CLOSE
Original image
Adam Berry/Getty Images

12 People Who Hated Their Own Biopics

Original image
Adam Berry/Getty Images

While it might seem fun to be the subject of a feature film, not every person-turned-character has loved seeing his or her life play out on the big screen. As Stephen Frears' The Program, about the fall of Lance Armstrong, hits theaters today, we're taking a look back at 12 people who hated the movies made about their lives.

1. MARK ZUCKERBERG // THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)

There aren’t a lot of college students whose (sober) exploits would be interesting enough to sustain a two-hour running time. But Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t your typical co-ed. While many of the key players involved in the multi-billion-dollar Website’s founding have pointed out inaccuracies in David Fincher’s The Social Network, Zuckerberg has been more lighthearted with his criticism. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he noted that “it’s pretty interesting to see what parts they got right and what parts they got wrong. I think that they got every single T-shirt that they had the Mark Zuckerberg character wear right; I think I own all of those T-shirts. And they got the sandals right and all that. But … there are hugely basic things that they got wrong, too,” he added. "[They] made it seem like my whole motivation for building Facebook was so I could get girls, right? And they completely left out the fact that my girlfriend, I've been dating since before I started Facebook.”

2. HUNTER “PATCH” ADAMS // PATCH ADAMS (1998)

A lot of people hated Patch Adams, in which Robin Williams plays a medical student attempting to prove that laughter is indeed the best medicine by running around in a red nose. Even Patch Adams hated Patch Adams. In an interview with New Renaissance Magazine, the good doctor and founder of the Gesundheit! Institute, which promotes the importance of “humanitarian clowning” by sending clowns into war zones, refugee camps, and orphanages, noted that, “After the movie, there wasn't a single positive article about our work or me. There were dumb, stupid, meaningless things ... it made my children cry. They actually thought that they didn't know the person they were reading about … I knew the movie would do this,” he continued. “I would become a funny doctor. Imagine how shallow that is relative to who I am. I just got back from taking 17 clowns to Cuba, which was hit by the worst hurricane in their history. The month before that, we took 30 clowns from seven countries, ages 16 to 65, to Russia for the 17th year in a row.”

It wasn't Williams' first brush with a bad review from the person he was playing: Adrian Cronauer, the military DJ portrayed by Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam, wasn’t thrilled with his representation either, though he liked the movie just fine. “It was never intended to be an accurate point-by-point biography,” Cronauer told The Fayetteville Observer. “It was intended as a piece of entertainment, and [Williams] was playing a character named Adrian Cronauer who shared a lot of my experiences. But actually, he was playing Robin Williams. That's what he always does. He was nominated for an Academy Award; I can't argue with that.”

3. JULIAN ASSANGE // THE FIFTH ESTATE (2013)

Prior to shooting The Fifth Estate, Bill Condon’s 2013 WikiLeaks film, star Benedict Cumberbatch reached out to Julian Assange to request a meeting so that the actor could better get to know the man he would be portraying. What he got instead was a very, very long letter back, in which Assange laid out the many reasons why Cumberbatch should quit the film—which Assange called "toxic," "deceitful," and "wretched."

“I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film,” Assange wrote. “You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it. To present me as someone morally compromised and to place me in a falsified history. To create a work, not of fiction, but of debased truth.”

4. SARAH PALIN // GAME CHANGE (2012)

YouTube

Shortly before the 2012 premiere of Game Change, HBO’s take on the campaign trail relationship between John McCain (played by Ed Harris) and Sarah Palin (portrayed by Julianne Moore) during the 2008 presidential election, Palin told Fox News that she was “not concerned about an HBO movie based on a false narrative when there are so many other things to be concerned about.” Separately, in a conference call with ABC News, foreign policy consultant Randy Scheunemann remarked that, “To call this movie fiction gives fiction a bad name,” while Meg Stapleton, Palin’s former spokeswoman, admitted that: “Looking at the trailers alone gets my blood boiling.”

5. DAVID LETTERMAN // THE LATE SHIFT (1996)

David Letterman has never made a secret of his feelings toward late-night competitor Jay Leno (a few years ago, he told Oprah that Leno, whom he used to consider a friend, may be “the most insecure person I have ever known”). Nor has he made a secret of his disdain for The Late Shift, the HBO movie which recounted the duo’s battle to replace The Tonight Show chair left open by Johnny Carson’s retirement. For months, Letterman mocked the film in his opening monologues and made John Michael Higgins, who portrayed him in the film, a favorite target. “I've seen a clip reel, and it's just bizarre,” Letterman said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “The guy who's playing me—and I'm sure he's a fine actor—but his interpretation seems to be that I'm, well, a circus chimp. He looks like he's insane, like he's a budding psychopath. And afterward I thought, ‘Well, maybe this is how I strike people as being.’”

