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10 Strange Times When Reality Mirrored Hollywood

by Radu Alexander
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Many things that we see in movies and TV shows strain credulity. And why wouldn’t they? After all, one of the main benefits of Hollywood is that it can take artistic licenses with its stories to make them more exciting. It provides an alternative full of intrigue, murder, and sex which is far removed from the general tedium of everyday life.

Other times, though, Hollywood is far more prophetic than intended. People, things, and stories meant to be entirely fictional find their way into reality. Star Trek is downright sibylline given that it featured many technologies (wireless headsets, cell phones, video calls) which today are commonplace.

A recent example comes courtesy of Breaking Bad and the real-life Walter White from Alabama who got busted for cooking meth. And there are plenty more examples when truth imitates fiction.

Featured image credit: The Telegraph

10 House Of Cards Predicts Thatcher’s Downfall

Photo credit: The Telegraph

Before Kevin Spacey’s fall from grace, House of Cards was one of the most successful shows in the world. However, a large chunk of its fandom probably wasn’t aware that House of Cards first started as a British show which aired in 1990. That show was based on a book by Michael Dobbs.

The main character of the original show is Francis Urquhart, a ruthless politician who first claws his way toward becoming leader of the Conservative Party and then to the position of prime minister. All of this happens after Margaret Thatcher loses the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1990. However, both the book and the UK series came out before that occurred in real life.

Michael Dobbs wrote the novel in 1989. The show premiered 10 days before Thatcher bid farewell to 10 Downing Street. And although Dobbs had no way of knowing that Britain’s politics would closely mirror those in his novel, he did write the book with the intention of wounding Thatcher. After all, he had served as an adviser to her party since 1977.[1]

From 1986 to 1987, Dobbs served as Thatcher’s chief of staff before being dismissed. He still had an axe to grind, and the very first thing he knew about his book was that the main character would have the initials F.U. This is a trait shared by Urquhart and his American counterpart, Frank Underwood.

9 Dexter Murder Scene Almost Causes Real Murder Scene

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This one gets extra points because the person who almost recreated the event in real life was the same person responsible for its Hollywood version. Back in 2008, Dexter was among the top shows on television. It was a series where the main character, usually portrayed in a positive light, was a serial killer. In turn, this led to many real-life murderers who claimed to have at least been partly inspired by the show.

Arguably, its most dramatic brush with reality happened while filming the third season. It introduced Miguel Prado, a new character played by Jimmy Smits, who was Dexter’s friend and then his foe.

During one episode, Dexter “shared” a kill with Miguel and even let him deal the final blow. In the show, Miguel picked up a knife and plunged it into the heart of his victim. In real life, Jimmy Smits accidentally picked up a real blade instead of a prop knife and almost killed stuntman Jeff Chase.

Chase was restrained with Saran wrap and had his mouth taped with duct tape. So he was powerless to avoid or prevent Smits from stabbing him. Fortunately for everyone involved, the actor hit a piece of plastic that the stuntman was wearing for safety. However, the plastic was about the size of a Post-it note and Smits had missed it 8 out of 10 times during rehearsals.[2]

8 What Are Friends For?

Photo credit: CBS News

In 1989, Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman starred in the comedy Weekend at Bernie’s. They played two insurance execs who were parading around with their boss’s dead body while trying to convince everyone that he was still alive. Fast-forward 20 years, and a similar thing happened in Manhattan.

Virgilio Cintron was a 66-year-old man who spent most of his life in Hell’s Kitchen. One day, his roommate, James O’Hare, walked in on him and found Cintron dead on the bed.

This would have been a good time to call the deceased’s family or the police, but O’Hare thought it best to try and cash his buddy’s $355 Social Security check. He called up another friend, David Dalaia. Together, they dressed Cintron, put him in an office chair, and wheeled him down the streets of Manhattan.

At one point, the threesome rolled past a diner where NYPD Detective Travis Rapp was having lunch. At first glance, he thought that it was a joke and that Cintron was a dummy or a mannequin. After closer observation, the officer realized that the two men were dragging around a real corpse. He approached them as they reached the store.

