Pain & Gain is also the first comedy for Michael Bay since another Miami-based story, Bad Boys II in 2003.
Another first for Pain & Gain is that, unlike the Transformer series, it’s Michael Bay’s first movie with a shred of truth. But the real story is anything but a comedy.
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Pain & Gain kicks off with a GoPro shot of a ripped Mark Wahlberg, who plays the role of bodybuilder Daniel Lugo in the movie, doing sit-ups on the side of the Sun Gym building before making an escape from the cops. After this brief injection of comedy as Wahlberg goes sliding across the hood of a police car and cracking the windshield on impact, actor Ed Harris, who plays a man by the name of Ed DuBois in the film, explains that:
“The events you are about to see took place between October 1994 and June 1995. Unfortunately, this is a true story.”
While the movie starts in October of 1994, our story begins a couple years earlier in 1992. Sun Gym was a popular spot for bodybuilders to get even more ripped. The gym’s owner was John Mese, who’s played by Rob Corddry in the movie, and was himself a bodybuilder. Well, technically he was an accountant by trade, but in the 1960s he’d earned the title of Mr. United Kingdom with 19.5-inch biceps while he was stationed in England during his stint in the United States Air Force.
So when he started Sun Gym in 1987, this love of bodybuilding only grew. John loved to use his business to hold bodybuilding competitions. By the time 1994 rolled around, Sun Gym had earned a reputation for being the place to train in Miami for bodybuilders.
While this reputation meant a loyal, dedicated core group of members, it also meant most people simply felt out of place.
So when a Gold’s Gym opened nearby, Sun Gym started bleeding members.
Unfortunately for John, this meant he was left with mostly fitness-crazed members who were on the shady side of life. While extreme fitness certainly isn’t criminal, John’s gym had somehow managed to gain members who were.
In fact, according to a series of articles by Pete Collins from 1999, which were the basis for the movie, one Miami police officer claimed he could, “meet my monthly quota of felony arrests in one night at the Sun Gym.”
And so, Sun Gym wasn’t doing well. John Mese was getting fed up.
About this time, a 30-year-old New Yorker by the name of Daniel Lugo showed up at the gym looking for a job. In the movie, Mark Wahlberg’s version of Daniel Lugo explains he had been in prison and was looking to make a new start. He promised to increase membership by 300% in three months, a deal that was too good to pass up.
While we don’t know the details of the deal, there is a lot of truth to what the movie claims here, although the movie failed to mention a few very important details between prison and Daniel’s job search.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences here was that the movie never portrayed Mark Wahlberg’s Daniel Lugo character as being married. In truth, Daniel moved to Miami with his wife, Lillian Torres, and their four adopted children years before. Then his marriage to Lillian ended soon after when he went to prison for fraud after scamming people out of money at health clubs both in Miami and in Oklahoma, of all places.
But that was back in 1991, and he’d done his time. And although Daniel and his wife had separated, Daniel had since remarried and was still close friends with his ex-wife and their four children.
So it seems Daniel was looking to make a new start after all, but with a new wife.
We don’t know if he promised an increase of 300%, but Daniel did have a lot of ideas that convinced John to overlook Daniel’s troubled past. Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that bodybuilding was a passion for John, so the failure of Sun Gym was something he’d try anything to avoid.
So John hired Daniel to try to breathe some life into the gym.
And things looked good for a while. Daniel was bringing people into the gym, and by the summer of 1994 Daniel had turned the gym around.
During that time is when Daniel brought on one of his friends, Adrian Doorbal, who’s played by Anthony Mackie in the movie. Adrian and Daniel had struck up a friendship a few years earlier when they met through Adrian’s cousin, Lucretia Goodridge. Daniel ended up marrying Lucretia after he divorced Lillian, and brought Adrian on to work at Sun Gym.
This wasn’t mentioned at all in the movie, but together, Daniel and Adrian pulled a scam to make some quick cash. They rented some mailboxes, bought some names and Social Security numbers from legitimate Medicare recipients and then sent bills to the government for made-up medical bills.
Soon after Adrian, who as far as anyone else knew was still just a young, part-time personal trainer with only two clients, invested a million dollars into a mutual fund account.
In the movie, Adrian is portrayed by Mackie as an impotent, simpleminded person. Part of that is true. Because of his steroid use, Adrian was indeed impotent. And he did see a doctor for hormone injections to help with this, but he didn’t meet his wife there. In the movie, Mackie’s version of Adrian meets Robin Peck, who’s played by Rebel Wilson. Eventually, the couple gets married in the movie, but in real life, Adrian’s wife was named Cindy Eldridge, and the two didn’t meet at the doctor’s office — although Cindy did recommend the doctor to Adrian.