6. ART HOWE // MONEYBALL (2011)

Shortly after Moneyball's release, Art Howe revealed his disappointment in the film to The Houston Chronicle. “First of all, Philip Seymour Hoffman physically didn’t resemble me in any way,” Howe noted. “He was a little on the heavy side. And just the way he portrayed me was very disappointing and probably 180 degrees from what I really am, so that was disappointing too… I’ve spent my whole career trying to build a good reputation and be a good baseball man and someone who people like to play for and all of the above,” he continued. “Then in two hours, people who don’t know me—and Brad Pitt’s a big name, [so] people are going to see his movies—and all these people across the country are going to go in and get this perception of me that’s totally unfair and untruthful. So I’m very upset.”

7. WINNIE MANDELA // WINNIE (2011)

Winnie Mandela has nothing against Jennifer Hudson, who played her in Winnie, the 2011 big-screen adaptation of Annè Marié du Preez Bezdrob's biography, Winnie Mandela: A Life. But she had a point when she complained to CNN that she felt it was irresponsible of the filmmakers to not consult her on the project. “I have absolutely nothing against Jennifer, but I have everything against the movie itself,” she said. “I was not consulted. I am still alive. And I think that it is total disrespect to come to South Africa, make a movie about my struggle, and call that movie some translation of ‘The Romantic Life of Winnie Mandela.’ I think it is an insult. I don’t know what would be romantic in our bitter struggle.”

8. HUNTER S. THOMPSON // WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM (1980)

YouTube

Where the Buffalo Roam isn’t a straight biopic, but that didn’t stop Hunter S. Thompson from picking on it. When asked what he thought of the film, Thompson responded: “Horrible pile of crap. [Bill] Murray did a good job. But it was a bad script. You can't beat a bad script. It was just a horrible movie. A cartoon. But Bill Murray did a good job. We actually wrote and shot several different endings and beginnings and they all got cut out in the end. It was disappointing. Not to mention that I have to live with it. It's like go into a bar somewhere and people start to giggle and you don't know why, and they're all watching that f*cking movie.”

9. IKE TURNER // WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT (1993)

Regardless of its accuracy, you can’t blame the late Ike Turner for not being thrilled with how he was portrayed by Laurence Fishburne in 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do With It, the story of his life with ex-wife Tina. Fishburne earned an Oscar nomination for the role, but Turner was not as generous with his praise. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Turner announced his plans to hold a press conference in order to win back his good name and that he would be writing his own autobiography, entitled That’s What Love’s Got to Do With It.

“The only time I ever punched Tina with my fist was the last fight we had,” Turner said. “I hit her after she kneed me in the chest. Prior to that, our fights, or our little slaps, or whatever they were, were all just about attitude. Me and Tina never fought about other women or about her not keeping house or her not taking care of the kids. It was always because she was looking sad and wouldn't tell me what was wrong with her. She would take that attitude with her on to the stage and that would really depress me. So after the show, I'd end up slapping her or something. But then we'd be okay.”

10. MICHAEL OHER // THE BLIND SIDE (2009)

Sandra Bullock may have nabbed an Oscar for her role in The Blind Side, playing the adoptive mother to Michael Oher, a troubled and homeless teenager who went on to become a first round NFL draft pick, but Oher himself isn’t handing out any accolades. And the 2013 Super Bowl champ has made it clear that he’s tired of being asked questions about filmmaking instead of football. “I'm tired of the movie,” he told the Los Angeles Times in early 2013, shortly before his Super Bowl face-off with the San Francisco 49ers. “Football is what got me here, and the movie, it wasn't me … The movie is great, it's very inspiring to tons of people all over the world, but the main problem I have is with the football part of it. Sports is all I had growing up, and the movie made me look like I didn't know anything.”

11. LIL’ KIM // NOTORIOUS (2009)

It’s probably best to stay on rapper Lil’ Kim’s good side, but it’s a lesson the makers of 2009’s Notorious, about the life and death of Notorious B.I.G., learned a little too late. In a 2009 cover story interview with Hip-Hop Weekly, Kim (who dated Biggie) blasted the film, stating that “most of the story is bullsh**” and confessed her disappointment in the decision to cast actress Naturi Naughton to play her, saying that she had been sent a copy of the actress’s audition tape and thought she was the worst possible choice.

12. MARC SCHILLER // PAIN & GAIN (2013)

YouTube

Moviemaker Michael Bay is not known for being funny. Which made his decision to shoot Pain & Gain—the story of a trio of Florida bodybuilders who kidnapped, tortured and murdered for financial gain—as a comedy more than baffling. Marc Schiller, one of the victims of the group known as the Sun Gym Gang, was particularly unamused (he is played by Tony Shalhoub in the movie, and renamed Victor Kershaw). “Obviously at the end they tried to kill me—and it wasn't that funny when they tried to kill me,” Schiller told The Huffington Post. “They did run me over with a car twice after trying to blow me up in the car. I was in a coma and somehow I got out … The way they tell it made it look like a comedy. You also gotta remember that not only I went through this, but certain people were killed, so making these guys look like nice guys is atrocious.”

An earlier version of this story ran in 2013.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
iStock
Animals
arrow
Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
Original image
iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES