Stephen Hawking liked The Theory of Everything so much that he gave the filmmakers an extraordinary gift.
1.Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t thrilled with The Social Network, the 2010 drama depicting the creation and rise of Facebook.
In a 2010 speech to students at Stanford University, Zuckerberg rejected the notion that he created his website “because I wanted to get girls, or wanted to get into clubs.” He pointed out that at the time when the movie was set, he was already dating the woman who would become his wife, Priscilla Chan, and had been since before “the advent of Facebook.”
He added, “They just can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things.” However, Zuckerberg did acknowledge that they perfectly pulled off his real-life wardrobe, claiming that “every single shirt and fleece they had in that movie is actually a shirt or fleece that I own.”
In 2014, Zuckerberg again expressed his disapproval of The Social Network during a Q&A at Facebook. He said, “I think the reality is that writing code and then building a product and building a company is not a glamorous enough thing to make a movie about, so you can imagine that a lot of this stuff they had to embellish or make up.”
Zuckerberg said the filmmakers “made up a bunch of stuff that I found kind of hurtful.” Said Zuckerberg, “I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about that movie in a while. I kind of blocked that one out.”
2.Aron Ralston, whose true story of survival inspired127 Hours, aka the movie where an ill-fated climber must amputate his own arm to escape a boulder that’s pinned him to a canyon, couldn’t have been more pleased with how his biopic turned out.
Ralston told the Guardian, “The movie is so factually accurate it is as close to a documentary as you can get and still be a drama.”
Ralston noted that there were still a few factual discrepancies, including one sequence where his character “splashes in a secret pool with the women he meets before the accident,” while in real life, he simply assisted them “with a few basic climbs.” However, after working through some initial discomfort, Ralston ultimately didn’t believe the fictional additions negatively impacted the film’s overall “authenticity.”
He added, “I think it’s the best film ever made.” At the time, Ralston had “watched it eight times and cried every time.”
3.Michael Oher didn’t love The Blind Side, the 2009 film purportedly based on his adoption and the beginning of his football career.
He continued, “Quinton Aaron [who played Oher] did a great job acting the part, but I could not figure out why the director chose to show me as someone who had to be taught the game of football. … I watched those scenes thinking, ‘No, that’s not me at all! I’ve been studying — really studying — the game since I was a kid!’ That was my main hang-up with the film.”
At the 2012 Super Bowl, Oher told the press, “I’m tired of the movie. I’m here to play football.”
And in 2015, Oher told ESPN, “People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That’s why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field.”
4.Stephen Hawking got a chance to see The Theory of Everything before it premiered, and he liked what he saw.
Eddie Redmayne, who played Hawking, told Variety that Hawking said to him, “I’ll let you know what I think — good or otherwise.” To which Redmayne replied, “Stephen, if it’s otherwise, you don’t need to go into details.”
Luckily for Redmayne, the legendary scientist was impressed, and when the film ended, “a nurse wiped a tear from Hawking’s eye.” Hawking described the movie as “broadly true” and later emailed the filmmakers to express his approval.
James Marsh, the director, told Variety, “He emailed us and said there were certain points when he thought he was watching himself.”
But Hawking’s highest praise came in the form of a “generous gift”: Permission for the filmmakers to use his own iconic, computer-generated voice, which is trademarked, rather than the fake one they’d come up with. Screenwriter Anthony McCarten said, “We spent a lot of time and money trying to reproduce the voice, but we never got it.” And in the end, they didn’t need to.
5.Winnie Madikizela-Mandela thought Winnie Mandela, her 2011 biopic, was disrespectful toward her and the “bitter struggle” she and her fellow anti-apartheid activists faced in South Africa.
Madikizela-Mandela told CNN that the filmmakers didn’t consult her about her life story. She said, “I have absolutely nothing against Jennifer [Hudson], but I have everything against the movie itself. … I am still alive, and I think that it is a total disrespect to come to South Africa, make a movie about my struggle, and call that movie some translation of a romantic life of Winnie Mandela.”
She added, “I think it is an insult. I don’t know what would be romantic in our bitter struggle.”
Jennifer Hudson, who played the title role, wanted to meet with the real Madikizela-Mandela, but she was prevented from doing so. Producer Andre Pieterse told reporters at the Cannes Film Festival, “The film will be made based on a screenplay that was well researched and without any interference, without any influence from any of the main characters.”
6.Upon its 2013 release, Jordan Belfort praised the veracity of The Wolf of Wall Street and singled out Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as particularly impressive.
Belfort told the Hollywood Reporter, “The drug use and the stuff with the hookers and the sales assistants and the sex in the office…that stuff is really, really accurate.” Though he did note that in real life, he “did more quaaludes than cocaine.”
