JR Moehringer, the former LAT reporter whose story is the basis of Resurrecting The Champ, took issue with one of our posts (Actually, he called it “wrong, dead wrong, and libelous”). The post in question took issue with Dana Parsons.
Since everyone has issues, we asked Moehringer to air some of his. Instead, he send us some thoughtful responses:
Q. Did you have any say in the how the film portrays the journalist character? And did you worry that people would mix you up with the fictional journalist?
A: I had no say in how the film portrays anyone. Zero. Which was fitting, because this film isn’t my story. It uses my story as a starting point, a framework, to tell a very different story, about a very different kind of reporter.
Of course I initially hoped to have lots of say. When I first sold the story 10 years ago, I asked to write the screenplay. Studio execs said no. They already had a screenwriter in mind. Also, they knew I’d be wedded to the facts, which they felt were not conducive to high drama. Maybe they were right. Reporter on the phone for five hours? Reporter reading a book about boxing? Such scenes might please journalists, but for a movie, I guess, you need a little more pizazz. The studio felt the reporter character needed to be juiced up, and I sympathize. Ask my friends. I’m boring.
I never worried about a mix-up, because whenever I watch a film I know that “based on a true story” can mean anything. Not long ago I saw that Adam Sandler comedy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Someone told me it was based on a true story. I thought that claim was the funniest thing about the movie.
Also, so much about Resurrecting the Champ is obviously fictionalized. It’s based on a story by J.R. Moehringerâ€”but the protagonist isn’t named J.R. Moehringer. I trust that sends a loud and clear message to audiences right off the bat: License has been taken, facts have been altered. Also, the newspaper where I worked, the names of my bosses and coworkers, the essentials of my bio (I don’t have a wife and son), the location of the story, even the real name of the homeless boxer â€”- it’s all changed. So I assume audiences understand: Hollywood equals fiction.