USA Today reported that “Straight Outta Compton” was the highest-grossing musical biopic ever. It even surpassed the lifetime U.S. total of the Johnny Cash biopic, “Walk the Line.” Based on the group N.W.A., the biopic details the rough rise to stardom of Arabian Prince, MC Ren, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, DJ Yella and Dr. Dre. Despite the biopic’s huge popularity, it’s not without its controversies.
Biopics are often highly celebrated films, but how accurate are they? Critics are quick to point out “Straight Outta Compton” largely leaves out N.W.A’s notorious violence toward women. Dee Barnes, the former host of Fox hip-hop show “Pump It Up!” was physically attacked by Dr. Dre, and despite their very public legal battle to settle the civil suit, the incident didn’t make it into the film.
Are biopics just inspired by true stories and intentionally manipulated for movie magic? Or are they open to interpretation based on who’s telling the story? Here’s a look at popular biopics that leave us wondering what’s truth and what’s fiction.
From the group’s humble beginnings to their rise to the music industry’s top, “Jersey Boys” is based on a true story and musical of the same name. Writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice wrote both the screenplay and musical and didn’t leave much out.
But it’s easy to think both the film and musical take a walk through truth-stretching fantasies, such as Joe Pesci being a long-time friend and being responsible for Bob Gaudio joining the group. Fans can see for themselves. “Jersey Boys” is still running, and tickets can be purchased through Telecharge.
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin admits the new “Steve Jobs” biopic isn’t meant to be a simple portrayal of the truth, but the way things may have played out behind the scenes. The Los Angeles Times referred to it as a new genre of impressionistic biopic. Sorkin isn’t shy about explaining how he blends together themes and characters into a single event. For example, instead of detailing various confrontations and his demanding launch preps, Sorkin wrote an explosive scene where Jobs’ partner Steve Wozniak confronts him.
Viewers aren’t likely to get an accurate portrayal of historical events from the film, but will walk away with an understanding of Jobs’ troubled genius and mission for perfection.
A Beautiful Mind
The fascinating story of mathematician and Nobel-prize winner John Nash made for a dazzling movie. But “A Beautiful Mind” isn’t necessarily accurate or truthful about Nash’s personal life.
Made famous for his impact on economics, Nash suffered from delusions, was hospitalized multiple times for paranoid schizophrenia and endured insulin shock therapy. The film leaves out Nash’s liaisons with men, his fathering of an illegitimate child and the divorce from his wife, Alicia.
The Oscar-nominated Best Film, “Selma,” was as gripping as it was controversial for its portrayal of the relationship between Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson. The film is regarded as mostly accurate with dramatic moments. The FBI’s sending of incriminating videotapes of King caught in a tryst to his family really happened.
But the question remains whether President Johnson was the mastermind behind crucial Civil Rights demonstrations or an unwilling participant. The truth probably depends on who you talk to.