Is Scarface based on a true story? 10 things you probably did not know about the film

Is Scarface based on a true story? 10 things you probably did not know about the film

When you mention classic gangster movies, Scarface is a name that is bound to come up. The film is a cult classic, especially in hip hop, where it has received various references and acknowledgment. Yet, despite its commercial success, not many fans know the story behind the film. So, who was Scarface? And is Scarface based on a true story?

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Is Scarface based on a true story
The cover art of Scarface 1983. Photo: @brownsugartalk on Twitter (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Scarface is an epic criminal thriller directed by Brian De Palma and written by Oliver Stone. It was released in 1983 and is a rough reproduction of the 1932 picture and a 1929 novel of the same name. The film's protagonist, Tony Montana, is a Cuban exile who arrives homeless in Miami during the Mariel boatlift and transforms into a powerful and incredibly lethal drug king.

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Is Scarface based on a true story?

Is Scarface real? It is not entirely true. According to AMC, Scarface is based on a similar-named flick from 1932. In the original film, the main character, Tony Camonte, is a crime lord who terrorizes Chicago just like Al Capone did during the Prohibition era. Al Capone was a legendary crime leader who operated in Chicago from 1920 to 1933. But if you want to learn more about the film, check out these ten unknown facts about it.

1. It's a remake of an old-school gangster classic

What was the original Scarface? According to Britannica, the film is based on a 1932 gangster film, The Shame of a Nation. The 1932 film is loosely based on the life of American mobster Al Capone.

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The Shame of a Nation's synopsis is about the life and crimes of an ambitious gangster, Tony Camonte. Camonte systematically assassinates his enemies to rise to the top of Chicago's gangland hierarchy.

2. Tony Montana was loosely based on Al Capone

Is Scarface based on a true story
Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in a scene posing with a gun. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives
Source: Getty Images

Is Scarface based on Al Capone? Yes, but not entirely. Despite the striking similarities between Montana and Capone, the pair are distinguishable. Tony Montana was a Miami-based crime lord, while Al Capone ruled the city of Chicago.

Who was the real-life Scarface? Al Capone is believed to be the real-life Scarface due to a scar he had on his face. Al received his famous nickname after getting into a bar fight in 1917, leaving him with a scar on his face.

3. Oliver Stone's inspiration for Tony's name was NFL-related

William Oliver Stone is a screenwriter, producer, and director from the United States best known for remaking Scarface. He is renowned for introducing the character Tony Montana. But do you know where the screenwriter got the name Tony Montana from?

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According to Screen Rant, Oliver was inspired by his favourite football player, former NFL quarterback Joe Montana. The screenwriter liked Montana so much that he incorporated his name into his character.

4. Scarface was filmed in many locations

Where was Scarface filmed? According to Lat Long, the flick was shot in West Hollywood, Santa Barbara, Beverly Hills, Miami Beach, and New York City.

Much of the film was shot in Los Angeles after the Miami Tourist Board denied the Scarface producers a permit to film there. The board rejected filming applications because it feared the film's themes of dr*gs and criminality would deter tourists from visiting the area.

5. The dr*gs used in the film were not real

What dr*gs were used in Scarface? Coca*ne was the drug of choice of the Montana Cartel. However, according to IMDb, the coke used in the film was supposedly powdered milk.

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Tony Montana and Elvira were frequent dr*g users, and their excessive usage of the harmful stimulant ultimately led to their downfall in the movie.

6. Steven Spielberg directed a single shot

According to Screen Rant, Steven Spielberg supervised the scene where there was a raid on Tony Montana's home. The talented director captured the scene using a low-angle shot of the assailants entering Tony's residence using grappling hooks.

7. The film has a lot of swearing

Is Scarface based on a true story
American actor Al Pacino is posing on the set of Scarface. Photo: Universal Pictures
Source: Getty Images

How many F words are there in Scarface? According to IMDb, the flick has 207 uses of the "F" word, which works out to about 1.21 F-bombs per minute.

8. Pfeiffer's casting was controversial

American actress Pfeiffer played the role of Al Pacino's wife, Elvira. However, she wasn't originally considered for the role. According to Cheat Sheet, Pfeiffer's casting as Elvira caused controversy because of her fame. The actress wasn't well known in the 1980s as she had only featured in several low-ranking movies. However, she landed the position after passing the screen test.

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9. Al Pacino was not originally considered for the role

According to Complex, despite Al Pacino having the concept for the remake, it was not a guarantee that he would star in it. Instead, Robert De Niro was first approached for the role of Tony Montana but declined.

10. The chainsaw scene was based on a real-life event

You might have been shocked by the chainsaw scene if you watched the flick. In the scene, a Colombian drug dealer, Hector the Toad, tries to intimidate Tony by dismembering his Cuban associate, Angel, with a chainsaw. So, was the horrific scene real?

According to AMC, Screenwriter Oliver Stone gained access to FBI and DEA data while researching the script. As a result, he discovered information on the extent of gang violence and torture.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Is Scarface based on a true story? The flick is loosely based on the same-named 1932 film. Tony Camonte, the main character, is modelled by iconic mafioso Al Capone, one of the most prominent criminal lords in mob history.
  2. Is the real Tony Montana still alive? According to Norm, the real Tony Montana died on 18 April 2019. However, he was nothing like the movie version, as he was a low-profile mob associate.
  3. Who was the real Scarface in Miami? According to Ranker, Carlos "Carlene" Quesada, a Cuban immigrant who came to prominence in the 1980s Miami drug underworld, was the real-life Scarface. Quesada is believed to have made $3 million from coca*ne trafficking, which he began in 1969.
  4. Is Scarface based on Al Capone? Unfortunately, the film was not entirely based on the life of Al Capone. Instead, it is a rendition of a 1932 film of the same name.
  5. Does the Scarface house still exist? Yes, it does. According to Sacbee, the mansion is now on the market for $39.99 million in Montecito, California.
  6. What was the original Scarface? The original Scarface came out in 1932 and is known as The Shame of a Nation.

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Is Scarface based on a true story? Yes, it is but not entirely. Despite the flick having similar references to the life of Al Capone, it has a different storyline. Tony built his empire from nothing similar to Capone but died after being gunned down. Capone, however, got caught and served time in prison before getting released and succumbed to dementia caused by syphilis.

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