In the movie, the final member of the Sun Gym Gang is Paul Doyle, who’s played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. In reality, Paul Doyle didn’t exist but instead The Rock’s character is a composite of three people. There was Jorge Delgado and Mario Sanchez, but the primary inspiration for the character of Paul Doyle was a man by the name of Carl Weekes.
Interestingly, the man for Paul Doyle in the mugshots at the end of the movie is also an actor by the name of Shannon Mosley. The mugshot of the “real” Paul Doyle in the movie was staged for the film.
All three of the gang members were portrayed in the movie as bumbling fools. While this certainly helps add to the comedic element of the movie, this isn’t true at all.
In truth, the real Daniel Lugo, Mark Wahlberg’s character, was a very smart man. The real Adrian Doorbal, Anthony Mackie’s character, was incredibly violent — he loved violence. Only the real Carl Weekes, The Rock’s character, was relatively close to the movie version. Carl was nice, like The Rock’s character, and although he was a recovering drug addict and ex-convict, he’d converted to Christianity and only started working at Sun Gym on the recommendation of his cousin.
But still, even though Adrian and Carl were roped into Daniel’s ultra-violent scheme, they carried it out wholeheartedly.
Just like in the movie, on the surface, the plan seemed simple enough. Daniel, Adrian and Carl would kidnap a rich man and force him to sign over all of his possessions. In the movie, they kidnap Schlotzsky’s Deli owner Victor Kershaw, who’s played by Tony Shalhoub.
In real life, they targeted an accountant and a franchise owner of a few Schlotzsky’s deli shops named Marc Schiller.
Marc was targeted because he had done some business with Jorge Delgado a few weeks before. If you remember, Jorge is one of the people that went into The Rock’s composite character named Paul Doyle.
Well, Jorge ended up doing business with Daniel, so Marc had met Daniel before. But he didn’t trust Daniel, so Marc broke off ties with both Daniel and Jorge.
Simply put, this made Daniel upset and gave him a target for his idea.
The gang didn’t actually dress up in Halloween costumes like they did in the movie, although that was a part of the plan at one point. That was when the plan was to grab Marc after he opened the door on Halloween to what he’d think was a bunch of trick-or-treaters. But that didn’t happen. The group decided to go to the strip club that night, instead.
They did capture Marc at his deli, like in the movie. But it wasn’t quite as bumbling as they made it seem in the movie. When Marc was getting in his car, they grabbed him from behind. There was a long struggle that ended with Marc getting Tasered a few times before the three bodybuilders finally subdued him.
In the movie, Daniel and the gang torture their victim until he gives them what they want.
This actually happened. Marc was punched, pistol-whipped, Tasered, had his flesh burnt with a lighter and even the three playing Russian roulette with his head.
For the next few days, Marc was forced to make phone calls to let people know he was alright – each time a gun pressed against his head in case he said something he shouldn’t.
And the torture continued.
After almost a month in captivity, he finally caved and signed dozens of documents that essentially transferred everything he had to the Sun Gym Gang members.
Finally, once Daniel was satisfied they got everything they could from him, it was time to cut him loose. They forced Marc to make one last call, this time to his lawyer. In the call, Marc admitted to having an affair with a Cuban woman. He said his wife had found out, and now Marc was suicidal.
In the movie, the gang pours chocolate liqueur down Tony Shalhoub’s throat as they force him to get drunk.
This happened, although it wasn’t only chocolate liqueur.
After the call, and still with a gun pressed to his head, Marc was forced to drink a deadly cocktail of vodka, tequila and chocolate liqueur laced with sleeping pills. Marc passed out.
Then, at 2:30 AM on December 15th, 1994, the gang put Marc in his car and drove him to an industrial park where Daniel held down Marc’s foot on the gas pedal and turned the wheel to aim the car at a concrete pole.
Just before the car crashed into the pole, Daniel jumped out of the car.
In the movie, Mackie’s version of Doorbal had put a seatbelt on Victor Kershaw, which saved his life.
The seatbelt thing didn’t happen, but Marc did survive the crash somehow.
So Daniel splashed gas all over the car and set it on fire. The three men got in their Chevy Astro van and began to back away.
