Media & Communications Law

As Atom Bomb Book Raises Fact-Check Issue, 'Hurt Locker' Writer Is Accused of Too Much Truth-Telling

Accused of including fictitious information in his book about the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Japan during World War II, Charles Pellegrino is now seeing The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back withdrawn from publication—although it could still potentially be the subject of a movie.

Meanwhile, the writer of a screenplay for an acclaimed movie is being accused of too much truth-telling. Embedded with Master Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver’s unit during the Iraq war, journalist Marc Boal allegedly used Sarver, who was nicknamed Blaster One, as his model for a lead character in Hurt Locker, also known as Blaster One, reports E! News.

The claim is made as part of a lawsuit to be filed tomorrow on Sarver’s behalf by attorney Geoffrey Fieger in federal court in Michigan.

Responding to the allegation, the United States distributor of the movie provided a written statement to the ABA Journal:

“Ever since Summit acquired the distribution rights to the finished feature film The Hurt Locker during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, we have been proud to showcase the film to audiences in the U.S. The film is a story about heroes depicting a fictional account of what brave men and women do on the battlefield. We have no doubt that Master Sgt. Sarver served his country with honor and commitment risking his life for a greater good, but we distributed the film based on a fictional screenplay written by Mark Boal. We hope for a quick resolution to the claims made by Master Sgt. Sarver.”

As with the critically praised Hurt Locker, success seemingly may have created problems for Pellegrino’s book, which was withdrawn from publication after the Associated Press raised questions with the publisher about its accuracy, the news agency reports.

Nonetheless, it may still be made into a movie by Avatar director James Cameron. While he doesn’t intend to make up his mind right now whether to proceed with the project, Cameron tells the AP, “the issue of a single flawed source” won’t be decisive. And he “would be a fool,” Cameron says, “to ignore the rich vein of eyewitness testimony, so painstakingly gathered, that exists in Last Train from Hiroshima.”

Book publishers often don’t fact-check nonfiction because of the cost, the AP notes.

Additional and related coverage: “Can Plagiarism Be the New Authenticity? Best-Selling Author, 17, Seems to Think So”

Jacket Copy (Los Angeles Times): “Publisher Henry Holt withdraws disputed Hiroshima book”

Celebritology (Washington Post): ” ‘Hurt Locker’ producer banned from Oscars”

Washington Post: “Author Charles Pellegrino to remove ‘Hiroshima’ impostor from future editions”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.