Top 15 Fun Facts About Catch Me If You Can

The greatest movies are those that you can watch a dozen times without getting tired of them. This applies to this fascinating Spielberg movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a successful teenage con-man and Tom Hanks as the detective trying to “catch him.”

Catch Me If You Can is an incredible story based on the book of Frank William Abagnale Jr. (born 1948), a man who reportedly cashed out about $2.5 million worth of bad checks and successfully impersonated a Pan American pilot, and a doctor, all before he reached adulthood.

The movie is based on his book that came out in 1980 with the same name, and even though some parts have been exaggerated and over-dramatized, the story remains intriguing nonetheless.

Here are some fun facts about Catch Me If You Can which will make watching the movie even more exciting next time!

1. The real-like Frank Abagnale Jr. makes an appearance in the movie

One of the most interesting things about stories derived from real events is that it allows for the true players to have some sort of part in the movie.

We already wrote about this in our Pursuit of Happyness post in which the real Christopher Paul Gardner makes a short appearance at the end of the movie.

In Catch Me If You Can, the real Frank Abagnale Jr. makes a brief appearance at the beginning of the movie, and quite an unusual one as well.

He’s actually the main French police officer who arrests Frank Abagnale Jr. in France on Christmas Eve of the year 1969. This means he had the chance to arrest the impersonated version of himself.

Catch me if you can real frank william abagnale
The real Frank Abagnale Jr. arresting Leo (the man to the right). / DreamWorks Pictures

2. Plans to turn the book into a film already came about in 1981

Perhaps one of the most remarkable facts about Catch Me If You Can is not just that the book came out way back in 1980, but also that plans to turn the book into a film were made just a year later. It was announced that the film would be released in 1981 starring Dustin Hoffman.

Abagnale sold the rights to his autobiography in 1980 to producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin. This was the start of a whole lot of shuffling around with the rights as it was in the hands of Columbia Pictures, producer Hall Bartlett (who hired former conman Steven Kunes to write the screenplay), Hollywood Pictures, Bungalow 78 Productions.

The latter is a division of TriStar Pictures and this company ended up presenting the script to Steven Spielberg at DreamWorks Pictures. Filming was eventually scheduled to start in March 2001 (but this didn’t happen as well).

3. Tom Hanks did a great job portraying the real-life FBI agent

Tom Hanks plays FBI officer “Carl Hanratty” in the movie, but this is a fictional character. The real police officer that chased Abagnale was named “Joseph Shea” (1919-2005).

The name of the police officer in the book is called “Sean O’Reilly,” mainly because Joe Shea was still with the FBI at the time the book was released.

People close to the man commented that Tom Hanks portrayed him so perfectly that it was hard to distinguish the two. “Looking at Carl Hanratty was pretty much the same as looking at Joe Shea.”

Catch me if you can tom hanks
Tom Hanks in the movie / DreamWorks Pictures

4. An incredible number of locations were used to shoot the movie

Even though it took a very long time before the movie was actually filmed, it didn’t take nearly as long to actually wrap things up.

Even though an astounding 147 locations were used to film, it only took 52 days before the movie was completed.

One of the most notable film locations used was Park Avenue in New York City, just outside of the iconic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The airport scenes were filmed at the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The scenes that take place in the French village were actually filmed in Quebec City, Canada. In the shot of the arrest, you can see the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires church in the background.

Catch me if you can Quebec city
The church in Quebec City / DreamWorks Pictures

5. The movie grossed nearly 6 times its original budget

Filming Cath Me If You Can cost about USD 52 million. The movie was released on Christmas of the year 2002 and turned out to be an instant success, not surprisingly for a Spielberg film starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Over half of the budget was earned back on the opening weekend alone as it grossed $30 million. The film went on to gross USD 164.6 million in North America and USD 187.5 million in all other countries in the world.

This brings the total to an amazing USD 352.1 million or nearly 6 times the budget. This also made it the 11th-highest-grossing film of 2002 worldwide.

More fun facts about Catch Me If You Can

6. Even though there appears to be a close relationship between Frank Abagnale and the FBI officer who chases him in the film, this didn’t happen in real life.

He especially didn’t call the police every Christmas Eve because, well, Abagnale “didn’t want to let them know where he was,” which sounds pretty logical, doesn’t it?

7. Regardless of the fictional relationship between the FBI officer that tried to catch Abagnale during his crime spree, he did develop a relationship with the real police officer Joe Shea after his arrest.

This friendship eventually lasted for about 30 years until Shea passed away in the year 2005.

Tom hanks and leo dicaprio

8. Steven Spielberg wasn’t the original director of the film but initially signed up to become the producer. Leonardo DiCaprio was already signed up to portray Frank Abgnale Jr. but still committed Gangs of New York (2002).

The fact that the production date was delayed meant that the original director, Gore Verbinski, dropped out. Spielberg eventually decided to direct the film himself in August 2001.

9. Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken weren’t part of the original plan as well. Gore Verbinski had signed up James Gandolfini to portray Carl Hanratty and Ed Harris as Frank Abagnale, Sr.

Tom Hanks eventually accepted the role because the delay interfered with Gandolfini’s commitment to The Sopranos.

10. Even though he ended up playing the part of Frank Abagnale Jr. to perfection, Leo wasn’t the favorite of both Spielberg and the real Abagnale.

Spielberg would have picked Johnny Depp to play this part and Abagnale didn’t believe Leo would have enough charm to play the role, which was obviously a serious mistake in judgment.

11. A copious amount of background actors were used to shoot the film, totaling anywhere between 3,000 and 4,000. Leo is said to have used over 100 costumes in the 52 days of filming.

12. The speed at which filming moved forward is emphasized by the fact that Jennifer Garner’s scenes were shot in a single day.

Catch me if you can jennifer garner

13. Even though Leo put in an amazing performance, his choice was quite surprising. The young Frank Abagnale Jr. looked like an adult during his teens, while Leo obviously looked much younger than he actually was in 2002.

14. Even though Abagnale kept in touch with his father after his arrest in the movie, he never spoke to his father again in real life. Spielberg left this part in because it improved the storyline.

15. The blackboard on which Carl Hanratty is writing features “Steven + Tom’s 4th Project.” This is a reference to the other 3 projects they previously worked together on, namely Band of Brothers (2001), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and Joe Versus the Volcano (1990).

Catch me if you can blackboard
The text is at the bottom of the blackboard / DreamWorks Pictures