Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

Real Oscar Stories: American Hustle

Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

Thanks to an opening title screen that says, “Some of this actually happened,” we begin to wonder right from the get-go  just how much of American Hustle occurred in real life. And much like the actual Abscam operation of the 1970s and ‘80s on which the movie was based, the answer is a little muddy. (Beware, spoilers ahead.)

The Movie

For those who need a little refresher, here’s what went down in director David O. Russell’s Hollywood version:

Irving Rosenfeld (played by Christian Bale), a scam artist with a comb-over that makes Donald Trump’s look reasonable, falls in love with the beautiful former stripper Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) and, after a steamy afternoon of playing dress-up in the back of Rosenfeld’s dry cleaning shop, she agrees to help him with his various fraudulent dealings. When they get busted—which, inevitably, they do—the crooked couple signs on to help the FBI in a sting operation in exchange for dropped charges.

In the sting, Rosenfeld and Prosser help overeager (and over-caffeinated) FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) eventually bring down a handful of elected officials, most notably the sympathetic mayor of Camden, New Jersey, by getting them to accept bribes. Somewhere along the way, DiMaso finds himself infatuated with Prosser, who, by the way, has been impersonating a fictional British aristocrat, Lady Edith Greensly—you know, because investment scams are way more believable when the backer is a mysterious woman with an exotic accent.

From here, things quickly spiral out of control as Rosenfeld enlists an associate to impersonate a wealthy sheikh, the mob gets involved, DiMaso assaults his superior (Louis C.K.) with a telephone, and—well, you’ve seen the movie, right?

And let’s not forget Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), Irving’s wildcard neurotic wife, who almost blows his cover a couple of times because she’s feeling neglected.

What Really Happened

The Scam: The real-life Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser were convicted con artists Melvin Weinberg and Evelyn Knight (who actually was British), and the sting operation is known today as Abscam. In 1978, Weinberg, Knight, and the FBI created a fake foreign investment firm—which they said was funded by Middle Easterners—called Abdul Enterprises (the FBI claims “Abscam” is a contraction of “Abdul” and “scam”). The FBI used Abdul Enterprises to elicit bribes from U.S. politicians.

While elements from several of the FBI agents involved in the sting were used to create the curler-wearing character of Richie DiMaso, agent Tony Amoroso—who reportedly acted as a consultant on the film—seems to be Richie’s heaviest influence. (There’s no evidence to suggest that Amoroso ever smashed a telephone into his boss’ face, but considering that he was a consultant on the film, it makes you wonder if the thought didn’t cross his mind a time or two.)

Ultimately, Abscam led to the arrest and prosecution of seven United States Congressmen, Camden mayor Angelo Errichetti, and a handful of lower-ranking government officials. Mayor Errichetti—called Carmine Polito (and played by Jeremy Renner) in the movie—wasn’t exactly the guilt-free guy represented on film, though, and Weinberg didn’t try to finagle a reduced sentence for him. They were friendly, but not that friendly.

The Relationships: Weinberg did indeed have an affair with Knight and Knight did represent herself as “Lady Evelyn” to help with Weinberg’s faux investment firm London Investors, Ltd, which lured people into making fake investments much the same way Abscam did. However, in reality Knight had nowhere near as much to do with Abscam as American Hustle leads us to believe.

Evelyn also never had an affair or relationship with an FBI agent and Mel’s wife Marie wasn’t involved with any mobsters; those torrid love triangles were invented by David O. Russell and screenwriter Eric Warren Singer strictly to add plot tension (and one fabulous disco scene) to the film.

The Ending: Angelo Errichetti served nearly three years in prison for accepting bribes. He died at the age of 84 last May and never regained the political footing he had before he got involved with Weinstein and his fake sheikhs.

Just like their silver screen counterparts, Weinberg and Knight eventually got married. But it wasn’t happily ever after. They later divorced, and Weinberg recently told the Telegraph that “Lady Evelyn” refuses to speak to him these days.

In the movie, Rosalyn also gets her happy ending: she moves on from Rosenfeld with a mobster who adores her and she happily shares custody of her son with Irving and Sydney. In real life, Marie Weinberg hanged herself in January 1982. “My sin was wanting to love and be loved, nothing more,” her suicide note read. “I haven’t the strength to fight him anymore. Everything I have attested to is the truth.”

Just like Russell promised, some of American Hustle actually happened.

