In the movie, "Moneyball," the name of Billy Beane's assistant was fictionalized to "Peter Brand." Yet anyone who has read Michael Lewis' book knows that his real name was Paul dePodesta.

Mr. dePodesta withheld permission to use his real name because of several "shortcuts" the movie played with the facts, like the part about dropping in on a newly eligible player on Christmas Day. By doing so, he apparently "disassociated" himself from the movie.

Given that the movie was "based on a true story," what does changing Paul dePodesta's name do? In the Sound of Music, which was "based on a true story," the Captain and Maria retained their real names and identities, but the seven children were fictionalized. Why might that be?

1 Answer 1


By changing the name, the filmmakers are signaling that the character in the movie is not acting the way the real-life person acted.

It is not uncommon for historical fiction--which is basically what the "Moneyball" film is--to combine historical characters for narrative purposes, or to invent new characters to drive the plot. If you see a movie where Henry V stops to talk to Joe Welshman, a common soldier, before a battle, you assume that Henry V was at that battle, but you don't assume that the soldier is a historical person whose words with the king happened to be recorded on a nearby tape recorder.

So, if you watch a movie where some characters have real people's names, like Billy Beane, and others have invented names, like Peter Brand, you don't necessarily assume that Brand represents a one-to-one correspondence with one real person. More likely, his part represents things that were done by multiple people, or were done in a different way that is not as narratively convenient.

As you say, if you read the book, you will recognize the character--but you will also recognize the changes, and understand why the name was changed.

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