Tina Fey's New Movie Dances Between Fact & Fiction

The phrase "based on a true story" can mean a lot of different things. Some movies that are based on real events are painstaking in sticking to the facts, while others totally dramatize the story, even writing in characters who didn't actually exist. A character in the newest round of "based on" movies whose origins are questionable is Iain MacKelpie in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. This character is a Scottish photographer who becomes Tina Fey's love interest, and he seems too perfectly cinematic to be true. So is Iain from Whiskey Tango Foxtrot a real person, or is he an invention of Hollywood?

The answer is more complicated than it might look at first glance. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an adaptation of Kim Barker's memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so it is in fact based on real events in the life of a real person. But the specifics surrounding the narrative have been changed, and it appears that the character of Iain is one example of where some liberty was taken by filmmakers. There is no character named Iain in The Taliban Shuffle, nor is there any mention of a "real life" Iain in recent interviews conducted with Barker or filmmakers. However, in her memoir, Barker does mention multiple love interests during her stay in Afghanistan, so it's possible that any or all of these men could have served as inspiration for Iain. Take a look at some of the other details that changed between the pages of Barker's book and the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot script.

The Main Character's Name Is Different

Tina Fey's character is Kim Baker, not Kim Barker. This could be interpreted as a subtle tip from filmmakers that the story, while based in truth, is not a documentary.

Her Job Has Been Changed

In real life, Barker is a print journalist. But for the sake of having more interesting visuals, filmmakers changed the protagonist's job to TV reporter.

Fey Isn't A Doppelgänger For Barker


Although Fey has experience playing intelligent, career-oriented women, she doesn't bear a huge physical resemblance to the real-life version of her character. Barker herself revealed to CBS News that a notable physical difference is that she herself is 5'10", but Fey is only 5'5".

Barker Volunteered

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has a scene in which all the single, childless reporters of a newsroom — including Fey's character— are gathered and informed that they are the first picks to be sent to Afghanistan as war correspondents. In reality, Barker told NPR, she personally walked into her editor's office and explained that she was "expendable" and wanted to go abroad.

There are definitely some major differences between Barker's book and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and the character Iain is a noticeable one. Barker is still pleased with the adaptation, though, telling CBS News "...The narrative arc in the movie and the book are pretty much the same, and that's what I cared about. It's not exactly true, but it's truthy." And for the perk of being played by Tina Fey onscreen, "truthy" is plenty good enough.

Images: Paramount (3)