1.One of Prince Charles' most punchable moments in Season 4 of The Crown comes when he makes an achingly awkward comment during the press conference to announce his and Diana's engagement. The real Prince Charles said the exact. Same. Thing.
In the show, Diana looks (understandably) hurt, but in real life, she "laughed it off."
Despite that, later in life, Diana said, "Charles turned around and said, ‘Whatever in love means,’ and that threw me completely... God, absolutely traumatized me."
Here's the real engagement interview (the "whatever 'in love' means" moment occurs around the 7:40 mark):
2.The Iranian Revolutionary Guards actually hired carpet weavers to piece together the documents shredded by escaping US Embassy employees during the beginning of the Iran hostage crisis, just like they do in Argo.
In the 2007 Wired article that inspired the film, Joshuah Bearman wrote, "The militants had been combing embassy records and figuring out who was CIA. They had even hired teams of carpet weavers to successfully reassemble shredded documents."
While this wasn't depicted in the film, the reassembled documents were eventually "published by the Iranian government in a series of books called Documents From the US Espionage Den."
3.Right before the final rugby match in Invictus, a tense moment transforms into a heartwarming one when a low-flying plane terrifies the security team of Nelson Mandela, only for them to realize, along with thousands of fans, that the underside of the plane bears the decidedly friendly words, "GOOD LUCK BOKKE." Amazingly, this wasn't made up for cinematic effect.
(The "Bokke" the message addresses, by the way, are the members of South Africa's national rugby team, the Springboks.)
The pilot's name was Laurie Kay, and according to his obituary, he really did fly a "Boeing 747 passenger jet low over a Johannesburg stadium before the final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup." The plane was easier to fly than it was usually, because it was "empty save for a small crew."
Mandela himself was "startled" by the stunt. Fascinatingly, he and Kay had already crossed paths; during a flight a few years prior, Mandela "asked Kay, the captain, if he could upgrade members of his delegation from economy class." Kay, who "like many white South Africans" had been somewhat skeptical of the new president, was "charmed by Mandela's gracious manner."
Here's the full scene:
4.Nacho Libre, the 2006 film that stars Jack Black as a Catholic priest who becomes a luchador in order to raise money for the orphanage where he grew up, was, incredibly, inspired by the life of a real man.
His name is Padre Fray Tormenta. According to a Vice profile, Tormenta was born Sergio Gutiérrez and decided to become a "cool priest" after being kicked out of a church for confessing to a priest that he was addicted to drugs. Gutiérrez was ordained in Veracruz and then moved to Puebla. As soon as he became a priest, "he began to take in orphans." When the religious authorities in Puebla "asked him to give up the orphanage," Gutiérrez moved to Texcoco, where he was allowed to maintain his orphanage, but was given no resources with which he could care for the children.
Hoping to "earn like Cassius Clay or Oscar de la Hoya," Gutiérrez began training in "the art of lucha libre." He soon became popular as Fray Tormenta, and when the bishop of the church told him to stop wrestling, Gutiérrez said he only would if the orphanage was funded. That was a no-go, so Fray Tormenta stayed in the ring.
Gutiérrez designed his own mask and explained to Vice, "The yellow is for the liveliness that Fray Tormenta must display in the ring. The red is for the blood that Fray Tormenta must spill on behalf of his orphanage." He said he's cared for more than 2,000 orphans in 40 years, "including three doctors, sixteen teachers, nine lawyers, two accountants, twenty computer technicians, and one priest."
5.The video diary Aron Ralston keeps during his ordeal in 127 Hours isn't a narrative device designed to keep audience members engaged in this story of man vs. boulder, but a real aspect of the time he spent trapped in the canyon.
Ralston described his relationship to his video camera to the Guardian, explaining that, "It's like this lifeline to the outer world, to other living beings, to love. That's what kept me alive." While Ralston showed these recordings to his parents after he was rescued, he "decided he would never allow them to be shown in public." The lines spoken by James Franco, who played Ralston in the movie, "exactly replicate" in some cases what Ralston said in his "last will and testament."
And if you're curious about what Ralston thought of the movie as a whole, here's how he summed up his thoughts: "The movie is so factually accurate it is as close to a documentary as you can get and still be a drama. I think it's the best film ever made."
