After her tragic death at the age of 23, her parents and the priest were charged with and convicted of manslaughter.
One of the most surprising on the list is the hit book and its film directed by Steven Spielberg. The actual events took place in 1916 at Jersey Shore, New Jersey. It was a case unheard of before and since of a shark serially attacking and focussing on human victims. The town was in uproar and a bounty placed on the creature’s head, fearing that a continuation of the attacks would destroy the tourism industry of their east coast town. It is unusual to see Great White Sharks in more temperate areas.
Tales of daring rescues is nothing new and if anybody could come up with a daring plan putting itself at the centre of a dramatic hostage rescue, it would be Hollywood ‘ but this film was far less fictionalised that audiences might have thought. In 1980 at the height of the Iranian crisis, the American government came up with a plan to involve Hollywood in a rescue operation. Calling on middle-eastern contacts, they set about inventing a science fiction film as a cover story in order to rescue the hostages from the country.
8. Open Water
The tragedy of being left behind on a diving trip is something that most divers fear. Believed to be based on a collection of horror stories from survivors almost left behind but later rescued, tragically it is based on a real story of a couple who never came back. Where the film was set in the Caribbean, the real victims ‘ Tom and Eileen Lonergan ‘ went missing off the Great Barrier Reef. One of the pair had left a dive slate in the hope that it would lead to their rescue ‘ but it was never to be.
9. The Terminal
The Tom Hanks rom-com about a man whose country goes through a revolution while he is in-flight to the USA (and therefore invalidating his passport) has a basis in a true story too. An Iranian refugee arrives in Paris, France only to discover that his refugee papers have been stolen. Due to the fact that the French authorities will not let him onto French soil, he is stuck living in the terminal for some 17 years before being finally being permitted through and rushed to a hospital for treatment.
10. Dead Ringers
The creepy psychological thriller starring Jeremy Irons as twin gynaecologist brothers was also based on a real set of twins. They were known as Stewart and Cyril Marcus and like the twins of the film, were both gynaecologists and both addicted to drugs. Both men were found dead in their New York apartment in 1975 ‘ official cause of death was barbiturate withdrawal. Elliot and Beverly Mantle both die at the end of the film, but one disembowels the other and then promptly dies because he cannot live without his brother.
For anybody with a creative streak, it is easy to take a real-life story and create a potentially interesting story; and that is what Hollywood did with these ten films surprisingly based in full or in part on actual events. What future events might they possibly base the next hit film on?