If You Haven't Heard Of Barry Seal, You're Missing Out On One Of History's Craziest Stories

by Allie Gemmill
Originally Published: 
Universal Pictures

Tom Cruise is moving on from his Mummy-fied adventures in 2017, with his next big release, American Made, hitting theaters soon. Considering the film is based on a real person and real events, viewers might be clamoring to see photos of Barry Seal, subject of American Made, exist as well as other materials that could give curious people insight into the man behind the legend. While there aren't too many photos of Seal available for public consumption, it's interesting that what does exist adds yet another interesting layer to the man's public persona, on top of the incredible story of his life.

American Made charts Seal's journey from an airline pilot to a man working for both the United States government as well as the infamous Medellin Cartel, smuggling drugs to the U.S. from South America. While the film tends to blur the line between fact and fiction, Seal's exploits, at least as the film portrays them, feel larger than life, far more fantastic — despite being very high stakes — than we could ever imagine.

The photos available on social media of seal, which seem to be taken near the end of his life, before he was assassinated, are quite telling. Interestingly, it would seem that casting Tom Cruise to play Seal has given a bit of a Hollywood sheen to Seal, physically speaking, as there's little to no resemblance between the two men.

While very few pictures are available on the internet of Seal or his family, that dearth only seems to heighten the curiosity around this man. Considering American Made does, to an extent, stretch the truth of Seal's exploits, seeing photos of him smiling for cameras or posing for a family photo make it seem like he must have been a good-natured family man (which is how it appears Cruise portrays him, in part, in the film) but that there's more going on there than meets the eye.

For a man who appeared to live larger than life before his untimely death, the fact that so few photos are circulating of him (especially given American Made's increased marketing push in the final weeks before its release) is interesting. But luckily, we know enough about Seal that we can fill in the gaps between the photos to get a better sense of who he was.

Cruise was right to say that Seal is an interesting man. From an August interview with People magazine, Cruise said that playing Seal left him of two minds about the man. "I don’t agree with what he was doing, but you can’t help but be utterly fascinated by it," he commented, adding, "[o]ne of my favorite authors is Mark Twain, and Seal reminds me of one of his characters,” adds Cruise. “It’s not every day you get to play a character who is a devoted husband and father and a drug runner, a CIA operative working for the DEA."

That dichotomy of feeling about Seal is understandable and it's easy to see how Cruise himself would be utterly fascinated by a man whose life is so strikingly dissimilar to the average Joe's. It's not every day you hear about a guy who can graduate from being an experienced pilot running his own small airline advertising agency to working for Pablo Escobar, running billions of dollars worth of drugs (and making millions in the process) between two nations, and becoming deeply entrenched in one of the most infamous cartels of the 20th century. It'd all feel like an apocryphal tale if it wasn't true.

American Made seeks to tell the story of Seal's life and fill in those gaps that we don't get filled in from the photos or the personal accounts. Even with little real-life material to go on, it's clear the Seal's life was, as Cruise put it, "utterly fascinating" from start to finish.

Image: Universal Pictures

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