For most people, putting their life story in the hands of a director can cause more than a few anxieties. There is a reason, after all, why most biographical films are made after their subjects have died. but when david o. Russell told inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano that she wanted to direct a movie based on her life, she was not fazed in the least.
“people will ask, ‘were you worried about being the inspiration?'” says mangano, reflecting on the new movie joy (watch here), which hit theaters on christmas day . but she shakes her head. “I have no doubt that he would just do everything right, and he did.”
but “everything”, in the case of this film, extends beyond the life of the mangano herself. joy tells the story of a long island divorced mother, played by jennifer lawrence, who invents a self-wringing detachable mop and overcomes significant obstacles to build a highly successful company, first with qvc and then with the home shopping network. And while that premise aligns closely with Mangano’s life, Lawrence recently told Time that the film is only 50% inspired by Mangano. The other half, Lawrence says, comes from “David’s imagination and different daring women who have inspired him.”
Russell told npr that he spent close to 100 hours on the phone with Mangano while working on the story, though he didn’t meet her in person until late in the process, a deliberate decision that allowed him to develop an inspired fictional character. for her life, rather than a carbon copy of the woman herself. Mangano’s endorsement of the final product is not an endorsement of her accuracy, never a goal of Russell’s, but of the inspirational message she conveys.
This is where the film adheres to the mangano story and where it diverges. warning: some spoilers follow.
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Fact: Mangano started out as an inventor by developing a fluorescent collar for pets
As a teenager, Mangano invented a brightly colored flea collar for dogs and cats that would make them more visible to cars at night. However, he never patented the idea and the manufacturer Hartz Mountain put a similar product on the market before mangan. After that experience, he was committed to making his next big idea a reality.
Fiction: Mangano gave up higher education to help his family during his parents’ divorce
Unlike the film, in which Lawrence’s character gives up a promising academic career, the real mangano graduated from Pace University with a degree in business administration in 1978. After school, however, Mangano worked as a waitress and, as shown in the film, an airline reservation specialist, before her career as a businesswoman took off.
Fiction: Mangano met her first husband, Tony, when he was performing as a musician, and had two children with him
la alegría de lawrence meets her first husband (played by edgar ramirez) at a party where he sings with his father. In reality, Mangano met her husband Anthony Miranne at Pace University, where they studied together. in the film, the couple have two children, but the real couple had three children before divorcing.
fact: after their divorce, mangano and miranne remained close, and he continued to work for her company
In Joy, Tony is one of Joy’s most loyal fans, even after their romance has cooled. in reality, the two remained not only friends and co-parents, but also colleagues. Miranne continues to work for Mangano as Executive Vice President of Sales at her company, Ingenious Designs.
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fact: mangano released the miracle mop from his father’s auto body shop on long island
after thinking of the miracle mop in 1989, mangano invested his life savings in the product to make it a success. The early stages of development and manufacturing took place in a corner of his father’s shop, as they do in the film under the watchful eye of Robert De Niro’s Rudy Mangano.
mostly a fact: the miracle mop wasn’t sold on qvc until mangano went on air to sell it herself, although her first appearance was a flop
just like in the movie, mangano convinced qvc that the channel’s regular mainstays didn’t know how to sell the mop, but that she could sell it if she got a chance to air. However, the film takes some liberties in depicting Lawrence’s delight at having stage fright during her first time on the air and failing to convince buyers of the product’s appeal. mangano actually sold over 18,000 miracle mops in her first appearance on qvc.
mostly a fact: mangano’s best friend called during her first appearance on qvc
In the film, Joy’s best friend, Jackie (Dascha Polanco), calls during her first appearance on QVC, pretending to be an interested customer. this actually happened to mangano, the only difference is that mangano’s best friend is named ronnie (the name jackie was a tribute to one of her daughters).
mostly fiction: mangano had a vengeful half-sister, a soap opera addicted mother, and a working relationship with a qvc exec named neil walker
many of the characters in joy are completely fictitious or amalgamations of various people in mangano or russell’s life. And because much of Mangano’s personal life has been kept private, it’s hard to say for sure which parts of these characters are based on reality. According to Russell, Elisabeth Röhm’s Peggy, a jealous half-sister of Lawrence Joy, is entirely fictional. Living in a world of little more than house dresses and soap operas, Joy’s mother, played by Virginia Madsen, is a composite of several women from Mangano’s life. and bradley cooper qvc executive neil walker is also a composite reflecting aspects of different businessmen in the home shopping company.
fact: mangano later sold his company, clever designs, to the home shopping network, where he remains to this day
Although the details of the deal are glossed over in the film (we infer the huge reward of a slickly coiffed Lawrence in a wood-paneled office), Mangano sold Ingenious Designs, LLC, to the home shopping network at 1999 for an undisclosed amount. To date, he has over 100 patents, including one for HSN’s best-selling product of all time, Huggable Hangers. his net worth is reportedly around $50 million.
write to eliza berman at email@example.com.