The Other Side of Hollywood: 7 Movies Inspired by the Real Life L.A. Crime Cases
The Other Side of Hollywood: 7 Movies Inspired by the Real Life L.A. Crime Cases Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential and More Movies Inspired by Real-Life L.A. Crime Cases The Other Side of Hollywood: 7 Movies Inspired by the Real Life L.A. Crime Cases wicked city, true crime, los angeles crime, los angeles, black dahhlia, gorge reeves, jesse james hollywood, helter skelter, manson murders, sharon tate, michael mann, al pacino, robert deniro, la confidential, wonderland murders, black-dahlia-la-confidential-los-angeles-true-crime Sometimes Hollywood turns to real-life incidents to inspire its latest movies about Los Angeles’ criminal underbelly Tune in to a few reruns of Law & Order and the odds are good that you’ll catch one of the “ripped from the headlines” episodes. Even though the show’s writers often built original ideas from the ground up, there’s something luridly appealing in a crime story based on events that happened in real life. How else to account for people’s interest in American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy working the O.J. Simpson murder trial into the upcoming American Crime Story?
As Halloween draws near, it’s interesting to keep in mind that sometimes the scariest of stories are ones that aren’t about monsters and supernatural dangers but the things actual people can do – and have done – to each other. More than a few of these stories have played out in Los Angeles – the city of dreams, the home of Hollywood and also the birthplace of noir. Here are some of the most memorable films to be inspired by real-life L.A. crime.
Helter Skelter (1976)
[IMAGE “1” “” “std” ]
What it’s about: Steve Railsback stars as Charles Manson, leader of the infamous Manson family, and George DiCenzo stars as Vincent Bugliosi, the L.A. County district attorney who successfully argued that Manson orchestrated the crimes. It’s based on Bugliosi’s book about the investigation into the Manson murders, which remains one of the best-selling true crime books in history.
The story was adapted again, with Bugliosi producing, in 2004 with Jeremy Davies as Manson, Bruno Kirby as Bugliosi and Clea DuVall as Manson family member Linda Kasabian (played by Texas Chainsaw Massacre star Marilyn Burns in the original.
The real story: On August 8, 1969, Manson’s followers murdered Sharon Tate and the four others at the actress’s Benedict Canyon mansion. The following night, more Manson followers as well as Manson himself murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca at the couple’s Los Feliz home. Manson and several of his followers were convicted on Jan. 25, 1971, and he’s been in prison ever since.
[IMAGE “2” “” “std” ]
What it’s about: A crew of thieves led by Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) hit up lucrative targets throughout the L.A. area. Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), a cop is determined to bring them to justice. The story behind Heat, directed by Michael Mann, had previously been adapted in 1989 as the TV movie L.A. Takedown, also directed by Mann.
The real story: Real-life police detective Chuck Adamson pursued serial heist perpetrator Neil McCauley throughout the mid-’60s, and the famous coffee date Pacino’s character has with De Niro’s actually happened in real life.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
[IMAGE “3” “” “std” ]
What it’s about: Three cops – Bud White (Russell Crowe), Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) and Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) – look into a mass murder at an L.A. diner and its possible connection to an operation that’s giving call girls like Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) plastic surgery to look like movie stars.
The real story: In the film, there’s discussion of Pearce’s character having given testimony about the Bloody Christmas incident, and that testimony ultimately led to the firing of his partner. That really happened: On December 25, 1951, seven young men were severely beaten by L.A. officers outside a bar near the city’s downtown. After a lengthy investigation by the LAPD, eight officers were indicted and many more were punished for involvement in subsequent altercations that resulted from the initial incident.
[IMAGE “4” “” “std” ]
What it’s about: A criss-crossing crime drama centers around porn legend John Holmes (Val Kilmer) and features Lisa Kudrow, Kate Bosworth, Dylan McDemott, Carrie Fisher, Josh Lucas, Janeane Garofalo and even Paris Hilton playing all manner of characters spread across 1981 Los Angeles.
The real story: It’s believed that the quadruple homicide known as the Wonderland Murders or the “Four on the Floor” murders was retaliation by gangster Eddie Nash (played by Eric Bogosian in the film) against the Wonderland Gang, a group of Laurel Canyon drug dealers who had allegedly burglarized Nash’s home. Nash was never convicted of masterminding the attack, however.
In his book My Life With Liberace, Scott Thorson wrote that he witnessed Nash’s hired hands beating Holmes to get him to name the burglars. Holmes also allegedly left a door unlatched that allowed the Wonderland Gang into Nash’s home. A scene in Boogie Nights was also inspired by the Wonderland Murders.
The Black Dahlia (2006)
[IMAGE “5” “” “std” ]
What it’s about: Based on James Elroy’s 1987 novel of the same name, this Brian de Palma noir thriller explores the investigation into the murder of Elizabeth Short, who in 1947 was found dead in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles and subsequently given the nickname "The Black Dahlia" in the press. Mia Kirshner plays Short in the film, but the leads include Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart as police detectives looking into her murder, Scarlett Johansson as Eckhart’s girlfriend and Hilary Swank as a socialite with mysterious ties to the case.
Short’s story was also explored in Who Is the Black Dahlia?, a 1975 TV movie starring Lucie Arnaz; True Confessions, a Robert De Niro-Robert Duvall movie written by John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion. The first season of American Horror Story also features Mena Survari as the ill-fated Short.
The real story: Though many adaptations have attempted to solve the crime, in real life, Short’s murder remains officially unsolved. That fact makes all these fictionalized attempts to explain her murder ring a little hollow, doesn’t it?
[IMAGE “6” “” “std” ]
What it’s about: Ben Affleck stars as George Reeves, the actor who played the title role on the 1950s TV series The Adventures of Superman and who died of a gunshot wound on June 16, 1959, in his Benedict Canyon home. Adrien Brody plays a fictional detective trying to determine whether Reeves was murdered, committed suicide or died as the result of an accident. Among the potential suspects are Reeve’s fiancée (Robin Tunney), his lover Toni Mannix (Diane Lane) and Toni’s studio exec husband (Bob Hoskins).
The real story: Reeves’ death was ruled a suicide, but to this day, there are those who claim other theories. Hollywood publicist Edward Lozzi would eventually declare that Toni Mannix made a deathbed confession about she and her husband having ordered Reeves to be killed.
Alpha Dog (2006)
[IMAGE “7” “” “std” ]
What it’s about: Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) leads a gang of drug dealers who try to collect a debt and end up instead kidnapping the debtor’s young brother, Jake (Anton Yelchin), from his home in the West Hills area of Los Angeles. The gang members treat Jake somewhat kindly, and he bonds in particular with member Frankie (Justin Timberlake). Jake subsequently doesn’t take multiple opportunities to escape, and is eventually shot to death by gang member Elvis (Shawn Hatosy).
The real story: Following the murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz, Jesse James Hollywood (the inspiration for Hirsch’s character), fled to Brazil and remained one of the most sought-after American fugitives until his capture in 2005. In 2010, Hollywood was sentenced to life in prison. Ryan Hoyt (the inspiration for Hatosy’s character), is on death row.
Unlike other true crime stories on this list, Alpha Dog hit theaters shortly after the real-life events occurred. Santa Barbara County deputy district attorney Ron Zonen, who had prosecuted other members of Hollywood’s gang, worked as an unpaid consultant for the film and might have prosecuted Hollywood as well had Hollywood’s lawyer not objected. In the end, the California Supreme Court ruled that Zonen could prosecute the case, but a different deputy district attorney eventually stepped in. Furthermore, Markowitz’s parents accused Alpha Dog of glamorizing the events around their son’s murder.