At first, O’Hare and Dalaia tried to convince Rapp that they were simply helping their friend cash his check. However, paramedics arrived and declared that Cintron had been dead for 12 hours. Afterward, the duo feigned shock and dismay at their friend’s demise but were still arrested. They were charged with improper burial and larceny.[3]

7 What Goes Up

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By far, the most memorable moment from Pixar’s 2009 animated movie Up was the sight of Carl’s house being lifted into the sky by thousands of balloons. It’s not surprising that, eventually, someone thought it would be a good idea to try it in real life.

In 2015, Calgary businessman Dan Boria thought this technique would make a great publicity stunt to promote his cleaning company, All Clean Natural. He didn’t use a house, of course, just a $20 lawn chair attached to 100 giant helium balloons. Boria’s plan was to use air currents to float and then skydive into the Calgary Stampede rodeo while an airplane banner with his company logo was soaring above him.[4]

Calgary weather didn’t feel like cooperating that day, and Boria got blown off course. While still 1.6 kilometers (1 mi) away from the rodeo, he had to make an emergency landing. Boria crashed in some prickly bushes and broke his foot. Luckily for him, local authorities were there to treat his injuries—and then arrest him for mischief causing danger to life.

The judge wasn’t amused by Boria’s stunt, particularly because he chose an area with commercial air traffic. He was fined $26,500 in addition to the $20,000 cost to produce the caper. When people brought up similarities to the Pixar movie, Boria denied any connections, claiming to have never seen the movie.

6 Who Wants To Be A Slumdog Millionaire?

Photo credit: BBC

Sleeper hit Slumdog Millionaire won over both critics and audiences and left with eight Oscars at the 2009 Academy Awards. The rags-to-riches story resonated with many viewers, and quite a few of them left the cinema thinking that it was based on a true story.

In fact, the movie was loosely based on a 2005 novel called Q & A by Vikas Swarup. When Slumdog Millionaire was released, nobody had ever won the grand prize on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

It wasn’t until three years later that Sushil Kumar took home the $1 million as 27 million Indians watched him on television. Like the movie’s protagonist, Jamal Malik, Sushil came from a very humble background.

While he didn’t live in the slums, he worked as a clerk in a small town in one of India’s poorest states and made $100 a month. The similarities branded Kumar as the “real slumdog millionaire” in the media, although he managed to avoid the film’s main conflict and was never accused of cheating.[5]

5 Cartel Show Scout Falls Victim To Cartel-Style Killing

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Narcos is one of Netflix’s biggest successes and covers the actions of multiple drug cartels. After the first two seasons told the story of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, the third season moved to Mexico and showed the struggles of the DEA going against the violent Cali Cartel.

Obviously, with the change of scenery, the show was looking for new locations. So they sent 37-year-old scout Carlos Munoz Portal to hunt for good places to film. Just a few hours after he set off, Munoz Portal was found dead in his car near the border between Mexico state and Hidalgo.

Munoz had been shot several times. His car had bullet holes and had crashed into a cactus, suggesting that the scout was trying to flee pursuers at the time of his death.[6]

Nobody has been connected to his murder. However, authorities strongly suspect cartel involvement given the huge number of violent crimes committed in Mexico state by multiple cartels, which seem to operate with impunity.

The murder has elicited responses from Pablo Escobar’s brother and son. Both men warned Netflix officials that they have to step up security protocols if they plan to film in cartel country.

Sebastian Marroquin, Escobar’s son who is now an anti-violence activist, cautions the show’s producers that Cali Cartel members watch Narcos and don’t like that they are publicized all over the world, especially in stories that are not true.

4 Failed Seinfeld Scam Fails In Real Life, Too

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Kramer from Seinfeld was always involved in a get-rich-quick scheme that generally blew up in his face. In the 1996 episode “The Bottle Deposit,” he and Newman planned to take advantage of Michigan’s generous 10-cent deposit return for bottles and cans by hauling a truckload of containers over state lines. In the end, the duo got sidetracked and never made it out of New York.

