Nowadays, every film ends with some variation of the famous “fiction” disclaimer: “The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious blah, blah, blah”. But have you ever wondered what’s the story behind this statement?
Well, it all has to do with our beloved Russian peasant, Rasputin. The fiction disclaimer is in every movie because when the 1932 film Rasputin and the Empress came out, the Russian prince who killed Rasputin sued MGM for not accurately depicting Rasputin’s murder!
Here’s the story. (the article continues after the ad)
In 1916, Prince Felix Yusupov, agonizing over the influence charismatic Rasputin had over the czar (especially the czarina), called him over his house and shot him. Sixteen years later, in 1932, MGM released the film Rasputin and the Empress that was based on the real events.
But there was a problem.
When Yusupov saw the film, he argued that the audience will recognize him in the fictional assassin! And Yusupov wanted to be recognized because it was his chance to cash in on the book he recently wrote called Lost Splendor – The Amazing Memories Of The Man Who Killed Rasputin (Get it from Amazon).
Yusupov sued the studio, with the judge ruling in favor of the killer and forcing MGM to pay him around $125,000. In addition, MGM had to take the film out of circulation.
Because of this incident the film industry became extremely overcautious and slapped the “fiction” wording on almost… well, everything, even when the events were based on real persons. Who wants to pay for lawsuits anyway?