Cory Finley’s acclaimed TIFF drama “Bad Education” makes it clear from the start it’s based on a true story, but the real subject behind the film isn’t too happy with some of the liberties Finley and screenwriter Mike Makowsky made to his life. The drama, which made its HBO debut April 25, stars Hugh Jackman as Frank Tassone, the Long Island superintendent behind the largest public school embezzlement in American history. The real Frank Tassone said Jackman did “a very good job” portraying him, but he says “Bad Education” only gets about “40-50 percent” of the facts right (via The Coach Mike Podcast).
The majority of Tassone’s criticisms against “Bad Education” center around the film’s portrayal of his sexuality. The film depicts Frank having an affair in Las Vegas with a former student, which the real Tassone said bends the truth. In real life, Tassone had an open marriage and did not keep the affair a secret from his husband. Tassone said he was “bothered terribly” by the film showing him having an affair with a former student, which never happened. Tassone also took issue with the film implying that his husband was not aware he was previously married to a woman.
“There was a lot of implication, or at least I felt, that I didn’t have a wonderful marriage or didn’t love her so very much, which I did,” Tassone said. “I almost felt it was disrespectful to her, and I loved her very much.”
Tassone continued by saying how bothersome it was for the film to depict him as hiding his sexuality. “That upset me as well, because I’m not ashamed of being a gay man, and again, they made it seem somewhat sordid,” Tassone said. “That bothered me and upset me when the detective questioned [husband] Steven, and he implied that Steven didn’t even know I was married. That was not the case. And I don’t understand why they had to bring my sexuality into the film.”
Watching the film and re-living the embezzlement scandal proved “very difficult” for Tassone. “I recognize that what I did was wrong and I broke the law, but that was 20 years ago and I finally thought, you know, I could go forward,” he said. “And for it to come all back 20 years later brought back feelings that were hurtful and that were warranted in many respects. So, it was a challenging time to watch the movie.”
“Bad Education” is now streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now and will be included on HBO Max when the streamer launches next month.