Is The Outfit Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Nick Wall/Focus Features

Directed by Graham Moore, ‘The Outfit’ is a period gangster action-drama film. Set in 1956, the story follows Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance), a bespoke tailor, who originally used to work in the renowned Savile Row of London, but now has a modest tailor shop in one of the violent parts of Chicago. Leonard’s clientele includes various criminal elements of Windy City. Although Leonard strives to maintain a sense of serenity within the walls of his workspace, the chaos of the world beyond seeps in every time the door opens.

‘The Outfit’ has been made in the same tradition as classical Hitchcockian thrillers such as ‘Rope.’ If the film’s detailed depiction of Chicago of the 1950s has made you wonder whether it is based on a true story, we got you covered.

Is The Outfit a True Story?

No, ‘The Outfit’ isn’t a true story. However, the film’s narrative has its roots in reality. Moore wrote the screenplay for the film with Johnathan McClain. Their starting point was a 1956 real-life investigation during which the FBI installed a bug in a tailor shop. They read about this in a book, and this was apparently the first time something similar had been attempted. ‘The Outfit’ is not inspired by the FBI investigation, as Moore clarified in an interview. However, while developing the individual characters and the setting, they did rely on the personalities from the era and the world they lived in.

According to Moore, he and his writing partner came up with the character of Leonard a while ago. They had found the psychology of a person that has dedicated their life to a complex art form fascinating. They even visited a number of stores in Savile Row to understand how the minds of the high-end tailors work.

Image Credit: Nick Wall/Focus Features

In a different interview, Moore revealed that the “emotional core” of ‘The Outfit’ came from his grandfather, who was a doctor with a practice in a small town. One of his patients was mobster Gerardo “Jerry” Catena. According to Moore, his grandfather was “the kindest, most gentle man I’ve ever known in my life.” ‘The Outfit’ stemmed from Moore’s fascination with the interactions between his grandfather and the notorious mob boss.

“I distinctly remember my grandmother would always go to him [Moore’s grandfather] and say, ‘What are you doing? How can you treat this man? He’s a murderer,” Moore recalled. “Why are you letting him through your door?’ And I remember this so vividly, my grandfather would always say, ‘He’s never been anything but a gentleman to me.’ And that was his defense of it. So I was always, since I was a little kid, fascinated by imagining what the conversations between a man as gentle as my grandfather and a vicious killer must have been. What did they talk about when the doors were closed?”

Image Credit: Nick Wall/Focus Features

Evidently, the subject is very important to him. This is why he also decided to direct it. He stated, “If I believe that this script could be made into a film that is as beautiful as I think it could be, then shouldn’t I take the responsibility for learning how to make it myself?”

‘The Outfit’ marks Moore’s debut as a director. For Moore and his writing partner McClain, the project is a homage to the film noir movies of the 1940s and 1950s. However, the writers just didn’t simply replicate the old but infused it with their own vision. They also drew from Joel and Ethan Coen’s ‘Miller’s Crossing’ and Sidney Lumet’s ’12 Angry Men’ while developing the various technical aspects of the film. Considering all this, it’s perfectly understandable if people think that ‘The Outfit’ is based on a true story, but that isn’t really the case.

Read More: Where Was The Outfit Filmed?