‘Pain & Gain’ a painful reminder for real-life gang victim

<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

Paramount Pictures may stand to gain a great deal from its forthcoming “Pain & Gain,” but for Marc Schiller, it’s only generating pain.

Schiller, an accountant who resides in Boca Raton, Fla., was a victim of the Sun Gym gang, whose exploits are documented in the upcoming movie.

The film, starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, centers on bodybuilders who went on a crime rampage involving kidnapping, extortion and murder in South Florida in the 1990s. In 1994, Schiller was abducted and tortured by the gang. He said it would be too painful to see the action-comedy movie, which is rated R for bloody violence, crude sexual content and nudity.


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“I think it will be too difficult for me,” said Schiller, 54, in a phone interview Friday morning. “It’s supposed to be comical, but I fail to see anything funny in being tortured for a month. They tried to kill me. Being blown up in a car and run over is not fun.”

Schiller’s ordeal was detailed in a series of stories in the Miami New Times that were the basis for the film, which was directed by “Transformers” helmer Michael Bay and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeel. The film will be released April 26.

According to the New Times stories, bodybuilder Daniel Lugo, who in the film is played by Wahlberg, hatched a scheme to kidnap Schiller and steal from him -- under the pretense that the accountant was a “scumbag” and a thief.

In the film, a character named Victor Kershaw, played by Tony Shalhoub, experiences much of what Schiller went through at the hands of the gang. Although Kershaw is considered a composite character, Schiller said “it could only be me” based on the circumstances of the case.

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Schiller has gleaned what he can from previews of the film and heard about the Kershaw character from a friend, private investigator Ed Du Bois, who saw “Pain & Gain” at an April 11 screening in Miami. Du Bois, the investigator Schiller hired to track down the gang, served as a consultant on the film. In the movie he is played by Ed Harris.

Schiller said that he had no interaction with the filmmakers while they made the movie and believes that the Kershaw character doesn’t reflect his personality or lifestyle.

“Tony Shalhoub, he portrays me nothing like I am really like,” Schiller said. “They portray him in the pool with women -- I am a family man. I rarely socialize.”

If the filmmakers had reached out to him, Schiller said, he could have provided “a little more reality.”

A spokesperson for Paramount said Schiller was offered an opportunity to see the film and he declined to do so. (Schiller said he was never contacted by Paramount. Instead, the invitation was relayed by Du Bois.)

In January, Schiller released a self-published book, “Pain and Gain: The Untold True Story,” which he said offers an accurate account of his abduction.

Schiller isn’t the only person dissatisfied with how the Sun Gym gang saga is depicted in the movie. A recent story in the Miami Herald quoted Florida law enforcement officials and a relative of a man murdered by the gang who were critical of the film for potentially trivializing the group’s actions and portraying its members in a sympathetic light.

Lugo and and an accomplice were convicted of murder. They now sit on death row.

Schiller has had his own run-in with authorities. In 1999, he pleaded guilty to one count of Medicare fraud and was sentenced to 46 months in prison. When asked to explain the situation, Schiller demurred.

“It’s very complex,” he said. “It wouldn’t do it justice if I just gave you a short explanation.”

[For the record, 7:12 p.m. April 19: A previous version of this post incorrectly identified Marc Schiller as Tony Schiller.]


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