6.In one of the most chilling moments from Spotlight, journalist Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James) discovers while reporting on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church that a "'rehab facility’ for priests accused of sexual abuse is located around the corner from his own house." Carroll then leaves a note on his fridge telling his children to stay away from that address. The same thing happened to the real-life Carroll during the investigation, though it was the home of a single priest, not a "rehab facility."
Carroll told the MIT Media Lab that in real life, he stuck a picture of the priest to the fridge, not a note, but that this was changed because the filmmakers thought it wouldn't be "believable" enough.
When the onscreen Carroll makes this discovery, he responds by saying, "Oh shit." Carroll told Boston.com that this, too, was true to life; when Brian d'Arcy James asked him what he said in that moment, Carroll responded, "I probably said 'oh, shit.’"
7.In Julie & Julia, Julia Child's husband, Paul, writes to his twin brother, Charlie, that upon grabbing pasta out of a pot of boiling water, Julia had some choice words to say about their temperature.
That's a real quote, from a real letter Paul wrote to his brother Charlie. Julie Powell brings it up in Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, the memoir that inspired the film. She wrote that it is "one of my favorite JC stories."
Here's the scene:
8.A scene in which New York City schoolchildren serenade Mr. Rogers with the theme song from his show on the subway, one of the most cinematically heartwarming moments from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, is a moment drawn straight from journalist Tom Junod's Esquire profile of the man.
(In the movie, Tom Junod's character, a journalist initially unconvinced by Mr. Rogers' unambiguous niceness, is renamed Lloyd Vogel. According to an essay he wrote for the Atlantic, the name change was at Junod's own request, since the script altered key elements of his biography, including writing in an extremely contentious relationship between him and his father. Junod wrote, "I’m writing the truth about Tom and Lou Junod. I decided to let [screenwriters] Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue tell the truth about Lloyd and Jerry Vogel.")
In the 1998 profile, Junod wrote, "Once upon a time, Mister Rogers went to New York City and got caught in the rain. He didn’t have an umbrella, and he couldn’t find a taxi, either, so he ducked with a friend into the subway and got on one of the trains. It was late in the day, and the train was crowded with children who were going home from school. Though of all races, the schoolchildren were mostly Black and Latino, and they didn’t even approach Mister Rogers and ask him for his autograph. They just sang. They sang, all at once, all together, the song he sings at the start of his program, 'Won’t You Be My Neighbor?' and turned the clattering train into a single soft, runaway choir."
Here's the scene:
9.The real Marilyn Lovell, astronaut Jim Lovell's wife, lost her wedding ring on the morning of the ill-fated launch, just like her movie counterpart does in Apollo 13.
In 1995, Lovell told the New York Times, "I read where someone said the part where Marilyn dropped her wedding ring down the drain in the shower on the morning of the launch was written into the movie for effect. That did happen."
The nightmares Marilyn suffers about her husband dying in space were another bad omen drawn from real life. Lovell said, "Three months before the flight, I took Marilyn to the premiere of Marooned. That was probably the source of Marilyn's nightmare." Marooned is about "three Apollo astronauts unable to return to Earth" and involves an astronaut named Jim dying in space, so maybe it wasn't the best choice for movie night.
10.During the first hijacking attempt in Captain Phillips, the titular captain fabricates a conversation with a fake warship "in order to scare off the pirates." That's something that the real Captain Phillips actually did, and it worked (at first).
According to Phillips' book A Captain’s Duty, he "lowered his voice and dropped his Boston accent" to trick the pirates into believing that he was two people: Captain Phillips, and a radio operator on the fictional "Warship 237."
This ruse was convincing enough to get the pirates to abandon their first attempt, though the Maersk Alabama was not able to evade them a second time.
Here's the full scene:
11.During Big Eyes, Margaret Keane sues her ex-husband Walter Keane to prove that she is the actual artist behind the iconic wide-eyed paintings, and not him, as he insisted on claiming throughout her artistic career. The judge sets up a "paint-off" to see who is telling the truth, and gives them both a single hour in the courtroom to produce one of the works of art. Margaret does; Walter gets out of it by insisting that he's injured his shoulder too much to paint. Shockingly, the tense competition, and Walter's shameless excuse, came straight from the real-life 1986 trial.
