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Films >> People vs. Larry Flynt, The (1996) >>

Despite claims from the writers and Flynt that the film is an honest and objective look at Flynt's life, this webpage portrays the countless fabrications and inaccuracies resulting in the alteration of history. Some the major fictitious aspects include: the nature of the material in Hustler (it is much more explicit in reality); the fairytale love story with Althea (she was actually his fourth wife, whom Flynt allegedly fired a gun at and beat); Alan Isaacman's involvement in his life (Flynt has actually had several different lawyers); the portrayal of the Conservative figures (Keating has never had any involvement with Flynt and met Falwell once); Flynt's children (he did not have any in the movie, but in real life, he has four children, one who claims to have been sexually abused as a child); and Flynt's resolution to take the Falwell case to court (the movie shows Flynt seeking retribution after Althea dies of AIDS, hearing Falwell's AIDS is a plague speech, while, in reality, he took the case to court before he even found out that Althea had the virus).

The People vs. Larry Flynt was written by college roommates Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who recalled witnessing several of Flynt's bizarre stories make the front page of the L.A. Times in 1983. They remember several instances: "he's running for President. . . he's got stolen FBI surveillance tapes . . . he's suing Caspar Weinberger . . . he's wearing a diaper in a courtroom. We laughed our heads off" (Alexander viii). Ten years later, the writers remembered Flynt's various undertakings and aspired to write a screenplay about his extraordinary life. Columbia Pictures applauded the idea, cheerfully declaring, "It's a Capra movie with porn! Don't take it anywhere else, we're buyin it! and Oliver Stone, similarly impressed, agreed to collaborate. Alexander and Karaszewskis's research involved tracking down each issue of Hustler, thousands of articles published about him, court transcripts, and past associates of Flynt. The writers claim, "We weren't out to glorify him -- we just wanted to tell his story (Alexander x).

Interestingly, they also explain how the explicit pornography was diffused in the film: "One, porno is presented as almost silly, so ridiculous its not worth getting upset over. And two, the nastiest images and ideas are always played off-screen while we focus on people's comic reactions" (Alexander x). This diffusion of the pornography encompasses the most prominent deception in the film. It encourages ignorance about the potentially harmful content of Hustler because people think they are seeing the truth about what is being protected by the First Amendment. Nevertheless, after the script was completed, world-class filmmaker Milos Forman agreed to direct the movie.

Forman, however, had different plans regarding the rationale of the film. He was not nearly as interested in Larry Flynt or Hustler as he was in the freedoms legitimized by the American legal system. Growing up under two totalitarian regimes, he witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of censorship. Forman illustrates how both organizations started with crusades against those they classified as perverts: pornographers, homosexuals, Jews, and blacks and "As time went by, the list. . . included Shakespeare, Jesus Christ, Mark Twain, and William Faulkner" (Foreword, Flynt xv). Forman's purpose was to make a movie dedicated to his hero, the Supreme Court Justice System, which he believed would not fall victim to such atrocities.

The result is a movie made by two writers who are fascinated by the life of Flynt and one director who is enamored with the American Justice system. The differences between the reel and the real are vast, but what can you expect from writers who state, "Real life and movies have nothing to do with each other" (Alexander xii), and a director who once claimed, "You don't have to be faithful to the facts. History has to be faithful to the facts. Drama has to be faithful to the spirit of the facts" (DeWitt).

Works Consulted:

Alexander, Scott, and Larry Karaszewski. The Shooting Script: The People vs. Larry Flynt. New York: Newmarket Press, 1996.

De Witt, Karen. "Don't Cry for Them; Once Villainous, Now Virtuous." New York Times 22 December 1996: 4.10.

Flynt, Larry, with Kenneth Ross. An Unseemly Man. Los Angeles: Dove Books, 1996.