CLOSE
Original image
Sony Pictures

Real Oscar Stories: American Hustle

Original image
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.

Original image
Radio Flyer
arrow
Pop Culture
Tiny Star Wars Fans Can Now Cruise Around in Their Very Own Landspeeders
Original image
Radio Flyer

Some kids collect Hot Wheels, while others own model lightsabers and dream of driving Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder through a galaxy far, far away. Soon, Mashable reports, these pint-sized Jedis-in-training can pilot their very own replicas of the fictional anti-gravity craft: an officially licensed, kid-sized Star Wars Landspeeder, coming in September from American toy company Radio Flyer.

The Landspeeder has an interactive dashboard with light-up buttons, and it plays sounds from the original Star Wars film. The two-seater doesn’t hover, exactly, but it can zoom across desert sands (or suburban sidewalks) at forward speeds of up to 5 mph, and go in reverse at 2 mph.

The vehicle's rechargeable battery allows for around five hours of drive time—just enough for tiny Star Wars fans to reenact their way through both the original 1977 movie and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. (Sorry, grown-up sci-fi nerds: The toy ride supports only up to 130 pounds, so you’ll have to settle for pretending your car is the Death Star.)

Radio Flyer’s Landspeeder will be sold at Toys “R” Us stores. It costs $500, and is available for pre-order online now.

Watch it in action below:

[h/t Mashable]

arrow
Art
Artist Makes Colorful Prints From 1990s VHS Tapes

A collection of old VHS tapes offers endless crafting possibilities. You can use them to make bird houses, shelving units, or, if you’re London-based artist Dieter Ashton, screen prints from the physical tape itself.

As Co.Design reports, the recent London College of Communication graduate was originally intrigued by the art on the cover of old VHS and cassette tapes. He planned to digitally edit them as part of a new art project, but later realized that working with the ribbons of tape inside was much more interesting.

To make a print, Ashton unravels the film from cassettes and VHS tapes collected from his parents' home. He lets the strips fall randomly then presses them into tight, tangled arrangements with the screen. The piece is then brought to life with vibrant patterns and colors.

Ashton has started playing with ways to incorporate themes and motifs from the films he's repurposing into his artwork. If the movie behind one of his creations isn’t immediately obvious, you can always refer to its title. His pieces are named after movies like Backdraft, Under Siege, and that direct-to-video Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen classic Passport to Paris.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of Dieter Ashton

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios