12 People Who Hated Their Own Biopics

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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.


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.”


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.”


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.”



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.”


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.’”


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.”


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.”



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.”


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.”


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.



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.

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March 18, 2016 - 10:00am
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