The life story of an ornery Bay Area senior citizen who briefly became an Internet phenomenon when video of him delivering a particularly epic bus-borne beat-down went viral on the web is getting the cinematic treatment.
Well, kind of.
Thomas Bruso, better known as "Epic Beard Man," rose to online notoriety when a video shot by Oakland resident Iyanna Washington showed the 67-year old Bruso (famously decked out in a shirt proclaiming "I AM A MOTHEF***ER") getting into a fight with an African American man in his early 50s named Michael Lovette on an AC Transit bus.
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According to Washington, the fight was sparked when Bruso asked Lovette, "How much for a shoe shine?" Lovette took it as a racist comment and was none too pleased. The scene then escalated into a fistfight, which was definitively won by Bruso, and continued outside, where he grew increasingly agitated and screamed at the crowd of assembled onlookers. Following the incident, Bruso was placed in a psychiatric ward for 72 hours.
From there, the Internet got hold of the video and did what the Internet does best: take a highly vulnerable/emotional disturbed person and simultaneously turn them into an ironic hero and the subject of abject mockery.
The unexpected fame came as a shock to Bruso, whose life as an Internet celebrity was thoughtfully and tragically chronicled in a 2010 SF Weekly feature, which detailed the parade of people seeking out Bruso looking to cash in on his newfound place in the pantheon of internet memes.
One of those people was filmmaker Craig Moss, who contacted Bruso last year about starring in a movie based on his life. Bruso even signed a deal with a Los Angeles-based production company that included a ten percent cut of all profits from the film; however, as time wore on, he didn't appear up to the arduous task of actually acting in the movie.
"He has to be in a good state of mental health and physical health," Moss told SF Weekly. "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."
So, instead of a movie starring Bruso directly based on his real-life story, Moss put out a loosely fictionalized take, entitled Bad Ass, with a trusty "based on a true story" tag attached. While Epic Beard Man's iconic shock-white mane and ever-present fanny pack remain, some important details appear to have been changed.
For example, in the famous bus scene, instead of making a conceivably racist remark that spawned a confrontation ending with him giving a black guy a beat down, the film depicts Bruso kicking the butts of some white skinheads to defend the honor of some persecuted minorities.
That's Hollywood for ya.
Bad Ass, statting Danny Trejo, Charles Dutton and Ron Perlman, is scheduled for an April 2012 release.
Check out this video of the Internet scholars at KnowYourMeme.com dissecting the intricacies of the epically bearded video that started it all: