Feb. 22, 2013 at 5:23 AM ET
Many of this year's Oscar-nominated films are based on true stories ("Lincoln," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Argo") or on well-known novels ("Les Miserables," "Life of Pi"). And as you can imagine, it's easy for those stories to put a twist on a tale -- often intentionally, for drama's sake -- not telling it the way it was in real life or in an earlier book.
Those changes mostly go unnoticed unless you're really familiar with the source material, but we found five notable ones.
1. Osama bin Laden raid was too noisy in 'Zero Dark Thirty'
Who can you believe about the death of Osama bin Laden if not the man who killed Osama bin Laden? That former Navy SEAL spoke to Esquire magazine and saw the movie for the first time with Phil Bronstein, who wrote the Esquire article. He pointed out some minor errors -- the dog on the real mission was a Belgian Malinois, not a German Shepherd and the night-vision goggles worn by the SEALs in the film didn't exist when bin Laden was killed. But his biggest correction? The real SEALs went about their mission in silence. In the movie, a SEAL loudly yells "Breacher!" when he wants someone to blow a door at the compound, and characters call out bin Laden's name. In real life, the SEALs storming the Pakistan terrorist compound tried to keep as quiet as possible, for obvious reasons.
2. No one chased the plane onto the runway in 'Argo'
Kathleen Stafford, one of two women among the six Americans rescued from Iran in the events that inspired "Argo," told the Washington Post that the film Hollywooded up her actual experiences. "Argo" is full of fictionalized sections -- in real life, the six were split between two homes, not just the Canadian ambassador's, for one thing, and Canada's role is downplayed in the film in order to make the CIA look like more of a player. But perhaps the most dramatic scene in the film, where Iranian revolutionaries drive out on an airport runway chasing a departing plane just as it lifts off, never happened. Tony Mendez, the real CIA operative played by Ben Affleck, reports that the airport departure was "smooth as silk," with only a minor mechanical problem slightly delaying takeoff, not gun-waving revolutionaries.
3. Connecticut wasn't pro-slavery as shown in 'Lincoln'
Unless you live in the Nutmeg State, you probably didn't notice how Connecticut voted on the Thirteenth Amendment in the movie "Lincoln." But Rep. Joe Courtney sure did. He wrote a letter to director Steven Spielberg complaining that two out of three Connecticut votes are seen being cast against abolishing slavery. In real history, all four votes from his state were pro-abolition. (The film's screenwriter acknowledged he changed the facts.) A Lincoln historian pointed out that the film actually got a lot of things right, including Lincoln's enjoyment of a certain bathroom joke. The historian's quibbles were minor: Mary Todd Lincoln's teeth were too white, the word "sniper" would not have been used, General Lee did not surrender from horseback, and Abe Lincoln didn't swear so much.
4. Was that song really in 'Les Mis'?
Fans of the "Les Miserables" musical know it backwards and forwards. They know what someone who's never seen "Les Mis" on stage wouldn't -- that the song "Suddenly," about Valjean's love for adopted daughter Cosette, isn't in the stage show. But that's hardly a goof, it's an intentional addition. Since it was an original piece for the film, "Suddenly" was the one song eligible to be nominated for a best original song Oscar. (We're guessing it will lose to Adele's "Skyfall.") Fans seem to like the new song. As theologian Mark Roberts points out, it's smartly written and the title hearkens back to a word in Victor Hugo's novel.
5. Samuel L. Jackson's favorite swear word didn't exist in 'Django' days
Much of the controversy surrounding "Django Unchained" was about its near-constant use of the n-word. But another term drew attention too. You know it: Starts with "mother," incorporates a famous f-word. Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Leonardo DiCaprio's creepy slave-hating slave Stephen, says it four times in "Django," but according to IMDb.com, that expression was unlikely to have been used until World War I. Mother--oh, never mind.
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