Catch me if you can on 6ter: when young Steven Spielberg thought he was Frank Abagnale


Steven Spielberg took his first steps in the Hollywood industry at Universal Studios. The filmmaker has told many times to have interfered in the premises without authorization. A slightly exaggerated story, like that of the life of Frank Abagnale Jr. in “Catch me if you can”.

Stop me if you can : crook but not too much

After a foray into science fiction by Philip K. Dick with Minority Report, Steven Spielberg is moving towards a lighter register with Stop me if you canat least in terms of form. Released in France in 2003, the feature film is inspired by the life of Frank Abagnale Jr. and especially by the story he has made of it. The film is partly based on his autobiography Catch Me If You Can, published in 1980.

Leonardo DiCaprio lends his features to this extraordinary character. Deeply marked by the separation of his parents Paula (Nathalie Baye) and Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken), the future crook flees the family home as a teenager. This rupture marks the starting point of his numerous identity thefts. The young man poses as an airline pilot, but also a doctor and a lawyer, and specializes in the creation of forged checks between the 60s and 70s.

When FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) learns about the forger’s methods, a cat and mouse game gets ready. During this long hunt, the investigator and his prey manage to forge bonds of friendship, Carl quickly understanding the loneliness of young Frank.

Stop me if you can © Universal Pictures

Martin Sheen, Amy Adams and Jennifer Garner complete the cast of this watered-down version of the life of Frank Abagnale Jr. His ability to fool his fellows, the forger would also have used for his autobiography.

A legend far from reality?

In his work The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Catching Truth While We Can published in 2020, Alan C. Logan demystifies the journey told by Frank Abagnale Jr. The reporter explains that most of his “exploits” would come from his imagination. Guest in the podcast The Pulse of WHYY in April 2021, he says, quoted by GQ :

What really happened was that, disguised as a pilot of TWA (Trans World Airlines), which he only did for a few weeks, (Abagnale) befriended a hostess. of the air named Paula Parks. He followed her all over the East Coast, identified her work schedules by deceptive means, and essentially stalked this woman.

He adds about his flight, which is supposed to have lasted for several years:

Abagnale’s account that between the ages of 16 and 20 he was on the run, pursued throughout the United States and even internationally by the FBI, is completely fictional. The public records I obtained show that he was mainly in prison during those years.

The commonalities between Steven Spielberg and Frank Abagnale Jr.

Frank Abagnale Jr.’s penchant for romance has nonetheless enabled Steven Spielberg to deliver a feature film acclaimed by the press and the public. The filmmaker shares several points in common with his main character. Like him, he is bruised by the divorce of his parents. The split within the family unit is a recurring theme in his filmography, Encounters of the Third Kind at War of the Worlds, Passing by AND the alien and AI: Artificial intelligence.

Stop me if you can
Stop me if you can © Universal Pictures

When promotingStop me if you can, Steven Spielberg also ensures having lied as a teenager to try to integrate Universal Studios. He asserts, quoted by Allocine :

My distant beginnings strangely overlap with this story. The very first time I tried to be a studio director, I transformed myself into a … sixteen-and-a-half-year-old executive. I put on a suit and tie, grabbed a briefcase, and walked through the main entrance to Universal. During these three summer months, I surveyed every corner of the studio five days a week. During this time, I was nothing less than … Frank Abagnale …

Slightly embellished beginnings

A testimony that the director gives many times during his career, modifying it more or less as reported by the site Snopes, specializing in fact checking. In fact, his father Arnold would have him organized a meeting through an intermediary with Chuck Silvers, Assistant to the Editing Director at Universal TV. At the time, the future Hollywood icon was in her first year of high school and was sixteen years old. Chuck Silvers thus declares to the biographer Joseph McBride, for a work published in 1997:

I showed him the post-production, the editing, the Moviolas. I remember he said …

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