From mag to movie
Strippers-turned-thieves, CIA agents posing as B-movie makers, and teens so envious of celebrities that they became criminal to dress like them. These are just a few of the shocking true tales brought to life through in-depth journalistic pieces so vivid that they were adapted for the big screen. Click through to see which of your favorite movies began in the pages of publications.
“The Hustlers at Scores,” by Jessica Pressler, provided the premise for Lorene Scafaria forthcoming crime drama starring Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Constance Wu, Lizzo, Lili Reinhart, and Cardi B.
The unlikely revenge tale follows a group of strippers who come up with a Robin Hood-esque scheme to drug and steal from the rich Wall Street dudes who frequently enjoy their company.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
This heartwarming film depicts the relationship between journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) and Mister Rogers (Tom Hanks). Vogel is based on Esquire writer Tom Junod, author of the piece “Can You Say… Hero?” which shed light on his life-changing relationship with the beloved children’s TV host.
The Insider (1999)
Marie Brenner’s Vanity Fair article “Jeffrey Wigand:The Man Who Knew Too Much” served as the basis for Michael Mann’s The Insider, which covers tobacco industry whistleblower Wigand’s (Russell Crowe) journey from Capitol Hill to his bombshell 60 Minutes interview.
It’s a story few would have believed: A group of CIA agents pose as Canadian filmmakers producing a ridiculously bad sci-fi movie in order to smuggle a group of American embassy workers out of Iran. But that’s exactly what happened in 1980, during a remarkable chain of events later chronicled by Wired writer Joshua Bearman in “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran.”
The intricate rescue mission spawned Ben Affleck’s tense, Oscar-winning thriller.
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
The fourth Die Hard installment was sprung from unexpected source material in the form of John Carlin’s Wired feature “A Farewell to Arms.”
Carlin’s feature argued that nations now often use information as a weapon rather than armaments — with propaganda and control being more powerful than violence.
The End of the Tour (2015)
Not so much inspired by an article as by the making of one, this understated yet impactful drama brings to life the experience of Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) while on an assignment interviewing author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) following the publication of his seminal novel Infinite Jest.
Though written in 1996, Lipsky’s piece did not run until after Wallace took his own life in 2008; it was redeveloped in the form of the tribute “The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace.”
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Sidney Lumet’s riveting drama, starring Al Pacino, is based on the unbelievable story of a bank robbery chronicled in P.F. Kluge’s Life magazine piece “The Boys in the Bank.”
Coyote Ugly (2000)
Before Elizabeth Gilbert inspired countless readers with her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, she introduced the world to “The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon” in the pages of GQ. The sultry foray into her work as a bartender at a lively nightlife venue sparked the plot for the guilty-pleasure flick and the soundtrack song that’s impossible to get out of your head, “Can’t Fight the Moonlight.”
Top Gun (1986)
Ehud Yonay’s California magazine feature “Top Guns” captured an aviation academy described as “Star Wars on Earth.” The high-octane portrait later gave life to Tony Scott’s iconic film, which follows a rebellious Navy pilot (Tom Cruise) as he fellow students at an elite fighter school compete for the prestigious Top Gun trophy.
Decades later, Top Gun is also getting a sequel, Top Gun: Maverick.
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Casual fans may not know that the action flick, which spawned a blockbuster global franchise made up of eight films (with two more on the way!) and the spin-off Hobbs and Shaw, first emerged from a Vibe write-up on ’90s street racing culture: “Racer X,” by Kenneth Li.
Shattered Glass (2003)
Buzz Bissinger’s Vanity Fair profile of the same name, which centered on disgraced The New Republic journalist Stephen Glass, led to Billy Ray’s star-studded drama. Hayden Christensen stars as the hotshot reporter who churred out wildly popular pieces for the magazine that ranged from outrageous to hard-hitting — until rival journalist Charles Lane (Peter Sarsgaard) began looking into their accuracy, only to discover they were completely fabricated.
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Speaking of fiction presented as a true story… the pulsating cinematic spectacle Saturday Night Fever came to be following the publication of New York magazine’s “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” by Nik Cohn.
But the lively illustration of New York’s disco subculture through the eyes of a troubled Brooklyn dancer (played by John Travolta in the film) was later revealed to be a story sprung from Cohn’s imagination.
“My story was a fraud,” he confessed to the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper in 1994. “I’d only just arrived in New York. Far from being steeped in Brooklyn street life. I hardly knew the place.”
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Jean-Marc Vallée’s poignant drama, which earned Oscars for stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, was drawn from the remarkable NPR story “The Dallas Cowboy Behind The Real ‘Buyers Club,’” by Elizabeth Blair.
The ’80s-set piece explores the life of Ron Woodroof (portrayed by McConaughey), a man with AIDS who smuggled experimental drugs into the U.S. at a time when limited treatments for the illness were available.
The Bling Ring (2013)
Nancy Jo Sales’s Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” spawned Sofia Coppola’s darkly comedic film exploring the sordid side of celeb-obsessed youth culture and the lengths a group of carefree teens went to in order to snatch up pieces of their favorite stars’ coveted wardrobes.
Boogie Nights (1997)
The Los Angeles porn industry serves as the backdrop for Paul Thomas Anderson’s ’70s set film, and the filmmaker has credited the Rolling Stone article “The Devil and John Holmes,” by Mike Sager, with prompting him to explore the complex world. The piece sheds light on the titular porn star’s battle with drug addiction and his involvement in the 1981 Wonderland murders.