|REEL FACE:||REAL FACE:|
Born: November 4, 1969
Uvalde, Texas, USA
Born: August 11, 1945
Birthplace: Montréal, Québec, Canada
Death: June 4, 1998, Nassau, Bahamas (brain aneurysm)
Born: March 25, 1977
Michael de Guzman
Born: abt 1955
Death: March 19, 1997, Busang, Indonesia (likely suicide)
No, the real company, Bre-X Minerals Ltd., founded by David Walsh (renamed Kenny Wells in the movie), was a small Calgary-based mining company. It was so small that Walsh initially ran it out of his basement. For legal reasons and to make the story more appealing, the movie relocates the company to Reno, Nevada and calls it Washoe Mining Inc. after Washoe County where Reno is located. -Financial Post
Yes. "Basically, Bre-X was a shell of a company with almost nonexistent working capital," said David Walsh (the real Kenny Wells) in a March 1997 interview. The Gold true story reveals that prior to his success with Bre-X, Walsh had declared personal bankruptcy in June 1992, $200,000 in debt. "I decided to go into Indonesia, and that's where we started from, just an idea, no money, and a very good geologist." -CBC News
Yes. In 1995, the small Canadian mining company Bre-X claimed a massive gold find deep in the jungle in the Busang area on the Indonesian island of Borneo. Former Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald journalist Suzanne Wilton, who in 2007 traveled to where the notorious gold mine had been located, called it "an incredible journey," saying, "It was five hours overland through forestry concessions in the middle of Borneo, and then another five hours by boat up this raging river to a place that didn't exist on maps. We could have fallen out of the canoe that we were riding in and nobody would have ever found us." It was "the middle of the jungle, the farthest community away you could get, in a place that was shrouded in mystery." -CBC News
As indicated by the photos at the top of this page, Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) is based on Canadian businessman David Walsh (Matthew McConaughey's character was originally named Kenny Walsh in early iterations of the script). -Financial Post
While Edgar Ramírez's character, Michael Acosta, seems to be primarily based on Filipino geologist Michael de Guzman, the character is actually a composite of two individuals, Michael de Guzman and John Felderhof (pictured below). De Guzman needed a fellow geologist to corroborate his story, so he shared news of his "find" with Felderhof, a then-respected geologist. De Guzman convinced Felderhof they should look for an investor who wouldn't interfere too much. Felderhof recommended David Walsh, the penny stock promoter of Bre-X who he'd met in Australia ten years prior. Felderhof knew Walsh had been looking for a potential mining project. Felderhof and De Guzman took Walsh out to dinner and convinced him to invest $80,000 to purchase and develop a gold mining site near the Busang River in Borneo (BusinessInsider.com).
In an industry dominated by big American mining companies, Michael de Guzman struggled for recognition in his field. Despite being very intelligent and having an engineering degree, De Guzman never got a shot at a high-paying job. In researching the Gold movie true story, we learned that it was very hard for Filipinos, even with the right credentials, to get senior jobs with the big mining companies. -Masterminds: Fool's Gold
No. Since the mining company at the heart of the scandal was actually based out of Canada and not the U.S. like in the movie, Canadian authorities investigated the real case. Toby Kebbell's character is fictional.
