A Bridge Too Far and five other films that left their inspirations fuming (2024)

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A Bridge Too Far and five other films that left their inspirations fuming (1)Image source, United Artists/Getty Images

By Neil Smith

Entertainment reporter

The US soldier Robert Redford played in 1977 film A Bridge Too Far did not like how he was portrayed, according to a leading military historian.

Sir Antony Beevor is quoted in The Times, external as saying he has seen a letter written by Colonel Julian Cook in which he objects to how Redford played him.

"Most men would have been flattered," Sir Antony told the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Sunday.

Colonel Cook received the Distinguished Service Cross for his role at Arnhem.

Then a major, he parachuted into the Netherlands in 1944 and led a daring daylight crossing across the Waal River.

Image source, Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Before the crossing, Redford is seen in Richard Attenborough's film describing the mission as "a real nightmare".

Another scene sees his Major Cook character berating a British officer for his inactivity.

"Those are British troops at Arnhem," he is shown saying. "They're hurt bad. And you're just gonna sit here and... drink tea?"

According to Sir Antony, the real Julian Cook objected to his depiction in a letter found in the archive of Cornelius Ryan, who wrote the book on which Attenborough's film was based.

"No doubt it wasn't exactly what happened at the time, or the words he had actually spoken at the time," Sir Antony is quoted as saying.

Image source, Getty Images

The author's latest book, Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, 1944, external, unpicks Operation Market Garden, the Allies' failed plan to end World War Two by capturing the bridges leading to the Lower Rhine.

Redford, who recently declared his intention to give up acting, was reportedly paid $2m out of a $25m total budget to appear in Lord Attenborough's Bafta-winning epic.

If Colonel Cook did have issues with how he and the Battle of Arnhem were presented, he would not be the first person to find fault with a film purportedly based on fact.

Here are five other films that failed to impress the real-life people on whom they were based.

1. Foxcatcher

Image source, Entertainment One

Bennett Miller's 2014 film told of the strange and ultimately murderous relationship between eccentric billionaire John du Pont and two US wrestlers, whose training he sponsored.

The film implied du Pont's dealings with the men may have had a sexual undertone - something that irked Mark Schultz, whose brother Dave was shot dead by the wealthy philanthropist in 1996.

"Leaving the audience with a feeling that somehow there could have been a sexual relationship between du Pont and I is a sickening and insulting lie," he wrote in a Facebook post republished by the Hollywood Reporter, external.

Schultz, played by Channing Tatum in the film, fired off a series of angry tweets attacking Miller, though he later expressed regret, external and said he was "the greatest director ever."

2. Mental

Image source, Getty Images/Screen Australia/Kobal

Toni Collette reunited with her Muriel's Wedding director PJ Hogan for this 2012 comedy drama about a volatile hitchhiker who becomes nanny to a politician's five daughters.

Hogan based the central character of Sharon "Shaz" Thornbender on a real woman called Shaz, who looked after him as a child when his mother had a nervous breakdown.

"The events depicted in the film are exactly what happened in my life," Hogan told the Daily Express, external, describing the woman in question as "the first champion I ever had."

There is no happy ending to this story alas. According to the Australian director, Shaz is "still out there and dislikes the film immensely."

3. Patch Adams

Image source, Universal/Getty Images

The role of Hunter "Patch" Adams, a US physician who pioneered the holistic use of humour in hospitals, was one that seemed ideally suited to the talents of the late Robin Williams.

Not according to the real Hunter Adams, though, who decried Tom Shadyac's 1998 drama for reducing him to "a funny doctor".

"I knew the movie would do this," he told the Renaissance Universal website, external. "After the movie, there wasn't a single positive article about our work or me."

Yet this did not prevent him paying tribute, external to Williams after the actor's 2014 death, describing him as "a wonderful, kind and generous man" and "a compassionate, caring human being".

4. The Social Network

Image source, AFP/Getty Images

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has largely kept mum about David Fincher's 2010 drama, in which he was portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg as a testy misfit with a chip on both shoulders.

In 2014, though, he made a rare statement about the Oscar-winning film, saying it had "made up a bunch of stuff that I found kind of hurtful".

"There were pretty glaring things that were just made up about the movie that made it pretty hard for me to take seriously," he said at a public Q&A session, external.

Zuckerberg mentioned the film again while giving evidence to Congress earlier this year, saying it was "of unclear truth, external."

5. Black Mass

Image source, Warner Brothers

With his balding pate, paunchy gait and gaunt visage, Johnny Depp was almost unrecognisable when he played Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger in this 2015 thriller.

Yet that cut little ice with the real Mr Bulger, who conveyed his displeasure, via his lawyer, from the Florida prison where he is currently serving two life sentences.

"Johnny Depp might as well have been playing the Mad Hatter all over again as far as James Bulger is concerned," Hank Brennan told People, external.

The actor got a better reaction from Bulger's one-time enforcer John Shea though, who found Depp so convincing he had to fight the urge to hit him, external.

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