A Classic Leonardo DiCaprio True Story Movie Is Actually A Bunch Of Lies? 

The Leonardo DiCaprio movie Catch Me If You Can is loosely based on an autobiography that is made up of a bunch of lies.

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

Everyone has a favorite Steven Spielberg movie, and for many fans, it’s the hit 2002 film Catch Me If You Can. That movie featured Leonardo DiCaprio portraying a man named Frank Abagnale Jr., a real ex-con that had a legendary history of criminal exploits before he turned over a new leaf and began working to help law enforcement and private businesses foil criminals. Part of the fun of the movie is seeing DiCaprio bring Abagnale Jr.’s crimes to life, but now the New York Post is reporting that the con man’s legendary history may be mostly made up of lies and exaggerations.

The Leonardo DiCaprio film Catch Me If You Can (which memorably starred Tom Hanks) is based on a book of the same name, and this is where things get weird. While the real Frank Abagnale Jr. is nominally a co-author of the book, it seems that most of it was written by the other co-author, Stan Redding. Redding wasn’t afraid to exaggerate the exploits of this former con man in order to create a good story.

In turn, the movie adaptation took some liberties with the original book, so the onscreen exploits that fans love to cheer on already have several degrees of separation from the real life and criminal career of Abagnale Jr.

However, long before Leonardo DiCaprio played this famous ex-con on screen, it looks like Frank Abagnale Jr. had no problem lying and exaggerating all on his own. For example, he previously claimed that he had pretended to be a sociology professor at Brigham Young University, a doctor in Marietta, Georgia, and a lawyer working for the attorney general in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, all while cashing bogus checks that added up to a staggering sum of $2.5 million.

But not only did he never pull off these high-profile impersonations, but in order to cash that many checks in that time period (when he wasn’t in jail, that is), Abagnale Jr. would have had to cash 40 checks per day, which sounds more than a bit unrealistic.

leonardo dicaprio

It’s important to note that while both Frank Abagnale Jr. and Stan Redding exaggerated or even lied about some of these criminal exploits, some of the events were true or at least had a germ of truth to them. For example, he really did impersonate a TWA pilot, which lines up with the most iconic Catch Me If You Can imagery where a handsome Leonardo DiCaprio smoothly pretends to be a pilot.

But some of his petty crime during this time really goes against the character you see in the movie, including the time he stalked a flight attendant and then swindled her family.

What does all of this mean for fans who love to watch Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can? If we’re being honest, it shouldn’t really change much: as we noted before, the movie was an exaggeration based on a book of exaggerations, so it was never going to be an unvarnished biography of the real Frank Abagnale Jr. (you might as well expect something authentic from that Ant-Man autobiography).

Incidentally, if we ever get an unvarnished biography of DiCaprio’s own life, we hope there’s an explanation for why he can never date any woman older than 25 (we’re not gonna lie, Leo, it’s getting kind of weird when even the Washington state government is calling you out).