Real People’s Reactions to the Films Based on Their Lives


Former mobster Henry Hill — who had a drug-fueled stint with the Lucchese crime family and an eventual turn as an FBI informant — died yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of 69. His life became the basis for investigative crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi’s 1986 book Wiseguy , made famous by Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film Goodfellas .

Ray Liotta starred in the film as Hill, which chronicled the reformed mobster’s roots as an errand boy for Lucchese capo Paul Vario in the 1950s, his rise through narcotics trafficking, and retirement into the witness protection program. As TMZ reported, the real Hill prided himself on cleaning up his act later in life, but what did he think about his cinematic counterpart? Find out past the break, where we examined what other people thought about their on-screen doppelgangers and the films based on their lives.

Henry Hill/Ray Liotta, Goodfellas

Former mobster Henry Hill was an integral part of the success of Scorsese’s crime-drama Goodfellas. He was consulted frequently by De Niro — who played mafia associate Jimmy “The Gent” Conway in the film (based on real-life gangster Jimmy Burke) — Liotta, and the director about various figures in the Lucchese family and more. Hill told reporters that the film’s characters were “played way down,” because “they couldn’t show the true violence we used. These guys were murderers on a daily basis.” How does he rate Liotta’s performance? “If I had done the movie myself, had I known anything about filmmaking, who knows if I would’ve done a better job,” he said after seeing the film for the first time. Spoken like a real wiseguy.

Chuck Wepner/Sylvester Stallone, Rocky

Sylvester Stallone was inspired by a late-career, 15-round fight that “The Bayonne Bleeder” Chuck Wepner had in 1975 against champ Muhammad Ali. It’s one of boxing’s greatest underdog moments, and Stallone made Wepner’s story famous in the 1976 film the actor wrote and starred in, Rocky. Stallone kept promising Wepner that he would cast him in a future project, but after an unsuccessful screen test, he never found a spot for the boxer. Eventually Wepner sued him and won. “I think he’s a great artist, a great movie maker, and a terrific actor. I have no hard feelings,” Wepner said later. “I thought it was very well done,” he said of the film.

Mark Zuckerberg/Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg refused to cooperate with the making of David Fincher’s The Social Network, but he was a good sport after the film’s release. He dropped by Saturday Night Live to tell Jesse Eisenberg — the quiet and quirky actor who played the CEO — that he thought the movie was “interesting.” For the most part, Zuckerberg has been quiet about Eisenberg’s performance, but he did comment on the actor’s wardrobe. “Every single shirt and fleece that I had in that movie is actually a shirt or fleece that I own.”

William Randolph Hearst/Orson Welles, Citizen Kane

Although many regard Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane as one of the greatest cinematic feats, real-life media mogul William Randolph Hearst disagreed. He felt the film portrayed him as a ruthless tycoon and did everything in his power to stop promotion of the movie — including banning newspapers in his chain from running ads for it and attempting to trash the negatives. Major theater companies even refused to screen the movie out of fear of Hearst’s backlash. “[The movie] bothered W.R. in a large way,” great-grandson Steve Hearst said in a recent interview. “He realized people would be making a judgment about him based on the film.” The family has since moved past the drama, but tales of Hearst’s hatred for Citizen Kane is the stuff of movie legends.

Sarah Palin/Julianne Moore, Game Change

HBO’s Game Change is based on New York Magazine’s John Heilemann and Time’s Mark Halperin’s tell-all book about John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and Governor Sarah Palin’s last minute entry into the charge. Julianne Moore played the former Alaska gov, but the real Palin dismissed the movie and Moore’s unflattering portrayal, stating: “I believe my family has the right priorities and knows what really matters. For instance, our son called from Afghanistan yesterday and he sounded good, and that’s what matters. Being in the good graces of Hollywood’s ‘Team Obama’ isn’t top of my list.”

Dave Toschi/Mark Ruffalo, Zodiac

Former San Francisco Police inspector Dave Toschi, who supposedly inspired legendary crime tales like Dirty Harry and Bullitt, made an appearance in David Fincher’s Zodiac, played by Mark Ruffalo. Toschi led the chase for the city’s Zodiac Killer during the 1960s and ’70s. “I thought Ruffalo did a good job,” Toschi said of the actor’s portrayal. The retired inspector apparently still watches the film from time to time. “I enjoy it, but it depresses me. After I watch it I get angry at myself because I couldn’t close the case.” The Zodiac Killer took the lives of five people, but claimed he killed 37 total, and the case remains unsolved to this day.

