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The Movies Make Everyone Look Good

It’s not news that actors and actresses tend to be prettier
than the average Joe or Josephine. But sometimes the difference
is greater than usual.

Take the case of the Rod Lurie-directed Nothing But the Truth. The plot is taken from a scandalous episode at the New York Times, in
which a number of anonymously-sourced articles suggesting Saddam Hussein
possessed weapons of mass destruction appeared prominently in the paper under
Judy Miller’s byline. In the film, though, the
59-year-old Miller has transmogrified into 34-year-old Kate Beckinsale. Even more dubiously, Angela Bassett plays
Beckinsale’s editor
, who in real life would have been either Howell Raines or
Bill Keller, depending on the time frame.

Here are some more examples….

Journalists seem to get the spit-shine more than other
professions, partly because journalists (print journalists anyway) are rarely
hired for their good looks, and partly because there are so many great films
about journalists: All the President’s
, The Killing Fields, Shattered Glass, and Citizen Kane – to name just a few. On occasion, the actor does resemble the
source – David Straithairn as Edward R. Murrow in Good Night and Good Luck, for instance.

But more often we encounter situations like Leonardo
DiCaprio doing his part to burnish our visualization of Howard Hughes in The Aviator, and of Frank Abagnale, Jr. in Catch Me If You Can.  Actual Erin
appeared briefly opposite movie Erin Brockovich (that would be
Julia Roberts), making for a quick and easy comparison. And Larry Flynt offered viewers the same
opportunity by playing a judge at the trial of his cinematic alter ego,
Woody-Harrelson, in The People vs. Larry

It isn’t only people that get the Hollywood makeover; places
are fair game as well. The bar Coyote
in New York’s East Village bore little resemblance to the bar in Coyote
; at least, it didn’t until the movie came out.  Diane Keaton’s smoky nighttime haunt in  Looking for Mr. Goodbar has a more downscale brick and mortar counterpart, too.  Sadly, this venerable Upper West Side bar, known most recently as the
All State Cafe, just closed its doors
for the last time, a victim of rising rents.  That’s the advantage of
screen life over real life – people and places can stay young forever.

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