Biopics Full Of Bull

July 6, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

If I’m ever caught, God forbid, at the scene of a brutal multiple homicide, a smoking gun in one hand and a manifesto painstakingly outlining my contempt for human kind in the other, I want Hollywood to be my lawyer.

What those guys don’t know about twisting facts and manipulating history to spin a decent yarn isn’t worth knowing.

While one of their hotshot script writers relays to the court how my damaged character is a result of a lifetime of oppression by a sadistic and jealous aristocrat, another will be painting a picture of a man driven to shooting up a charity shop by his undying love for a terminally ill Russian heiress with a heart of gold.

After a tear-wrenching testimonial from an illiterate cherubic-faced chimney sweep with a hacking cough and an angelic smile the jury will suddenly understand how a man could be pushed to unload several rounds into Granny Goggins back as she reached for a jigsaw puzzle.

Not only will my crime be overlooked, but the sweeping classical score being pumped into the court room, coupled with the enormous yet inexplicable public support coming from the gallery (extras), will have me feted as a hero and a true friend of the people.

In future the details of my crime will become hazy, yet wizened old people will hand my story down through the generations as a beacon of truth; a tale of right versus wrong, good versus evil and red hot steel versus a pensioners back.

Here’s a few they did earlier.


What we actually know about the famous English bowman you can write on the sharp end of an arrow. But it’s almost certain he didn’t have a little Errol Flynn goatee or a shaggy mullet a la Kevin Costner in Prince of Thieves.

There’s actual historical records from the time of people called Robert Hod, Robard Hude and Robinhude which I like to think suggests a kind of medieval Keyser Soze type character rather than a bloke in green tights prancing around the forest robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.

And while we’re on the subject how did Robin Hood know that the people he was robbing were rich and not just peasants who’d been lucky down the bingo?

In any case, until they make a Robin Hood film where everyone has black teeth, stinks and is riddled with the sorts of ailments prevalent in the Middle Ages, it’s never going to be as faithful as historians would like.


Let’s be honest, as soon as you’ve got Johnny Depp playing the lead role, the vast majority of people will be inclined to fall unquestionably in love with Dillinger regardless of how heinous his crimes were.

It’s worth remembering that he gunned down a fair few innocent people in his day although Hollywood tends to gloss over that fact, or characterise the policemen doing their jobs as trigger-happy sadists who just want to kill everyone’s buzz.

As Hollywood well knows, it never hurts to play heavily on the fool for love stchick which shows our killer’s human side. In this case though Hollywood left out the fact that at the time of his death Dillinger was out partying with call girls and not his one true love.

On an unrelated side note, does it say something about the time we live in that taking a prostitute to the cinema seems such a bizarre concept?


I have to be careful what I say about this one seeing as how Mel Gibson, I mean William Wallace, has become a towering symbol of Scottish pride helping undo some of the damage done to the national character by Trainspotting.

But COME ON! If this isn’t a perfect example of Hollywood picking up an idea and running off down the road with it screaming IT’S MINE! ALL MINE!!! I don’t know what is.

OK, Edward ‘Hammer of the Scots’ The 1st may have been a bit of a bastard intent on uniting the kingdom at any cost (prima nocta, anyone?) but that’s no excuse for such levels of unadulterated jingoism.

To portray ALL the Scots as gregarious, peace-loving common folk is one thing, but why do all the English have to sound like public school types who’ve ridden out to battle with a poker stuck up their arses?

And did no one notice how massively condescending it is that in the film Wallace had to have been schooled in Rome just to show that he’s a cut above your average Joe. Oh, and he shags the future queen of England.

As if that ever happened!


The legend of Jesse James represents the archetypal folk hero who throughout his own lifetime was nothing short of an utter bastard.

Although it is widely accepted that James embodied the spirit of a young country kicking out on its own to conquer the wild west, it is more correct to say James was a mercenary out for all he could lay his thieving little hands on.

As with the Depp effect, Brad Pitt’s brooding troubled Jesse in the generously titled The Murder of the Outlaw Jesse James by the Coward Robert Fords sidestepped the fact that the James brothers had been Confederate guerillas during the civil war who fell into robbing banks after the war ended.

They wouldn’t think twice about killing bank employees or anyone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – but hey, you can’t make an omelette (steal loads of cash) without breaking a few eggs! (murdering innocent people in cold blood.)


As is beautifully described in Walter Salles’s The Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was a man of the people whose experiences moved him to fight for the rights of ordinary folk and bring down corrupt economic systems.

But as is more thoroughly detailed in Steven Soderbergh’s Che this was mainly achieved through violence and ruthless guerrilla warfare.

Since his death at the hands of the CIA Guevara’s face has become an internationally recognised symbol of revolution or, as is the case in millions of student bedsits where a Che poster sits beside one of Kermit the Frog, a symbol of being a drunken fresher.

Jack McKay

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  1. derek says:

    I have to wonder if you watched Jesse James before writing this – the movie makes it clear that he was in the Confederate army during the Civil War – going so far as to have him use it as a lame excuse for robbing and killing. And the movie never hides that James was a cold blooded killer. Hell, thats a big part of the story. The movie plays James as a guy who is paranoid, egocentric and more than willing to kill anyone he doesn’t like.

    I suggest you watch it again

  2. Sam says:

    I’m curious if you actually watched Public Enemies. (I realize I’m about to SPOIL the end). It is made abundantly clear that Dillinger is out “partying” with prostitutes when he is gunned down.
    I’ll reiterate this since you either missed it or simply never saw the movie, but it is one of the prostitutes that gives Dillinger up to the FBI.
    Instead of complaining about Hollywood’s ignorance of the past, you should complain about certain bloggers ignorance of facts.