January 30, 2003

The Sting

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By Yujin Chung

Red Letter Daze contributor

It’s not surprising that Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks decided to collaborate with Steven Spielberg on Catch Me If You Can. Between 1964 and 1966, Frank Abagnale Jr. lived the life of three different men: pilot, pediatrician, and lawyer — all before his 21st birthday.

Shortly after his parents’ divorce, Abagnale ran away from home. Wandering the streets of Manhattan, Abagnale caught a glimpse of the Pan American World Airways Building. He became fascinated with the respect people gave airline pilots. Abagnale purchased a pilot’s uniform and began posing as a commercial airline pilot for Pan Am. He started forging Pan Am paychecks, a get-rich scheme becoming a habitual practice worth $2.5 million. An infamous scammer, Abagnale quickly landed a spot on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List at the age of 19.

Catch Me If You Can had been a project long in development, ever since the novel was published in 1980. But it was Leonardo DiCaprio’s interest in the project that allowed production to begin in 2001. As soon as he joined the project, DiCaprio sought out the real Frank Abagnale Jr. “What I really wanted to know is how he operated, how he had this magnetism. How he was so convincing and how he engaged people. He seems as innocent as a schoolteacher almost. But it’s his eye contact, the way he is physically