By all accounts, The Hurricane, director Norman Jewison’s biography of wrongly imprisoned boxer Rubin ’Hurricane’ Carter, is a proficient piece of filmmaking. It boasts a taut script, gritty photography and a bravura performance by Denzel Washington as Carter.
By all accounts, The Hurricane, director Norman Jewison’s biography
of wrongly imprisoned boxer Rubin ’Hurricane’ Carter, is a proficient
piece of filmmaking. It boasts a taut script, gritty photography and a
bravura performance by Denzel Washington as Carter.
It also takes more than its share of liberties with the truth, which has
led to a PR migraine for Jewison and producers Armyan Bernstein and John
The problems revolve around Hurricane’s revisionist take on Carter’s
life. According to the movie, Carter was stalked by a monstrous police
officer, who framed him for a triple homicide that landed him in jail
for 19 years; racist fight judges cost Carter a middleweight title bout;
and three Canadian social workers - who the cop later tried to kill -
were largely responsible for securing a retrial.
In reality, no such police officer existed, and most everyone thought
that boxer Joey Giardello defeated Carter cleanly. And while the
Canadian trio helped with Carter’s legal efforts, they played a less
pivotal role than New York Times scribe Selwyn Raab, lawyer Lewis Steel
and co-defendant John Artis. The film also overlooks Carter’s criminal
past (four years in prison for three muggings).
Bernstein and Jewison have been scrambling to ensure that the hullabaloo
doesn’t wound the film’s box-office fortune - through Feb. 7, it had
earned dollars 37.5 million in the US - or its Oscar chances. They’ve
written an op-ed piece for The Los Angeles Times, given interviews to
anyone who will listen and posted a response to a recent New York Times
piece written by Raab (which executive producer Rudy Langlais calls ’an
old-fashioned lynching’) on the film’s web site, www.the-hurricane.com
Of course, an earlier notice on Universal’s site, billing Hurricane as
’the true story of an innocent man’s 20-year fight for justice’ has
Bernstein has a ready-made answer for each of the criticisms. Why invent
a hateful character like the cop? ’(He was) a composite of the system
that convicted Rubin Carter.’ And passing over Carter’s second
’The whole story would have taken us five or six hours to tell.’
As for the Oscars, entertainment PR pros don’t think the controversy
will prove an issue. ’The revelations won’t hurt the film, since the
award is for artistic achievement and not for the faithful telling of a
story,’ says Baker Winokur Ryder’s Larry Winokur.
Adds publicist Tony Angellotti, who is directing the Oscar campaign for
The Talented Mr. Ripley, ’All kinds of decisions have to be made about
artistic license when a bazillion dollars are at stake. Otherwise, you
might as well just make documentaries.’