Fact vs. Fiction in 'American Hustle': All the Hairy Details!
Christian Bale in 'American Hustle' and his sort-of real life counterpart Mel Weinberg (Columbia Pictures/AP)
Ostensibly about Abscam, the Washington bribery scandal of the late '70s/early '80s, the disco-era David O. Russell-directed Oscar contender, starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence, bills itself as work of fiction, which is arguably awesome and honest, but ultimately confusing.
After all, wasn't Abscam real? And aren't Bale and the others kinda-sorta playing real people? And doesn't the title card at the beginning of the movie proclaim "some of this actually happened," indicating that, you know, some of what you're about to see actually happened?
Yes, yes, yes — and here's a brief rundown of what's fact and what's dramatically and follically enhanced fiction. (Spoiler alert! Plot points are discussed.)
In the movie, a New Jersey mayor and a handful of members of Congress are videotaped as they're handed briefcases of cash in exchange for favors and influence, and that's pretty much what happened in the post-Watergate world, too. One difference is that the real Abscam (the FBI code name for its operation) netted dozens more politicians than were shown in the Russell film.
This is where things get fiction-y. None of the movie's main players, led by Bale's combover-king conman Irving Rosenfeld, share names with their real-world counterparts. They do, however, share certain traits and biographical details.
The movie's Rosenfeld is the stand-in for Mel Weinberg, the star of the "The Sting Man: Inside Abscam," a decades-old tell-all (told from Weinberg's perspective) that has been reissued under the billing: "The true story behind the film 'American Hustle.'"
In the movie as in real life (or at least in the book version of real life), Weinberg grew up in the glass business, conned his way to a tidy life, kept a wife and a mistress and worked for the FBI. In a recent interview with the London Telegraph, Weinberg, now in his 80s and living in Florida, claimed he'd sold his life rights to the producers of "American Hustle" for $250,000. In return, he got to meet Bale ("a very down-to-earth guy") and carp about Bale's wardrobe ("I'm wearing a green jacket in one scene. I wouldn't be dead in a green jacket.")