I can imagine having a film being made about your life can be one of two things: incredibly flattering or absolutely terrible.
I suppose the outcome will largely depend on how you lived your life and how you are viewed by others - after all, we can hardly expect a biopic about a criminal to be flattering. However, sometimes, even biopics made with the best of intentions can be hated by their subjects. Here are six biopics which were loathed by their inspirations.
Whitey Bulger and Kevin Weeks - Black Mass
The most recent biopic on the list might also be one of the most hated. In Black Mass, Johnny Depp plays Whitey Bulger, the notorious Boston crime boss who ran an empire of fear while simultaneously informing for the FBI. If that sounds slightly familiar, it's because Bulger was also the inspiration for the character of Frank Costello in Martin Scorsese's The Departed. Whereas Bulger was known to have seen The Departed (and presumably liked it, I mean, who doesn't like The Departed?), he has not seen Black Mass, although that hasn't stopped him hating on it.
Since he's currently serving two life sentences in prison, Bulger communicated the following statement via his attorney, stating:
Johnny Depp might as well have been playing the Mad Hatter all over again as far as James Bulger is concerned. Hollywood greed is behind the rush to portray my client, and the movie missed the real scourge created in my client’s case, the real menace to Boston during that time and in other mob cases around the country – the federal government’s complicity in each and every one of those murders with the top echelon informant program.
Kevin Weeks, an associate of Bulger who is also portrayed in Black Mass, concurs and spoke to The Daily Beast to voice his disapproval. In particular he slammed actor Jesse Plemon's performance as him, stating:
"My character looks like a knuckle-dragging moron. I look like I have Down syndrome."
However, this is just the icing on the cake. He also takes issue with how the FBI are portrayed in the movie, claiming they are heralded as heroes. The reality, Weeks claims, was very different.
We considered [FBI agent] Connolly a criminal, too. He was our informant, and that’s how it was portrayed to all of us—that we were paying for his information. That’s why no one suspected that Jim Bulger was informing on us, because every time we made a score we’d put money aside to pay our contacts in law enforcement, and we were getting good information. Jimmy used to tell me, “I can call any one of six FBI agents and they’ll come to me and jump in this car with a machine gun and go on a hit.” One FBI agent actually gave us 17 kilos of C-4 which we were going to use to blow up a reporter, Howie Carr. Howie thought it was a made-up story, until he found out it was the truth.
You can decide for yourself with the trailer below:
Sarah Palin - Game Change
As a Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin was no stranger to being lampooned my the media - most famously in Tina Fey's acclaimed Saturday Night Live skit. However, whereas the former Alaskan governor took that with a pinch of good humor, she was unable to do the same with HBO's Game Change.
She was dismissive of their take on her and McCain's 2008 campaign trial, telling Fox News she was "not concerned about an HBO movie based on a false narrative when there are so many other things to be concerned about.” Since she was apparently busy looking for Russia from her doorstep, the duty instead fell on her underlings to continue the fight. Palin's foreign policy consultant Randy Scheunemann told ABC News "To call this movie fiction gives fiction a bad name," while former spokeswoman Meg Stapleton claimed, "Looking at the trailers alone gets my blood boiling.”
Hunter "Patch" Adams - Patch Adams
Even biopics which seem wholly positive can be hated by their subjects. Take for example Patch Adams, in which Robin Williams plays a doctor who believes laughter is the best medicine. Although the movie portrays Hunter Adams as a selfless and dedicated doctor, he claims it actually did much more damage than good. Adams, who is known for sending clowns to warzones, refugee camps and orphanages, told New Renaissance Magazine:
After the movie, there wasn't a single positive article about our work or me. There were dumb, stupid, meaningless things... it made my children cry. They actually thought that they didn't know the person they were reading about… I knew the movie would do this. I would become a funny doctor. Imagine how shallow that is relative to who I am. I just got back from taking 17 clowns to Cuba, which was hit by the worst hurricane in their history. The month before that, we took 30 clowns from seven countries, ages 16 to 65, to Russia for the 17th year in a row.
He was also critical of Robin Williams following his appearance in the movie, stating:
He made $21 million for four months of pretending to be me, in a very simplistic version, and did not give $10 to my free hospital. Patch Adams, the person, would have, if I had Robin's money, given all $21 million to a free hospital in a country where 80 million cannot get care.
He later clarified that he liked Williams, and that he knew Williams had actively supported a different hospital, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, for several years. Following news of Williams' premature death, Adams also released a long memorial statement which was more sympathetic to his performance. He stated:
He was a compassionate, caring human being. While watching him work on the set of the film based on my life—Patch Adams–I saw that whenever there was a stressful moment, Robin would tap into his improvisation style to lighten the mood of cast and crew. Also, I would like to point out, Robin would be especially kind toward my children when they would visit the set... This world is not kind to people who become famous, and the fame he had garnered was a nightmare. While saddened, we are left with the consequences of his death. I’m enormously grateful for his wonderful performance of my early life, which has allowed the Gesundheit Institute to continue and expand our work.
Julian Assange - The Fifth Estate
WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange was certainly no fan of Bill Condon's biopic of his professional life, going so far to call it a "massive propaganda attack" and as "fiction masquerading as fact." WikiLeaks also revealed a letter Assange had sent to Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrayed him in the film. It asked him to reconsider his involvement in the biopic, labelling the film "a project that vilifies and marginalizes a living political refugee to the benefit of an entrenched, corrupt and dangerous state."
It seems Cumberbatch did struggle with the issue somewhat, especially in initial drafts of the script. The actor has claimed he is "personally supportive" of Assange, adding, "No matter how you cut it, he's done us a massive service, to wake us up to the zombielike way we absorb our news." However, he remained in the film in the hope of portraying Assange as a three dimensional character and as a "true force to be reckoned with". Ultimately, Assange did not seem to bear any bad blood for Cumberbatch, stating:
Cumberbatch tried to ameliorate the script but unfortunately with limited success... though I'm pleased he tried... Our view is that a $US40 million advertising budget promoting WikiLeaks around the world, and actors like Cumberbatch speaking about it, is a good thing for the popularization of WikiLeaks.
Mark Zuckerberg - The Social Network
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg certainly didn't 'like' David Fincher's biopic about his meteoric rise to prominence. Having previously stated he was disappointed that such a film was made while he was still alive and relatively young, he later became more lighthearted in his criticism towards The Social Network. He told 60 Minutes:
It’s pretty interesting to see what parts they got right and what parts they got wrong. I think that they got every single T-shirt that they had the Mark Zuckerberg character wear right; I think I own all of those T-shirts. And they got the sandals right and all that. But… there are hugely basic things that they got wrong, too. [They] made it seem like my whole motivation for building Facebook was so I could get girls, right? And they completely left out the fact that my girlfriend, I've been dating since before I started Facebook.
Lil' Kim - Notorious
Lil' Kim, who dated rapper Biggie Smalls, certainly had some things to say about the 2009 biopic about his life, Notorious. She blasted the film in an interview with Hip-Hop Weekly, claiming “most of the story is bullshit." She also had some stern words for the actress who played her in the movie, Naturi Naughton. She was disappointed the production had not thought to send her an audition tape, as Noughton was reportedly the worst possible choice to play her.
For our next Moviepilot Magazine, it's all about fear. So we're polling our readers to find out what terrifies them. You can help by answering the question below!