Sometimes fictional drama simply can't compete with reality. There are reasons why movies based on actual events are so popular. Having said that, actual events also don't always cooperate in taking place in the best possible way to make a great movie. This means that the story we get on the big screen is rarely perfectly accurate, some details or characters always go through changes, and that's what some people are saying happened to a major character in Ford v Ferrari.
The new movie, which is currently being showered with awards attention, deals with the attempt by the Ford Motor Company's attempt to build a car that can win the 24 hours at Le Mans road race, and while the underdog story is quite real, some have come out and said that the depiction of one character, Leo Beebe, played by Josh Lucas, is not.
While the ultimate goal of Ford v Ferrari might be the battle between the two auto companies, most of the actual film is about the battle between Caroll Shelby with his friend Ken Miles, and the auto company that hired them, but may not completely trust them to do the job. The major antagonist of the film is the character of Leo Beebe, an executive within the Ford Motor Company who was a real person, but not the type of person the movie portrays, according to those who knew him.
In the film, Leo Beebe is never a fan of Shelby or Miles and takes whatever opportunities he has to actively sabotage their chances of winning. That's not the man that Ed Cloues knew. Cloues served on a board with Beebe and told the Philadelphia Inguirer that Beebe was actually quite the opposite person, somebody who pushed people to be the best.
I’ve dealt with a lot of people in the business world, and there’s nobody I hold in higher regard than Leo Beebe. He was tough, but a gem of a person. I call him a human engineer. He understood how to get the best out of people, and how to motivate people.
It certainly would not have been the first time that a real life person was made out to be more of a villain than they actually were. The simple fact is that if there's nobody creating conflict with the main characters, then there simply isn't much of a movie. Leo Beebe was chosen for that role, regardless of whether or not it was really accurate.
And it's not too surprising to see why Leo Beebe was the one chosen for the role of antagonist. While the historical record regarding the famous race is a bit murky to say the least, there is evidence that Beebe and Ken Miles did clash, and it was Beebe's idea to have Miles slow down during the 1966 race at Le Mans so that the Ford cars could finish in a tie, which ultimately led to Miles losing the race, however accidentally.
But it's also understandable why those who knew Leo Beebe would take issue with the way he is presented in the film. For those who don't know anything about the actual event, Ford v. Ferrari will become the "true story" in many ways for a lot of people, and that means people will see Beebe as a bad guy when his friends say that simply wasn't the case. As former NFL player turned entrepreneur Ron Jaworski put it...
I went to a couple of his seminars, and learned a lot. One thing that Leo said that I always carry with me: ‘Do what you tell people you’re going to do.’ Sounds simple, but it’s great advice.
Reality is always going to be modified by a Hollywood lens when it ends up on the big screen. Changing the past doesn't make a "true story" movie inherently bad, but it is certainly good to know where the Hollywood version makes changes so that people know what the real story actually is.