In the same interview, Belfort said of DiCaprio, “I was blown away. The way he was able to capture my energy, especially during the sales scenes and the speeches. He didn’t try to duplicate my voice as much as my mannerisms, my tonalities and my gestures.”
However, this positive first impression was undercut by a scandal that hit the production company behind the movie, Red Granite Pictures. In 2020, Belfort sued his biopic’s producers for $300 million, claiming that he didn’t realize that the rights to his memoir were purchased with “misappropriated” funds from a “Malaysian government fund that former Prime Minister Najib Razak allegedly used to funnel money into his own personal accounts,” and that if he had known, he wouldn’t have sold them to Red Granite. (Razak is Red Granite cofounder Riza Aziz’s stepfather.)
In the lawsuit, Belfort claimed that the scandal negatively impacted Red Granite’s ability to “maximize the rights acquired from Belfort as required by contract.” To which Red Granite’s lawyer responded, “Jordan Belfort’s lawsuit is nothing more than a desperate and supremely ironic attempt to get out from under an agreement that for the first time in his life made him rich and famous through lawful and legitimate means.”
Anyway, criminal scandal of international proportions aside, Belfort seemed to like the movie itself just fine.
7.WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange really, really, really didn’t want The Fifth Estate to get made, and when it was, he made his disapproval clear to none other than the film’s star, Benedict Cumberbatch.
Assange sent a letter to Cumberbatch before filming began, and WikiLeaks posted it online 10 months later. The letter reads in part, “I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film. I do not believe it is going to be positive for me or the people I care about.”
In a Reddit AMA, Cumberbatch wrote, “To have the man you are about to portray ask you intelligently and politely not to do it gave me real cause for concern, however, it galvanized me into addressing why I was doing this movie. … This project was important to me because of the integrity I wanted to bring to provocative, difficult, but ultimately timely and a truly important figure of our modern times.”
Additionally, WikiLeaks leaked the script of the movie before it was released to the public (though it had premiered at the Toronto Film Festival already). The script came with a bonus essay “criticizing the film as inaccurate, misleading and irresponsible.” The essay described the film as “fiction masquerading as fact.”
Following the leak of the script, WikiLeaks tweeted, “As WikiLeaks was never consulted about the Dreamworks/Disney film on us, we’ve given our advice for free: It’s bad.”
During a post-screening Q&A, John told members of the press, “When I saw Taron [Egerton], I was not looking at him — I was looking at me. And when I was hearing the voice, I was hearing me, but it wasn’t me. Everything about it was extraordinary.”
And in an essay for the Guardian, John wrote that the film “was like my life: chaotic, funny, mad, horrible, brilliant and dark. It’s obviously not all true, but it’s the truth.”
John was delighted by Egerton’s singing ability, since he “thought it was really important that whoever played me didn’t lip-sync.”
9.Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Iran, wasn’t thrilled with the way Argo diminished Canada’s involvement in the rescue of the six American embassy employees who were able to escape before being taken hostage on Nov. 4, 1979.
Taylor told the Toronto Star, “In reality, Canada was responsible for the six and the CIA was a junior partner. But I realize this is a movie and you have to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.” In fact, the Canadians were so central to the mission that it’s actually called the “Canadian Caper.” Ben Affleck heard that Taylor was insulted and called him to make amends. Said Taylor, “Ben was very gracious and we got along really well. There are a few points I want to address. Now Ben and I both feel free to talk about them.”
Affleck added a new postscript to the movie to more accurately reflect historical record. It reads, “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.” The original postscript “sent the message that, for political reasons, Canada took the credit.”
Taylor said, “What matters to me is the essence and importance of diplomacy. It matters more now than ever before. It’s a risky business but vitally important.”
10.Margot Robbie, who plays Tonya Harding in I, Tonya, told IMDb that the figure skater saw and approved of the movie.
Robbie said, “She was so gracious. She was amazing about it, really, really amazing. She was very complimentary about what we pulled off.”
The actor added with a laugh that Harding was “really kind about my skating, even though I’m nowhere near as good as I should be.”
Howe, who was played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, said during a Sirius XM interview, “Considering the book wasn’t real favorable to me to start with, I figured it would be something like this, but to be honest with you, it is very disappointing to know that you spent seven years in an organization and gave your heart and soul to it and helped them go to the postseason your last three years there and win over 100 games your last two seasons and this is the way, evidently, your boss feels about you.”
He went on, “I spent my whole career trying to build a good reputation and I think I did that, but this movie certainly doesn’t help it. And it is definitely unfair and untrue.”