Yes. The movie implies Edgar Ramírez's character is not married, when in fact, the real Michael de Guzman had at least four wives all around Asia. His frequent traveling allowed him to keep them a secret from one another. In order to put more focus on the story's main plot points, screenwriters John Zinman and Patrick Massett had to omit this interesting fact. After De Guzman's death, his widows began to find out about each other. -Financial Post
In 1993, geologists John Felderhof and Michael de Guzman convinced Bre-X founder David Walsh to buy an area of land in the middle of the jungle not far from the Busang River in Borneo, Indonesia. Bre-X had been a penny stock, but as the estimated amount of gold at the site went from 2 million Troy ounces to a whopping 70 million ounces a few years later in 1997, the stock price climbed to $280 per share. Bre-X Minerals Ltd. reached a market value of $6 billion. Of course, it was all a hoax, spurred on by De Guzman manipulating (salting) the core samples from the site. The discovery was a lie. -BusinessInsider.com
No. In real-life, David Walsh (the real Kenny Wells) never had to touch a tiger to close a deal. However, for the movie scene, Matthew McConaughey did actually touch a tiger. "They scheduled this scene where I touch this tiger the last scene in the film," says McConaughey. "Now, if you know anything about scheduling, that means if something goes down you've got all of McConaughey's stuff, have already got the footage, so it's okay. ... Yeah, I did touch this tiger, and I'm not acting in this scene. I'm scared. I'm sweating." -Good Morning America
Yes. The Indonesian government under President Suharto (pictured below) noticed the escalating worth of the site. The government stated that a small outfit like Bre-X would have to share the site with a larger company, and the government chose one with ties to President Suharto's family, a Canadian company called Barrick. Suharto brought in his longtime friend and powerful Indonesian businessman Muhammad "Bob" Hasan, who then set up a deal to also bring in an American company, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, to run part of the site. The deal gave Husan and Freeport nearly half of Bre-X's share in the gold find. When Freeport-McMoRan stepped in to do their own evaluation of the site, everything began to unravel, with the biggest question being, where's the gold?
Yes. Filipino geologist Michael de Guzman, who is renamed Michael Acosta and portrayed by Edgar Ramírez in the movie, did perish after plummeting into the Borneo jungle from a helicopter. I use the word "plummet" because even though many believe he jumped to his death, some believe he was pushed (or even faked his death altogether). It depends on who you ask. However, the motive for suicide was certainly there. Not only was his gold mining scam about to unravel, he was suffering from hepatitis B, a potentially painful sexually transmitted liver infection. In one of his hastily written suicide notes, he stated that he could no longer bear his illnesses. Yet, some have speculated, as the movie does, that the suicide notes were part of his plan to fake his death. His sister claims that he was given a clean bill of health just weeks before he died. -WSJ.com
De Guzman knew things were on the verge of unraveling. He had boarded the helicopter to head to the Borneo site to meet with miners from Freeport-McMoRan, the company that the government had brought on board to run a large portion of the mine. He knew he would be unable to explain why there was no gold at the site. According to reports, it was only he and the pilot on the helicopter. The Indonesian military did not accompany him like in the movie.
This is the most popular theory for the state his body was found in. After he plummeted from the helicopter to the jungle floor below, his body was discovered with his innards hollowed out and his genitalia gone. Reports state that his body was also handless, footless and faceless (Financial Post). Journalist Jennifer Wells, who had been sent to Borneo and was shown pictures of De Guzman's dead body, believes that his neatly sutured corpse seemed inconsistent with one that had been ravaged by a wild animal. Could De Guzman have been tortured and murdered before plummeting from the helicopter? Was it even his body? We'll likely never know. -Toronto Star
No. Michael de Guzman (Edgar Ramírez in the movie), the man who was "salting" the samples of earth with gold shavings, leaped to his death from a helicopter — or was shoved, depending on who you believe. Geologist and Bre-X's Vice-President for Exploration, John Felderhof (folded into Edgar Ramírez's character in the movie), denied any knowledge of the fraud. He faced insider trading charges but was later acquitted. As for Bre-X Minerals founder and Canadian businessman David Walsh (portrayed by Matthew McConaughey), he too claimed he was swindled by De Guzman. He moved to the Bahamas in 1998. Walsh (pictured below) died of a brain aneurysm on June 4, 1998. The final two lawsuits involving the Bre-X scandal were dismissed on April 23, 2014 (CalgaryHerald.com).
The Gold movie leaves De Guzman's death open to interpretation, including the possibility that he faked his death and paid someone to dump a body into the jungle. This seems to be the least likely theory, even though the ravaged and badly decomposing body that was found was never identified. -Going for Gold: The History of Newmont Mining Corporation
Yes. "It was pretty amazing to go back to the place where it really happened, and hike into the jungle, where there were still people panning for gold," says journalist Suzanne Wilton, who visited the former Bre-X area of the Borneo jungle in 2007. "There are many people who still believe there is gold in this jungle." -CBC News
Dig further into the Gold true story by watching the Bre-X mining scandal documentary below.