Larry Flynt/Woody Harrelson, The People vs. Larry Flynt

Pornography publisher Larry Flynt took to Larry King Live for a chat with longtime nemesis Jerry Falwell — a feud that was at the center of Milos Forman’s movie The People vs. Larry Flynt. The free speech icon seemed pleased with the film, though, calling the Supreme Court the real hero of the movie:

KING: Were you happy with the movie, by the way?

FLYNT: I was very happy with it.

KING: Fair to you?

FLYNT: The movie was true. It didn’t glorify me.

KING: Didn’t glorify anything.

FLYNT: If there was a hero in there, it’s the Supreme Court.

KING: Why did you decide to be, as you said, without taste? In the movie, that great line Woody Harrelson says, “The Supreme Court was designed to protect me, and I have no taste.” Why would you make that personal decision?

FLYNT: The type of humor published in Hustler is outrageous political and social satire and offensive cartoons. But this is the kind of material the people in the workplace, the shops and the factories are really into and find funny, and that’s who I publish the magazine — I am not publishing the magazine for the whole country, only for my readers. So, I was responding to that particular market. Yeah. So, I got a little bit of a sick sense of humor, so what?

Candice DeLong/Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs

Jodie Foster’s heroic agent Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs is supposedly based on real-life former FBI criminal profiler Candice DeLong, who has been at the forefront of many big, real-life cases — including the 1995 Unabomber capture. While DeLong was recruited for the FBI’s fledgling profiling program early in her career, she claims she’s never met anyone has vicious as Anthony Hopkins’ “Hannibal the Cannibal.” “If I had somebody like Hannibal Lecter calling me, my hair would catch on fire,” joked DeLong, seemingly frightened of the film. Now imagine how amusing it must be to see a 20-year FBI vet cringing at the “Goodbye Horses” scene in Jonathan Demme’s 1991 movie.

Frank Mundus/Robert Shaw, Jaws

We’ve already told you that we think Robert Shaw’s portrayal of Quint, the shark hunter from Steven Spielberg’s iconic summer horror film Jaws, is a role impossible to remake. We didn’t tell you, though, that Shaw’s character is supposedly based on real-life, big game fisherman Frank Mundus. The sea-faring sportsman called the terrifying 1975 movie the “funniest and the stupidest” he’d ever seen, because “too many stupid things happened in it.” Mundus seemed pleased with the way Shaw’s Quint accurately approached things, though.

“He knew how to handle the people the same way I did. He also used similar shark fishing techniques based on my methods. The only difference was that I used hand held harpoons after field-testing harpoon guns and discovering that they didn’t work: the dart would pull out after hitting the fish.”

Joan Jett/Kristen Stewart, The Runaways

The coming-of-age biopic about 1970’s teenage girl group The Runaways surprised many audiences with mopey Twilight star Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of rocker badass Joan Jett. Although it wasn’t her first film appearance since the vamp series kicked off, it was one of her bigger roles, and everyone waited with bated breath to see how badly she would screw it up. She didn’t, and Jett supported the actress through and through, standing by the set to provide direction. She spoke highly of the film and her experience with Stewart in a 2012 interview with Cinematical:

“I think she’s a really real person. She’s authentic. She cared about it. It wasn’t just a gig. It wasn’t like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna do this role blah, blah, blah and in a few months then go do something else.’ I mean, she cut off her hair. She really immersed herself in it. I don’t mean to put words in her mouth, but what I get is that she feels she has to do it justice, whatever that means. She knows The Runaways have fans. She knows I have fans and she was concerned about being authentic. And I found her to be wonderful to be around. We got along great. It was really scary when you see us together, physically. The energy is so similar, the way we move, the way our hands move, our hair, the way that we talk, the way we start and don’t finish sentences. I mean it’s really bizarre, you know, but in a great way… So when you see Kristen singing, that’s really her singing. When you see Kristen’s Joan singing, and same thing for Dakota and Cherie. You know, I think they did an incredible job and, you know, I just keep saying the same thing. I was very proud.