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Friday, January 6, 2012

Epic Beard Man Movie Glosses Over Challenges of Bay Area Crank

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2012 at 3:15 PM

What did you do with the real Epic Beard Man?
  • What did you do with the real Epic Beard Man?

Check it out: Epic Beard Man is finally hitting the big screen. But wait, Epic Beard Man, is that you?  Where is the mentally unstable San Francisco crank who was in the fateful bus fight on AC Transit that blew up on the Internet? Where is Thomas Bruso, the guy North Beach denizens know as Vietnam Tom way before he became Epic Beard Man to the Internet masses? 

Thomas Bruso is nowhere to be seen in Bad Ass, the film featuring Danny Trejo set to hit theaters in April. The only remnant of the Thomas Bruso we know is his old-man fanny pack and bushy white beard. The details of the real Bruso have been completely altered. I mean, America doesn't really want to watch a movie about a mentally ill senior citizen on social security, does it? 

We wrote a cover story about Thomas Bruso

last year as he was sinking from the unsolicited pressures of his

instant Internet fame. He was struggling with manic depression and an

impending eviction from his senior home in Oakland, and was warily juggling

the competing interests of the various vultures/opportunists/Good

Samaritans who'd descended upon him since he became an Internet meme. He had

three managers with varying levels of dollar signs in their eyes, a

documentary team trying to make a name for themselves with Bruso's

story, and a fan who was trying to start an Internet-based donation

service for Bruso. Bruso also had signed away his life story rights to a

Hollywood production company for $6,000 and 10 percent of the profits

of any future production.

At the time, the director, Craig Moss, told us he had planned to film a

movie for the web in which Bruso would star. Yet the plan was

falling apart as it became clear the depressed Bruso was struggling with mental health

issues and was in no mood to be a kick-ass senior citizen in a movie. "He has to be in a good state of mental

health and physical health," Moss told us. "Our whole thing is to make

sure he's okay. If he can't do [the movie] for us, it's not a big deal." 

Well, in late December the news hit that Moss went filmed his movie after all. Yet Bruso -- who was evicted and homeless as

of the last documentary posted on the Internet --  is thriving in the film.

Instead, it's become a fictionalized movie "based on a true story," according to the trailer.

The controversial

aspects of Bruso's real story have been altered to make the movie more marketable. Let's take a look:

The real Bruso drew blood from a black guy on the

bus after he'd accused Bruso of being a racist for asking him how much

he'd charge to spit-shine Bruso's shoes. Yet the movie features a Mexican

American wearing Bruso's signature fanny pack who beats down white

supremacists picking on a black guy on the bus. Hmm, who knew Epic Beard Man was so politically correct?

Also, the movie's protagonist

is a Vietnam vet. The real Bruso often claims he went to Vietnam  -- so

often that he's known as Vietnam Tom in his old stomping

grounds of North Beach -- but he was discharged from the military before

he was ever deployed.

From watching the trailer, it seems the movie's protagonist is free of the

mental issues which plague Bruso and likely precluded him from starring

in his own movie. The movie's Bruso is festering with resentment about being spurned by society after returning from Nam, not a manic depressive who refuses to take his meds and moons reporters

While some fans on Facebook have been

threatening to boycott the movie until Bruso gets his royalties, Moss

had told us that the "Tom Cruise-type contract" bestowed Bruso with 10

percent of the profits made off the eventual film.

How the directors will even find Bruso is beyond us, but even if they do, whether that money will help the real

Bruso stabilize his life is unlikely. Bruso had spent the $6,000 he was

paid for his life-story rights within days -- smoking weed and handing

out large bills to random kids on the street.

In fact, the director told us that as he and the producer were

reading over the contract to Bruso, he seemed wholly uninterested in the

fine print, and more interested in just getting his dough. "He said,

'Let's get this over [with] so I can buy my bag of weed."

No wonder Moss ended up taking great liberties and departures from

Bruso's life. The real story is too depressing. It would less likely be shelved in the B-rated thriller section than tragedy.

Not so "Bad Ass" after all.

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Lauren Smiley


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