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Universal Studios
Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in July
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Here’s some news you won’t be cheering about: Bring It On is leaving Netflix on July 1st—as are the four of its sequels that are currently part of the company’s streaming library (FYI: there are a total of six Bring It On films altogether—yes, six). The Lethal Weapon franchise will bid farewell, too, as will a handful of classic films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s. To make way for July’s slate of new titles, here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in July.

JULY 1

Alive

Along Came Polly

An Honest Liar

Beerfest

Before Midnight

Bring It On

Bring It On Again

Bring It On: All or Nothing

Bring It On: Fight to the Finish

Bring It On: In It to Win It

Cocktail

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon 2

Lethal Weapon 3

Lethal Weapon 4

Little Women

Michael Clayton

Midnight in Paris

Mixed Signals

More Than a Game

Pandemic

Piglet’s Big Movie

Rugrats Go Wild

Scary Movie

Scream 3

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

The Art of War

Tropic Thunder

V for Vendetta

JULY 2

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

JULY 8

Alpha & Omega: Journey to Bear Kingdom

Real Husbands of Hollywood: Seasons 1-5

JULY 9

Ratchet and Clank

Serena

JULY 11

Alice Through the Looking Glass

JULY 14

Wild Hogs

JULY 15

Convergence

Lockup: State Prisons: Collection 1

Small Is Beautiful: A Tiny House Documentary

JULY 16

Changeling

Wanted

JULY 29

The Den

JULY 30

A Cinderella Story

Hurricane of Fun: The Making of Wet Hot

Swing State 

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Universal Studios
Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in July
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Like so much of the moviegoing world, Netflix is in a Jurassic Park state of mind. Among the dozens of new movies, TV shows, and specials that will be added to the company’s already-massive streaming library next month are Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Jurassic Park III. There’s plenty to love for non-dino enthusiasts, too—including new seasons of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Orange is the New Black. Here’s everything new that’s coming to Netflix in July.

JULY 1

Blue Bloods: Season 8

Bo Burnham: what.

Chocolat

Deceived

Finding Neverland

Get Smart

Happy Gilmore

Hawaii Five-O: Season 8

Interview with the Vampire

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park III

Madam Secretary: Season 4

Menace II Society

NCIS: Season 15

Pandorum

Penelope

Queens of Comedy: Season 2

Rica, Famosa, Latina: Seasons 1-4

Scooby-Doo

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

Spanglish

Stealth

Swordfish

The Boondock Saints

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

The Princess Diaries

The Voices

Traitor

Troy

Van Helsing

We Own the Night

We the Marines

What We Started

JULY 2

Dance Academy: The Comeback

Good Witch: Season 4

Romina

The Sinner: Season 1

JULY 3

The Comedy Lineup

JULY 5

Blue Valentine

JULY 6

Anne with an E: Season 2

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: New 2018: Freshly Brewed

First Team: Juventus: Part B

Free Rein: Season 2

Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons: Season 2

Sacred Games

Samantha!

Somebody Feed Phil: The Second Course

The Fosters: Season 5

The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The Skin of The Wolf

White Fang

JULY 7

Scream 4

JULY 9

Lockup: Extended Stay: Collection 1

JULY 10

Drug Lords: Season 2

JULY 12

Gone Baby Gone

JULY 13

How It Ends

Jim Jefferies: This Is Me Now

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

Sugar Rush

The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants

JULY 15

Bonusfamiljen: Season 2

Going for Gold

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale: Part 2

JULY 20

Amazing Interiors

Dark Tourist

Deep Undercover: Collection 3

Duck Duck Goose

Father of the Year

Fix It and Finish It: Collection 3

Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh: Season 4

Jimmy: The True Story of a True Idiot

Last Chance U: EMCC & Life After

Last Chance U: INDY: Part 1

Luna Petunia: Return to Amazia: Season 2

JULY 22

An Education

Disney’s Bolt

JULY 24

The Warning

Iliza Shlesinger: Elder Millennial

JULY 27

Cupcake & Dino - General Services

Extinction

Orange Is the New Black: Season 6

Roman Empire: Reign of Blood: Master of Rome

The Bleeding Edge

The Worst Witch: Season 2

Welcome to the Family

JULY 28

Shameless: Season 8

The Company Men

JULY 29

Her

Sofia the First: Season 4

JULY 30

A Very Secret Service: Season 2

JULY 31

Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 3

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