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Catch me if you can: 5 Incredible Stories left out of the Movie

Updated on June 15, 2017
The real Frank Abagnale
The real Frank Abagnale | Source

Steven Spielberg's Oscar nominated Catch me if you can is the true story of Frank Abagnale (Leonardo Di Caprio) who as a teenager became one of the most bold and daring con-men in history.

The movie is one of my all time favorites, yet after reading the book which inspired the movie of the same name, I couldn't help but feeling the true story was far more epic than what we got to see in the Hollywood flick.

Frank Abagnale himself described the movie as being about 80% accurate. However unlike so many Hollywood films where true stories are exaggerated and often blown out of proportion to make the movie more viewer friendly, Spielberg seems to have toned down Abagnale's antics to make it somewhat more believable.

As depicted in the movie, it is true he traveled the world posing as an Airline pilot, worked as a Doctor and a Lawyer, he did even escape police custody through the toilet of an airplane. Yet the most believable moments in the movies such as Frank calling his parents or FBI agent "Hanratty" (Tom Hanks) never happened.

Here a 5 more differences between the book and the movie:

1. He escaped jail posing as a prison inspector

After landing back in New York and famously escaping through the airplane toilet, Frank made his way to Montreal airport and attempted to fly to Brazil where he was arrested by Canadian Mounted Police.

Sent to jail in Atlanta whilst awaiting trial, the prison guards were not informed of Abagnale's notoriety and suspected he was an undercover prison inspector, as prison inspectors had recently been making life hard for prison staff.

Abagnale was able to turn that suspicion to his advantage. With the help of a female friend on the outside who was allowed to visit, he was able to get hold of a business card from an actual prison inspector and use it to convince the guards that their suspicions were correct and he was in fact an undercover prison guard.

Proud that they had not been fooled, the prison guards happily let Abagnale walk straight out of the prison!


2. He taught 2 semesters as a University Professor

The memorable scene at the start of the movie where DiCaprio poses as his high school teacher is not included in the book and most likely fictitious.

The truth is far more far fetched...

After seeing a newspaper article about a shortage of Sociology professors at one Utah University, Abagnale decided to test his forgery and impostor skills. Forging the necessary documents including a Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University, Abagnale was employed for 2 semesters as a Sociology Professor.

Posing as a man much older than his years, Abagnale was teaching students older than himself and even became a popular teacher with his students and peers.

3. He was arrested at Boston Airport and escaped on bail...

One evening, whilst posing as his Airline Pilot alias 'Frank Williams' at Boston Airport, Abagnale was recognized and arrested by 2 state troopers. Armed with his fake ID and pilots licence he protested his innocence and placed some doubt in the officers minds. With the FBI coming to collect Abagnale in the morning, he was fortunate to be approached by professional Bondsman; Aloyius 'Bailout' Bailey.

Abagnale was able to convince the bondsman to put up the high price of $5,000 for his bond, and paid him $500 for his services with one of his fake cheques.

When most people (including the FBI) would have expected him to get as far away from Boston as possible, instead Abagnale went straight back to the airport he was arrested and checked into a nearby motel...

Abagnale was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 movie
Abagnale was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 movie | Source

4. ...and Robbed a Bank the same day!

Moments before Abagnale was busted at the airport he had noticed all the gift shops, coffee shops, bars etc in the lobby depositing their days takings in the night deposit vault at the airports bank, which gave him an idea.

After being bailed out of jail around 3:30 am, he was back at the airport at 11:15 pm dressed as a Security Officer standing next to the night deposit box with a sign instructing "Night deposit vault out of order. Please make deposits with Security Officer."

The airport staff willingly deposited bags and envelopes full of cash into the Security Officers bag. Not a single person questioned the situation, until when hauling the giant sack back to his station wagon, he was stopped by 2 state troopers. Fortunately for Abagnale they weren't the same ones who had arrested him the night before. Keeping his cool, he explained the bogus situation to the state troopers who then helped him carry the loot to his station wagon.

Abagnale had made away with $62,800 in cash alone, the majority of which he left in his motel room next to the airport. Hours later he managed to fly out of Boston destined for Istanbul. During his short layover in New York he anonymously called the airport bank manager the to tell him where the remainder of the loot was.

Once in Istanbul, he sent a legitimate cheque of $5,000 to 'Bailout' Bailey in Boston.

Perpignan Prison
Perpignan Prison | Source

5. He served Jail time in France and Sweden.

Towards the end of the movie, DiCaprio takes off on a tour of Europe with his lovely crew of wannabe Airline Stewardesses whom he recruited from college. Despite being omitted from the movie, Abagnale successfully pulled off the scheme spent the summer cashing bogus cheques all over Europe. Which made him a wanted criminal throughout the continent.

After the tour he decided to retire from his life of crime and settle down in the south of France. His retirement came to an abrupt end when French police were tipped off to his whereabouts and he was arrested whist grocery shopping.

He served six months solitary confinement in a Perpignan jail. Six months may seem an easy sentence for such a notorious criminal, but solitary confinement in a French prison is enough to drive any man insane. He was thrown naked into a cold, damp, stone hole without any human interaction or light for his entire duration. He had a bucket to use as a toilet which soon overflowed and spent the majority of his time lying in a pool of his own excrement.

Following his release he was extradited to Sweden where he enjoyed the luxuries of the Swedish prison system, which was a stark contrast to his time in France. He was able to study, work and earn money whilst serving time his 6 month sentence. Following his time in Sweden, a judge was able to pull some strings to get him extridited back to the USA.

Frank Abagnale made a living from being a professional liar, so it is not impossible that some of the stories in his book may bend the truth. Either way, the book and the movie are all time classics and thoroughly enjoyable.

Catch me if you can: Movie vs Book

If you have saw the movie and read the book. Which was better?

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