While "The Lorax" was crushing the box office this weekend, another new film was not-so-quietly quietly racking up both major money ($20.7 million) and controversy: "Project X," which, with its story about a teenage beer bash gone totally out of control, is about as far from Dr. Seuss as you can get.
But while there's no doubt that "Project X" is poised to become a hit, there is one burning question many fans have: Is the film based on the true story of Australian party icon Corey Delaney? Join us as we attempt to answer that question with our latest piece of hard-hitting investigative journalism, "Project X": Fact ... or Fiction?
Fact: Back in 2008, Delaney, who was then just 16 years old, gained worldwide attention by throwing a party while his parents were out of town. That's not so unusual, of course; but after he and his two buddies decided to post their address on MySpace, the power of social media blew the party up big time. By the end of the shindig, over 500 strangers had arrived, leading to a wild bash so out of control that riot police were eventually called in to quell the commotion.
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Fiction: While it's true that Delaney's party ended up being a little more wild than most -- chances are you didn't see TV news crews at your bat mitzvah -- the specific craziness in "Project X" came mostly from the demented mind of "21 Jump Street" and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" screenwriter Michael Bacall. Stuffing a midget in an oven and setting the house on fire might be this year's hottest new party games, but Delaney and company didn't have anything to do with it.
Fact: One of the most prominent aspects of "Project X" is the fact that it was filmed as a "found footage" movie, with events staged to appear as though they are YouTube clips and cell-phone videos in order to seem more authentic. And for once this sort of conceit is more authentic, because Delaney did in fact become a worldwide viral sensation after footage of an televised interview he conducted with an Australian news anchorman went global. The clip hit the web before Delaney had even told his parents about the party. Here's hoping their iPhone came with a built-in defibrillator.
Fiction: As soon as the first trailers for "Project X" hit the web, critics and movie buffs began pointing out the similarities between the movie and Delaney's party; just Google it and you'll come up with dozens of sites claiming "Project X" was based on that crazy night. But Bacall and producer Todd Phillips haven't been nearly so clear about things, with neither of them giving the theory much credence in their many, many interviews on the subject. Bacall merely says that Phillips came to him with the idea, while Phillips talks more about wanting to capture the feel -- and power -- of the viral sensation than Delaney's party vibe.
Fact: Protestations aside, it should be noted that Phillips is no stranger to making this kind of film, having previously brought the "Hangover" franchise into the world. It's true that Delaney's party pre-dated the original "Hangover," but pundits who have labeled "Project X" a "teen 'Hangover'" aren't far from wrong. It's hard to believe that Phillips wouldn't have come across Delaney's YouTube video while doing research for one of these films.
Fiction: Whether or not the events "Project X" was directly based on Delaney's party, one thing can be agreed upon: None of the characters in the film are nearly as interesting as Delaney himself. Delaney's signature moment came during the live news interview when, after being badgered by the anchor to apologize and take off his sunglasses, he said he was sorry but refused to remove the shades. "Nah, I'll leave these on. I like 'em." Suck it, authority!
Fact: Thanks to its surprisingly strong opening weekend, "Project X," which cost just $12 million to make, is already a hit. And much of that success can be chalked up to, you guessed it, the power of social media, which makes it even more ironic than the mainstream media seems to totally hate the movie. "Project X strives to appall," reads one review from NPR, "and it would be similarly self-deluded to pretend this jumble of ecstasy and crotch shots is anything other than repulsive." That review also cites Delaney as the film's inspiration, a sign that one thing is certain: The more money and outrage "Project X" generates, the more you'll be hearing Delaney's name.
Regardless of whether it's fact ... or fiction.