According to a 1999 New York Times Magazine article, "Walter skipped the paint-out and pleaded a shoulder injury at the trial."
Meanwhile, Margaret produced a painting and later said, "They gave me an hour. It was the fastest I ever painted in my life."
12.LaVona Golden really did make her daughter Tonya wear her skating costume on school picture day so that they could have photos to use for future competitions, just like her character does in I, Tonya.
Harding wrote in her autobiography The Tonya Tapes, "She sends me to school in my skating outfit with my hair up in French braids with a tiara, so I could have pictures. Believe me. I have proof of that one, too."
The real LaVona also attempted to record her daughter using a hidden wire, though "not in her home like it’s presented in I, Tonya." According to Harding's autobiography, LaVona wore the wire to visit Tonya while she was practicing, and once her daughter realized what was going on, she told LaVona, "You can leave this rink and never come back. I don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore. I have put up with this too long."
13.In Hidden Figures, astronaut John Glenn tells Al Harrison that he won't feel safe during the pivotal launch unless Katherine Johnson double-checks the mathematical results produced by the IBM. NASA historian Bill Barry told CNET that people were often curious about whether that conversation really happened; according to Barry, it totally did.
However, the real Johnson had a more generous stretch of time in which to do her calculations than her onscreen counterpart, who was summoned practically immediately before the launch.
It took Johnson "a day and a half" to match "the computer's results exactly," which not only comforted Glenn, but reassured those using the IBMs that they were "reliable."
14.In the dark satire The Death of Stalin, a running joke involves Stalin's incompetent son Vasily trying to hide from his father (and the Russian people at large) that the national hockey team, which was under his supervision, died in a plane crash. Somehow, this isn't a punchline, but a matter of historical record.
According to Vulture, "In 1950, all but two players perished in a plane crash attributed to Vasily’s insistence on the team traveling exclusively by shoddy Russian-built aircraft." Hence, his insistence that Soviet planes specifically cannot crash.
And according to Slate, Vasily's plan to hide the tragedy from his father actually, somehow, worked. Though he is characterized as having quite a bit of practice hiding his own absurd mistakes.
15.In Hulu's The Great, Catherine urinates on wheat at the behest of Peter's eccentric aunt Elizabeth, who tells her that if the wheat sprouts, it means that she's pregnant. This was 100% a real pregnancy test used back in the day.
Writer and creator Tony McNamara told Vanity Fair, "They also had pregnancy tests — they would piss on some wheat and if it bloomed, then they felt like you were pregnant.”
If you're curious: According to Harvard, "in the first known pregnancy tests," ancient Egyptian women peed on wheat and waited to see if it would bloom, just like Catherine does in the series. The test accurately predicted "70-85% of pregnancies."
This wasn't the only old-school medical factoid McNamara included in the series. At one point, Catherine is told that if she inserts the top of a lemon into her vagina, it will act as a contraceptive. Said McNamara, "Women used the tops of lemons as sort of a diaphragm because there was a physical stop, but also because they believed citric acid would kill sperm."
16.At one point in Chef, chefs Martin (John Leguizamo) and Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) sprinkle cornstarch on their balls due to the humidity. This isn't dwelled upon or even really explained, but rest assured, it's a real thing.
Jon Favreau told Eater, "Like when John Leguizamo signed on to do the part, I got him to read Kitchen Confidential [by Anthony Bourdain]. I said, 'Start with this one.' There's a scene in the movie, we're sprinkling cornstarch on our nuts, that was a suggestion that John Leguizamo said, 'We should have a scene with cornstarch' because he had read the book. I said, 'Yeah, yeah, so Bourdain talks about putting cornstarch in your balls.' It ends up being a real laugh."
He added that the moment was a sort of Easter egg for chefs in the audience, because "people who aren't chefs are like, 'What the hell are they doing?'"
17.And finally: The conversation Jane Wilde and Stephen Hawking have about glowing shirts during their first meeting in The Theory of Everything is "adapted faithfully" from the film's source material, Jane's memoir Travelling to Infinity.
In Travelling to Infinity, Jane wrote that Stephen "explained that the lights were picking up the fluorescent elements contained in washing powder, which was why the men’s shirts were so visible."