Tag, the new comedy-action flick starring Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, and Jake Johnson, has a pretty wild storyline. The group of friends have been playing a decades-long game of tag that starts in May of each year. By its 30th anniversary, the guys want to finally tag Jerry (Renner), who throughout the three decades has never successfully been tagged. This proves to be a challenge when, despite how much their lives have changed, Jerry continues to be savvy and cunning, overpowering the gang as they try to tag him. It all might might sound a bit too outlandish for Tag to be a true story — but it turns out it actually is.
The events in the movie are exaggerated and given the Hollywood treatment, of course, but the core focus of the story is true. None of the characters are directly based on the members of the actual group, which consists of 10 members instead of five. The real men are also vastly different from the movie’s characters in terms of their professions and personalities. But much of the movie is based on the real Wall Street Journal article that received national attention. The WSJ article was written in 2013 by Russell Adams, and it chronicled a group of friends' decades-long game of tag. And yes, it's still going on.
Instead of crafting risky ways to tag each other filled with elaborate physical stunts like in the movie, however, the real tag team focuses on using the game as a way to continue to bond with each other despite moving to different places and having families. Even though in real life none of the members have ruined each other’s weddings or come up with elaborate booby traps that’d capture those who try to tag the reigning champion, they still have devised plenty of elaborate ways to tag each other.
And some of the past antics actually made it into the movie, such as the — wait for it — funeral tag. In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, real tag member Patrick Schultheis said that much like Ed Helms’ character Hoagie, he was tagged at his father’s funeral. Despite the sensitive setting, Shultheis wasn’t bothered by this. “I was in the front row, and so, guys were going up to communion, patting me on the shoulder, and Beef comes up and patted me on the shoulder and mouthed to me, 'You're It.' ... My dad would've thought it was funny,” he explained.
History Vs. Hollywood also reports that one of the real tags occurred when one of the men’s wives was in the hospital receiving chemotherapy treatment, showing how no difficult moment was off limits to the group. But rather than being seen as malicious, these kinds of moments became an excuse for the group to bond and be there for each other during tough times.
That doesn't mean there haven't been some ridiculous real-life tags, though. According to the WSJ article, player Mike Konesky snuck into the house of one of his pals at 2 a.m., bursting through the bedroom while Brian Dennehy was in bed with his wife. Unlike the characters in the movie, though, the actual players don't tag each other at work. The real men’s workplaces are apparently well aware of tag time; the WSJ article even reports that Schultheis's office manager wouldn’t let player Joe Tombari sneak past her.
Even though Tag is more of an action-packed ensemble film than a story focusing on the long-lasting bond between the men, it retains the main focus of their story: the unconventional way this group found a way to retain their friendship.