If Kramer would have succeeded, he could have potentially doubled his profits. But he would have also broken the law. That’s a lesson that Brian Everidge learned firsthand in 2016. A Michigan local, Everidge traveled to Kentucky and returned with a truck filled with 10,000 cans and bottles. He was pulled over for speeding and arrested after officers discovered his haul.[7]

Michigan has been defrauded for millions of dollars in the more than 30 years since introducing the highest container refund in the country. As a result, authorities do not take kindly to those who take advantage of the state’s recycling laws. Everidge was given a hefty fine that overshadowed the $1,000 he would have made if his plan had worked out.

3 From Ghana To America And Back Again

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Coming to America was a romantic comedy released in 1988. Eddie Murphy plays an African prince who travels to New York to find a wife who loves him for him, not for his wealth and status. To achieve this, he assumes the persona of a poor foreign student and takes a menial job at a fast-food restaurant.

Around the time of the movie’s release, Isaac Osei first met Elizabeth Otolizz at the restaurant he owned in Harlem. Both worked as taxi drivers and kept running into each other at taxi stands.

A romance developed, and they married in 1995. With their business thriving, the pair managed to build a small taxi empire. However, the couple encountered an unexpected curveball in 2006 when Isaac was called to Ghana to assume the role of chief of the Akwamu people.[8]

As it turned out, Isaac Osei was descended from a royal family. However, as one of 19 children, he never expected to become chief, which is why he came to America to find his own way. After his older brother died in 2006, Isaac was called on to assume the title of chief.

Since then, every summer, he and Elizabeth travel to Ghana to fulfill his royal obligations. There, he is known as Nana Gyensare V and holds domain over five towns. He lives in a 10-room palace and is the guest of honor at a 1,000-person banquet where Isaac blesses the yam harvest. Afterward, the couple returns to New York and resumes their regular life looking after their taxi business.

2 Hacker Caught Salami Slicing Superman-Style

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There is a certain computer scam known colloquially as “salami slicing” which involves stealing large sums of money in tiny increments to make them undetectable. In Hollywood, this technique was first displayed in Superman III by Richard Pryor’s Gus Gorman.

He hacked into his company’s computer system and diverted a half-cent from every employee to himself, resulting in a tidy $85,000 bonus. In the end, he got caught after arriving to work in a new Ferrari.

More recently, it was used as the central plot in Mike Judge’s cult hit Office Space. The movie’s protagonists are three IT workers who infected their company’s accounting system with a virus designed to steal the penny rounded up from every $0.99 transaction. However, their plan also failed after a bug in the virus’s code caused the program to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in a few days.

Undeterred by the scheme’s failure in both movies, a 22-year-old hacker from California named Michael Largent tried his own variation of “salami slicing.” He took advantage of financial companies that performed micro-deposits to link a new account to an existing bank account.

Largent wrote a program which created 58,000 dummy accounts to sign up for these services. The small deposits made for each one went into his own bank account or prepaid debit cards.[9]

In the end, Largent was also caught, in part because he used fake names from pop culture, including the characters from Office Space. He made over $50,000 from the scam but was ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution. He was also sentenced to 15 months in prison.

1 Real Body Found On Set For Serial Killer Drama

Photo credit: The Independent

In September 2017, the cast and crew of BBC’s new serial killer show Rellik turned up on location at Cambridge Heath Park in London to shoot a scene involving a dead body. When they arrived at their destination, they were turned away by the real police who were already investigating their own corpse found in the same place.

Given that this happened only 10 days after the show premiered, skeptics were quick to decry it as a publicity stunt. But this notion was shut down by authorities. No other details or developments have been announced in the investigation of the real death.

Actor Paterson Joseph said the strange coincidences did not stop there. The show’s lead actor, Richard Dormer, developed a skin infection called impetigo which resulted in his face being covered in blemishes and blotches. This mirrored his character, whose face is scarred from an acid attack.[10]


For more true stories that could have come from Hollywood, check out 10 True Stories That Could Have Come Straight From Hollywood and 10 Audacious Historical Heists Fit For Hollywood.

fact checked by Jamie Frater