Epic Beard Man Movie Glosses Over Challenges of Bay Area Crank

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What did you do with the real Epic Beard Man?
Check it out: Epic Beard Man is finally hitting the big screen. But wait, Epic Beard Man, is that you?  Where is the mentally unstable San Francisco crank who was in the fateful bus fight on AC Transit that blew up on the Internet? Where is Thomas Bruso, the guy North Beach denizens know as Vietnam Tom way before he became Epic Beard Man to the Internet masses? 

Thomas Bruso is nowhere to be seen in Bad Ass, the film featuring Danny Trejo set to hit theaters in April. The only remnant of the Thomas Bruso we know is his old-man fanny pack and bushy white beard. The details of the real Bruso have been completely altered. I mean, America doesn't really want to watch a movie about a mentally ill senior citizen on social security, does it? 

We wrote a cover story about Thomas Bruso last year as he was sinking from the unsolicited pressures of his instant Internet fame. He was struggling with manic depression and an impending eviction from his senior home in Oakland, and was warily juggling the competing interests of the various vultures/opportunists/Good Samaritans who'd descended upon him since he became an Internet meme. He had three managers with varying levels of dollar signs in their eyes, a documentary team trying to make a name for themselves with Bruso's story, and a fan who was trying to start an Internet-based donation service for Bruso. Bruso also had signed away his life story rights to a Hollywood production company for $6,000 and 10 percent of the profits of any future production.

At the time, the director, Craig Moss, told us he had planned to film a movie for the web in which Bruso would star. Yet the plan was falling apart as it became clear the depressed Bruso was struggling with mental health issues and was in no mood to be a kick-ass senior citizen in a movie. "He has to be in a good state of mental health and physical health," Moss told us. "Our whole thing is to make sure he's okay. If he can't do [the movie] for us, it's not a big deal." 

Well, in late December the news hit that Moss went filmed his movie after all. Yet Bruso -- who was evicted and homeless as of the last documentary posted on the Internet --  is thriving in the film. Instead, it's become a fictionalized movie "based on a true story," according to the trailer.

The controversial aspects of Bruso's real story have been altered to make the movie more marketable. Let's take a look:

The real Bruso drew blood from a black guy on the bus after he'd accused Bruso of being a racist for asking him how much he'd charge to spit-shine Bruso's shoes. Yet the movie features a Mexican American wearing Bruso's signature fanny pack who beats down white supremacists picking on a black guy on the bus. Hmm, who knew Epic Beard Man was so politically correct?

Also, the movie's protagonist is a Vietnam vet. The real Bruso often claims he went to Vietnam  -- so often that he's known as Vietnam Tom in his old stomping grounds of North Beach -- but he was discharged from the military before he was ever deployed.

From watching the trailer, it seems the movie's protagonist is free of the mental issues which plague Bruso and likely precluded him from starring in his own movie. The movie's Bruso is festering with resentment about being spurned by society after returning from Nam, not a manic depressive who refuses to take his meds and moons reporters

While some fans on Facebook have been threatening to boycott the movie until Bruso gets his royalties, Moss had told us that the "Tom Cruise-type contract" bestowed Bruso with 10 percent of the profits made off the eventual film.

How the directors will even find Bruso is beyond us, but even if they do, whether that money will help the real Bruso stabilize his life is unlikely. Bruso had spent the $6,000 he was paid for his life-story rights within days -- smoking weed and handing out large bills to random kids on the street.

In fact, the director told us that as he and the producer were reading over the contract to Bruso, he seemed wholly uninterested in the fine print, and more interested in just getting his dough. "He said, 'Let's get this over [with] so I can buy my bag of weed."

No wonder Moss ended up taking great liberties and departures from Bruso's life. The real story is too depressing. It would less likely be shelved in the B-rated thriller section than tragedy.

Not so "Bad Ass" after all.

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Matthew John Thomas
Matthew John Thomas

I hope Bruso ends up getting his 10% and that he manages to use it for good, this time. At the end of your last Bruso article, Lauren mentions Bruso was trying to clean up and fly right, lets hope he's doing better than he was back in 2010. The movie and EBM story was distilled into your typical action movie fare, and not really worth watching if you've seen any other "good guy resorts to vigilantism to avenge (fill in the blank)" movie. I love Danny Trejo, and while he does a good job of his standard kick ass old guy routine, it's not enough to save the movie from mediocrity. As an action film, it's decent at best. As a "based on a true story" type-movie, it couldn't have been farther from the truth. As Lauren Smiley states, the only things the movie takes from the true story are mundane references like the fanny pack and beard, along with his mom dying and the "bad guy" saying "somebody call an ambulambs" like in the AC Transit fight video. No matter what your opinion on the whole Bruso story might be, the movie wasn't really worth watching, in my humble opinion. Also, kudos on another well-written article, Ms (or Mrs., sorry, I don't know) Smiley. 


This movie is PC bullshit. Typical Hollywood douchebaggery. Turn it around (as usual) to make the white guy look like shit. That nog got pwned, and damned well deserved it. EBM exercized restraint and walked away, even. But dumb nog just had to try and act like a badass. ...

And got his ass handed to him. Game over.

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