September 16, 2011

I Can Handle the Truth--Is Tom Cruise Playing Me?

Many people would be thrilled to be the real life model for a film character (and thrilled to get cash for the rights for their life stories, of course). But what happens when one spends years or decades believing that a character is based on one's experiences and then finds out that those beliefs might not have been well-founded? Apparently several Navy lawyers are finding that out now. They are the Navy lawyers, who have independently believed that they were, at least in part, the model for the Tom Cruise character in A Few Good Men. The New York Times' William Glaberson discusses the fall-out in this article. Says Mr. Glaberson,

Hollywood’s true-ish stories have a way of bringing out those claiming to be inspiration, especially when there are well-fitting uniforms involved. “A Few Good Men,” written by Aaron Sorkin, has fostered a particularly stubborn if little-noticed puzzle among a handful of lawyers over who inspired the main character, named Lt. Daniel Kaffee, who challenged Col. Nathan R. Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson, with his oft-quoted “I want the truth” demand.

It turns out four former military lawyers around the country have said Mr. Cruise was playing a character based entirely or partly on them. Beside Mr. Bansley, three others say the character was a composite constructed from the work of those three. They can be far from humble about this.

What does Aaron Sorkin, the writer of the film, say? Says Mr. Glaberson,

In an email, he responded carefully, "“The character of Dan Kaffee in ‘A Few Good Men’ is entirely fictional and was not inspired by any particular individual.”

He should have been a lawyer.

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