Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of famed director Ron, got off
One of my favorite Leonardo DiCaprio movies is Catch Me If You Can, in which he portrays serial imposter Frank Abagnale who posed as a PanAm pilot, a doctor from Georgia, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor all while committing a vast amount of check fraud. But Abagnale is far from the only impostor we’ve seen. Most recently the Rachel Dolezal case comes to mind. Here are a few of the most interesting impostors throughout history.
Colour Me Kubrick
Alan Conway came from a sketchy history involving theft and petty crime, he spent most of his youth in a halfway house. During the 90’s Conway convinced a LOT of people that he was the famous director Stanley Kubrick. How could a man pose as such a prolific filmmaker? By this time, the real Kubrick has mostly become a recluse and was nearing the end of his life. Conway would pose as a newly shaven Kubrick (the real one always sported a beard) and would promise exclusive interviews and parts in new movies in order to get free meals, money, and attention. Everything was going smoothly until Conway met, and duped, Frank Rich a famous Broadway critic. After finding out he had been conned, Rich contacted Warner Brothers, whom Kubrick was working with and found out the studio was aware of the con but didn’t know who the person was.
Rich and the studio told Kubrick about the man and to their surprise, Kubrick found it absolutely intriguing. With major help from Kubrick’s personal assistant, Conway was eventually found out. Anthony Frewin, the personal assistant, would later go on to write the film Colour Me Kubrick which put John Malkovich in the role of Alan Conway.
Laurel Rose Willson
Born in Washington and adopted as an infant, Willson grew up in a fairly normal setting until she claimed to be raised by Satanists. She had a penchant for music as a child which helped her attain a job as a piano player and vocalist for an evangelical church. She changed her name to Stratford and wrote 3 books detailing a horrific childhood involving the Church of Satan. In her books, she claimed to be used as a “baby breeder” who was used to produce babies for sacrifice. After her book, Satan’s Underground, gained popularity an investigation was pursued revealing her everything to be a fabrication. No baby breeding, no Satanists, nothing. Her adoptive parents came forward and express that Willson had suffered from mental illness and would often self-mutilate. Her cover was blown, she lost her job as a church musician and that was it. Until she changed her name yet again to “Grabowski” and pretended to be a Holocaust survivor.
Under the name Grabowski, she collected thousands in donations meant for real Holocaust survivors. During this charade, she met and befriended Binjamin Wilkomirski whom she claimed she remembered from Auschwitz. The tables were turned when Wilkomirski, whose real name was Bruno Grojean, was revealed to be a fraud. Because he was never actually a Holocaust survivor, Willson was found out and again exposed as a fraud shortly before her death in 2002.
Iron Eyes Cody, The Crying Indian
We’ve all seen the “Keep America Beautiful” PSA which features a Native American surveying all of the pollution and trash ravaging his once clean and beautiful country. A jerk throws a bag of trash out the window of their car, slathering the Chief in it and as he turns to the camera a single tear streams down his cheek.
But Iron Eyes Cody, the famous actor in this PSA, was not Native American at all. He was an American actor born in Louisiana from Sicilian parents who emigrated from Sicily to America under the surname “di Coti”. Iron Eyes was born Espera Oscar de Coti to Antonio and Francesca di Coti. As a young man, he and his brothers moved to Hollywood to start careers in the entertainment biz. He and his brothers changed their surname to Cody and it was off to the races of Iron Eyes. He went on to claim he was of Native American descent, specifically Cherokee-Cree and lived as such on and off screen. He was an avid supporter of Native American issues, married a Native American woman, and adopted two children of Native American descent. He appeared in over 200 movies and TV episodes all portraying a Native American. It wasn’t until 1996, that he was revealed to be primarily Italian by his half-sister, he would die untarnished in 1999.