In another interview on KNBR, Howe said, “The thing that really concerns me…is all the millions of people that will be watching that movie who really don’t know Art Howe, and this is the impression they’re going to have of me.” He added that he wants an apology from Beane if they ever cross paths again.
12.Molly Bloom, the “Poker Princess” who inspired Molly’s Game, gave the film — and Jessica Chastain’s portrayal of her in it — her seal of approval.
In an interview with Vulture, Bloom described Chastain as “so brilliant” and said that the actor “blew my mind.”
Bloom jokingly acknowledged how strange it was to praise a movie about her own life, and clarified, “I just want to establish that when I talk about the movie, you know, it’s the artistic interpretation and not, like, what I did!”
Despite the somewhat awkward overlap between her own life versus the art based on it, Bloom still said, “I am such an incredible fan of the movie. It is such a great movie.”
13.Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist for The Doors, despised 1991’s The Doors. He reserved most of his criticism for the film’s depiction of his bandmate, Jim Morrison.
Manzarek told the Los Angeles Times, “Oliver Stone [the director] has assassinated Jim Morrison. … The film portrays Jim as a violent, drunken fool. That wasn’t Jim. When I walked out of the movie, I thought, ‘Geez, who was that jerk?’”
While Manzarek praised the film’s re-creation of concert footage, he thought the movie misconstrued the “artistic vision” of The Doors. He said, “The film comes from the entirely wrong philosophical base. The Doors were about idealism and the ’60s quest for freedom and brotherhood. But the film isn’t based on love. It’s based in madness and chaos. Oliver has made Jim into an agent of destruction.”
He summed up his thoughts by saying, “All you see is Jim as a drunken hedonist. The tragedy is that fame consumed him. But that wasn’t Jim’s message. He was intelligent. He was loving. He was a good man who believed in freedom and in questioning authority. But you’d never know that from seeing this film.”
14.Though he had his doubts about the film at first, Olympic ski jumper Eddie Edwards, aka Eddie the Eagle, thought Eddie the Eagle (the movie) was swell.
At the UK premiere, Edwards said, “I was worried that they would either turn me into some sort of superhero, or worse — an object of ridicule, a clown, a joke.”
But, he said, the filmmakers did “a fantastic job. … And they kept the heart, the essence, and the spirit of the story just right.” Edwards was played by Taron Egerton in the film, and may I just say, congrats to Egerton for his second appearance in the “My Inspiration Actually Liked My Performance” category.
As for the movie’s accuracy, Edwards told the BBC, “The only things that were really obvious were that my dad was just as supportive as my mum, which isn’t shown in the film, and Hugh Jackman was an amalgamation of all my coaches.”
15.Mrs. America, FX’s historical drama about Phyllis Schlafly’s campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment, won acclaim from critics and audience members alike, but feminist leader Gloria Steinem was not one of them.
In the series, Steinem is played by Rose Byrne. Speaking at a virtual version of the Hays Festival in 2020, Steinem said, “For instance, there’s now a not very good series here called Mrs. America and it gives you the impression that…Schlafly, who was a very religious and right-wing woman who opposed the equal rights amendment…it gives you the impression that she was the reason it was defeated.” On the contrary, Steinem believes that Schlafly had less to due with the ERA’s failure than larger forces such as the American insurance industry, which she said would’ve lost millions if “they stopped segregating their actuarial tables.”
Steinem went on, “The series makes it seem as if women are our own worst enemies, which keeps us from recognizing who our worst enemies are. Not that we aren’t in conflict, yes we are in conflict, but by and large we don’t have the power to be our own worst enemies.”
She summed up her thoughts by saying, “That’s the problem with this ridiculous television show. I’m sure the actors in it are fine, it’s just the thrust of the story is the problem.”
16.Saroo Brierley thoroughly enjoyed Lion, the film about his quest to reunite with his birth mother in India after getting separated from her (and then adopted by an Australian couple) when he was a young child.
Brierley praised Dev Patel, the actor who played him, in an interview with Vanity Fair. Patel, Brierley said, did a “marvelous job.”
Brierley was equally impressed by the work of Nicole Kidman, who played his adoptive mother. He said, “She personified my mother; it was perfect. … She took the time to see my adoptive mom and talk to her about those pivotal moments.”
And luckily, Brierley’s family liked the movie just as much as he did.
17.It’s possible that former vice president Dick Cheney has never seen Vice (2018), but either way, he hates it.
Christian Bale, who played Cheney, told Yahoo! Entertainment that a mother of one of his son’s classmates met Dick Cheney at a party and asked him if he had anything he wanted her to pass along to Bale, since she would be seeing him the next day.
