(1985): In one of those premises that thinky writers so adore, screenwriter
Terry Johnson wrote about a fictional encounter in a
2) Field of Dreams (1989): In the W. P. Kinsella book on which the Oscar-nominated film was based, the revered author the protagonist chases down and takes hostage was, in fact, identified as legendarily reclusive Catcher in the Rye author J. P. Salinger. But the producers, threatened with a lawsuit by Salinger’s attorneys, called the character played by James Earl Jones “Terence Mann” for the film version. Apparently it was okay to use “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, though, since he was already dead at the time and unable to retain counsel.
3) Primary Colors (1998): The dishy best-seller by “Anonymous” (eventually revealed as Newsweek reporter Joe Klein) followed the Presidential campaign of a gray-haired, junk-food and woman-loving Southern governor (John Travolta) who inspires his campaign workers with his vision and connects with citizens through his empathetic nature and potent anecdotes. Sound like anyone you know (and perhaps voted for in 1992)?
4) Citizen Kane (1941): Mark Twain once famously noted that you shouldn’t pick a fight with anyone who “buys his ink by the barrel.” But that’s more or less what Orson Welles did with his profile of a publishing tycoon named Charles Foster Kane—and not, repeat, not William Randolph Hearst. The newspaper baron famously launched an all-out assault on the film, attempting (among other tactics) to have the negative purchased by an intermediary and destroyed, and forbidding any of his papers from mentioning Citizen Kane in any way. Welles and RKO Pictures persevered—and apparently a pretty decent little movie made its way to the light of day.
5) The Rose (1979): In the 1970s, Bette Midler had become a Grammy- and Tony Award-winning singer and gay-community icon, but no one really thought of her as an actress. That was before she took on the role of 1960s rock and roll legend/substance abusing burnout Mary “The Rose” Foster in director Mark Rydell’s film. The echoes of Janis Joplin were obvious to viewers, but most simply focused on Midler’s surprisingly electrifying performance, which earned her an Oscar nomination.
6) Badlands (1973):
Terrence Malick’s meditative crime drama followed a pair of young
lovers—20-something Kit (Martin Sheen) and his teenage girlfriend Holly (Sissy
7) The Devil Wears Prada (2006): Just because Lauren Weisberger was a personal assistant to Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour before she wrote the popular novel, doesn’t mean that icy, manipulative fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) was based on her.
8) Talk Radio (1988):
In June 1984, incendiary
9) White Hunter, Black
Heart (1990): Famous director John Wilson (Clint Eastwood) is in
10) The Great Dictator (1940): Sorry, I’ve been trying to place this Jew-hating despot Adenoid Hynkel played by Charlie Chaplin, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.