|Frank Abagnale Jr.|
He wasn't a criminal long, eventually being captured (a couple of times) by the FBI, and after serving some time in a US prison, he was released and began helping the FBI catch, well, people like him. He eventually opened his own anti-fraud company, and began the thing he'd always feared - respectable.
The book itself is well-crafted and full of a bunch of moments where you will find yourself going "No fucking way..." only to find out, yep, it really happened. There are a couple of sections in particular where you can't believe the absolute stones on this kid, his willingness to just keep on going, to double down on a lie when everyone else in their right mind would have either cracked or fled. It reads fast and has a certain sense of adventure to it, as if he were one step away from being Robin Hood, a swashbuckler not afraid to regale in his own past glories. The book came out in 1980, but I didn't pick it up until the late 1990s, when I was in college, and the movie had started picking up steam. I'm glad I read the book first, because the book ends before Frank's final capture in the States, and the part where he goes to work for the FBI is left to a tiny little coda, which wraps the story up a little neatly.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark" and then you can thank me later.
So, with Spielberg on board, I kept eyes on the progress of the film, which seemed to bounce back and forth between his "next" project and his "after the next" project, but more details kept coming out. Eventually, it was settled that filming was about to start, and the two stars were announced - Leonardo DiCaprio, as Frank Abagnale, and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent who would eventually bring Frank down. At the time, I wasn't a huge DiCaprio fan (partially because, well, Titanic had been everywhere for the better part of a year only a couple of years before, and I was still sick of hearing about it), but I liked Tom Hanks in most things I'd seen, so I figured I could give it the benefit of the doubt. (The fact that Christopher Walken was in it was a pleasant surprise.)
The film was released in 2002, and did solid business, bringing in $52 million. It was generally liked, and on the whole, it's a good film. It's even in IMDB.com's Top 500. DiCaprio is great in the role (and this was the film that turned me around on him) and Hanks has a moment where I chuckle just thinking about, because it's such a stark contrast from what you expect. The film is a little heavy-handed on the sentimentality regarding Frank and his father, both near the beginning and later in the picture, but you sort of expect that with Spielberg. It's sort of his thing. Still, a lot of people never saw the flick, and that's a shame, because the story is one of those tales that deserves to be savored as the wild tale that it is.
Frank's adventures would be a lot more difficult now, but that just serves to highlight how much we've changed. There's a certain degree of carefree playfulness to most of Frank's story, despite the fact that he's way out of his depth. Oh, for simpler times indeed...