Cheney’s response? “Tell him he’s a dick.”
When Bale guessed that this demonstrated a glimmer of a sense of humor, the woman who passed the message along said, “No, there was no humor to that whatsoever.”
18.Jim White, the real high school track coach who inspired McFarland, USA, gave the film his seal of approval.
In an interview with Runner’s World, White said, “I’ve seen the movie three times now, and it’s still quite emotional. It’s just a wonderful experience for the kids and I to have this. I felt like they captured the team aspect of it very well. It is definitely a team. We actually won the state championship one year with our sixth man.”
He added, “We were worried about how it was going to come out. But they did get the part about Jose Cardenas going out too fast right. We did really enjoy it because I think the movie captures what we felt. And Kevin Costner as me? That was wonderful.”
19.Speaking of inspirational sports stories, Bethany Hamilton liked Soul Surfer quite a bit, and was especially impressed by AnnaSophia Robb’s performance.
Hamilton told ESPN, “I’ve seen the film several times, and AnnaSophia did an amazing job. I’m just so stoked with how well she did. It was funny, because me and my mom actually helped pick her. We had seen her in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Bridge to Terabithia, and we suggested her and she ended up getting the part, so that was really cool.”
She added that while she was a little nervous about seeing her story on screen, “We had a really good director, Sean McNamara, and he was really key in letting us be a part of giving input. I think it helped being able to make the surfing accurate.”
Here’s a fun fact: All of the “one-armed [surfing] stunts” in the latter half of the film were performed by Hamilton herself.
20.Sarah Palin wasn’t a fan of Game Change, the HBO movie about the time she spent running as John McCain’s vice presidential candidate in the 2008 election.
A note accompanying Palin’s YouTube response to the film read, “The screenwriter of Game Change, Danny Strong, lapsed into a tired routine of manipulating facts and omitting key parts of Governor Palin’s story in order to push a biased agenda and drive ratings.”
Palin later said that the movie was “based on a false narrative” and added that she didn’t care whether she was “in the good graces of Hollywood’s Team Obama.”
21.Rock icon Joan Jett approved of 2010’s The Runaways, a biopic which followed the origin and rise of the titular band, and of Kristen Stewart’s performance as her.
In an interview with CinemaBlend, Jett called Stewart “authentic” and said she believed the actor was knowledgeable about (and respectful of) the legacy of The Runaways, and the love the band’s fans feel for it.
Jett also praised the actors for doing all their own singing. She said of Stewart, “I found her wonderful to be around. We got along great. It’s really scary — when you see us together physically, the energy is so similar. The way we move, the way our hands move and our hair, the way we talk, we start and don’t finish sentences. It’s really bizarre, but in a great way. … I think they did an incredible job. I was very proud.”
22.No one but the Windsors themselves know how much of The Crown the British Royal Family has watched, but most of their feelings on it seem decidedly mixed.
On the one hand, Prince Harry said in an interview with James Corden that he’s “way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife or myself,” since the show is openly fictionalized and not pretending to be 100% accurate.
However, a source from within the palace told Express.co.uk that Season 2 upset the Queen because of its depiction of Prince Philip as a “father insensitive to his son’s well-being.” (The son, in this case, being a young Prince Charles.)
And Donal McCabe, the Queen’s communications secretary, wrote into the Guardian to clarify that the royal family neither endorses the show nor believes it is accurate.
McCabe wrote, “We appreciate that readers of the Guardian may enjoy this fictionalized interpretation of historical events, but they should do so knowing that the royal household is not complicit in interpretations made by the program. The royal household has never agreed to vet or approve content, has not asked to know what topics will be included, and would never express a view as to the program’s accuracy.”
So that’s, uh, terse.
Most recently, Jemima Khan, a friend of the late Princess Diana who served as a consultant to The Crown, quit the series in November 2021 over concerns about Diana’s depiction. Khan told the Sunday Times that she decided to leave when she realized that Diana’s life story wasn’t going to be handled “as respectfully or compassionately as I had hoped.”
23.And finally: Muhammad Ali enjoyed Will Smith’s Oscar-nominated performance as him in the 2001 film Ali.
In a joint appearance with Smith back in 2001 on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Ali said getting his own biopic gave him a “humble feeling.” When Winfrey asked what he thought of Smith’s performance, Ali said, “He scared me.” And when Winfrey asked how he felt about Smith’s boxing, Ali jokingly replied, “He’s not as dumb as he looks.”
Smith said of the towering task he faced in portraying one of the most accomplished sportspeople of all time, “The champ looked at me and gave me the nod that I did a good job. I worked as hard as I could possibly have worked.”
Share This Article
TV and Movies
Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.