American businessman Lee Iacocca gained fame and fortune rescuing the automotive industry from the same sort of problems they currently find themselves in. He is now 83 years old, rarely gives interviews, and spends his days running a foundation searching for a cure to type 1 diabetes -- the disease that took his wife Mary from him. According to the new comic-book blockbuster "Watchmen," however, Lee Iacocca was brutally murdered in 1985.
Confused? So is Lee Iacocca.
In director Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen,” historical figures are depicted as existing in an alternate reality in which we won Vietnam, Richard Nixon was elected for five terms, and superheroes walk amongst us. And as much as I personally loved the movie, I’m also a huge film buff -- so when I saw a very-alive American icon getting murdered 24 years ago on screen, I found myself struggling to comprehend the “Why?” “How?” and “Has this ever been done before?” of what was unfolding before my eyes.
“It’s nothing against Lee; I think Lee’s awesome,” Snyder told me when I asked him about the scene, in which an actor playing Iacocca meets with superhero industrialist Ozymandias, only to be caught in the crossfire as an assassin tries to kill the crimefighting CEO. “But he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The fact of the matter, however, is that the former Chrysler CEO and Ford President never met the fictional Adrian Veidt -- and when I reached out to Iacocca for comment, he wasn’t exactly thrilled about the details of his big-screen debut.
A spokesman confirmed that Iacocca had never heard of “Watchmen” until I called. The news of his depiction came as a surprise, and his office confirmed that they had never been approached by Snyder, Warner Brothers, or anyone else associated with the film -- either to ask permission or to simply give him a heads-up.
When I explained that Iacocca is shown on-screen being shot between the eyes and killed, the phone went quiet for what felt like forever. The automotive pioneer’s office has since attempted to contact the studio to secure a screening, DVD or even an explanation, but as of press time had yet to receive a return phone call.
It looks as though Iacocca will have to fork over $10 for a ticket on March 6, just like the rest of us. And for those wondering, he did not appear in Alan Moore’s original “Watchmen” graphic novel.
Asked about the legality of the situation, Snyder told me: “I think we got away with it because the movie has a satirical quality to it. And there were so many other famous people [in the film], lookalikes of Nixon, Annie Leibovitz, or [President] Kennedy. These are the people that we need in the movie to try and create this '80s vibe.”
“And so, when we had the scene where Adrian was meeting with the captains of industry,” Snyder continued, “Lee just kinda jumped out as a famous [person]; someone you identify with the '80s, but also with being in the automotive industry.”
Throughout the decade, Iacocca was a fixture on television thanks to commercials that painted him as a down-to-earth company chairman with a knack for business and an affection for working stiffs.
Although the initial reaction of Iacocca’s spokesman was to point out that his name and likeness are trademarked, further exploration into the legality of the “Watchmen” situation had her agreeing that since Iacocca isn’t being used to “sell or make profit” on something, there was little that could be done.
Mr. Iacocca, who insisted that he would not comment until after viewing Snyder’s “Watchmen,” did say that he had seen a publicity photo of lookalike Walter Addison dressed as him in the mid-'80s.
“The actor looked good,” he commented.
Legal or not, Iacocca’s spokesman did express some level of dismay over his on-screen “murder,” and the notion of an 83-year-old man answering questions about it once “Watchmen” is seen by millions of people all over the world.
“He’s fine; I think he’s fine,” Snyder said of Iacocca in the real world. “But you shouldn’t hang out with Adrian, because it’s dangerous.”
For more on the "Watchmen" Easter Eggs found in the film, head over to MTV.com.
What do you think about Lee Iacocca’s death in the film? Does it fit in with the other historical depictions, or is it going too far?