As they did, they noticed Marc getting out of the car. They hadn’t strapped him in, and the heat from the fire had revived him enough to where he was able to stumble out of the car.
Carl, who was driving the gang’s Astro van, switched gears and aimed the van at Marc. They struck him, knocking him down. Then, just like in the movie, the gang turned the van around and ran over him yet again.
In the movie, Tony Shalhoub’s character survives this vicious attack.
And that’s actually true! Marc Schiller survived the Sun Gym Gang’s attacks, but he was left with a twisted spine, shattered pelvis, a ruptured bladder and a damaged spleen just for starters.
He was in bad shape.
In the movie, the gang finds out Victor survived and came back after him in the hospital. And although it’s hard to believe, this is true also!
As soon as Marc came to in the hospital, his first thought was leaving the public place. He asked to be transported to a hospital in Staten Island. This was granted. As it’d turn out, that was just in time because the same day Marc was transported, Daniel, Adrian and Carl were dressed up as doctors in the hospital trying to find Marc’s room to finish him off.
The story was so crazy, Marc didn’t trust the cops to believe it. So he didn’t go to the police…at least not yet.
In the movie, after the Sun Gym Gang gets a taste of luxury, they quickly decide to run their scheme again once they find they’ve spent all of their money.
So they need another target. And they found one in multi-millionaire Frank Griga.
This actually happened. Daniel and the gang kidnapped Frank and his girlfriend, Krisztina Furton, while Marc was still recovering from his injuries elsewhere in Miami.
But Frank refused to sign over anything.
The gang was frustrated. They were violent, and they were desperate.
In the movie, it’s Mark Wahlberg’s version of Daniel Lugo who accidentally kills Frank Griga. In truth, it was Adrian Doorbal who killed Frank. And while we’ll probably never know what actually happened, knowing how Adrian loved violence, it’s not likely to have been an accident.
When Krisztina saw Frank lying dead, she screamed and just like in the movie the gang shot her full of the horse tranquilizer Rompun to shut her up. But unlike the movie, she never came out of her sedation. They’d given her too much, and she died.
In the movie, the gang starts cutting up the bodies. Somehow, Hollywood makes this unthinkable act seem like comedy as they have The Rock making funny faces as he grills human hands.
The grilling didn’t happen, but the gang did cut up the bodies with a chainsaw. And just like in the movie, there’re receipts as evidence to show Daniel Lugo did take the chainsaw the gang used to chop up Frank and Krisztina back to Home Depot because the engine burned out.
But unlike with Marc, where he had called his loved ones to let them know he was okay — even though he did so with a gun to his head — Frank was never forced to call anyone.
So it didn’t take long for people to report both Frank and Krisztina missing.
While all of this was going on with Frank and Kristzina, Marc was recovering. It took four months for Marc to recover. Not only physically, but he was broke. He had no home. His businesses had been dissolved, sold off. The only thing he was left with was $160,000 worth of credit card bills, most of which was spent on condoms and porn.
When he could afford one, Marc hired two private investigators, one named Ed DuBois, who’s played by Ed Harris in the movie, and the other PI was Ed Seibert. Lots of Eds.
So the Ed’s went to work. They sifted through trash they found in Daniel’s home – which used to be Marc’s. As they looked through it, they found almost everything pertained to Marc’s kidnapping. It was obvious Daniel and the gang was trying to get rid of the evidence, but instead of shredding everything they just threw it out.
With this in hand, Marc and the Ed’s went to the police in April of 1995.
As it happens, one of the detectives who was working on Marc’s case overheard a conversation about the suspect Daniel Lugo in the disappearance of Frank and Kristzina.
A few hours later, the Sun Gym Gang was rounded up. Daniel was the only one who wasn’t arrested. Just like in the movie, Daniel had fled to the Bahamas – but it wasn’t to get more money from Marc’s secret reserves of cash.
He was simply trying to escape Miami. Five days later he was caught, ending the story of the Sun Gym Gang.
The case went to trial in 1998, and Judge Alex Ferrer presided over it. You might know him from his daytime TV show Judge Alex. Ferrer is quoted as saying, “There were literally times during the case when the lawyers would approach the bench to talk about an issue, and we would just shake our heads and laugh because of the stupidity. The case was incredibly tragic, but it had a lot of dark humor in it.”
So while Hollywood takes the stupidity of the Sun Gym Gang to turn Pain & Gain into a full-fledged comedy, as you’ve learned the true story isn’t very funny.
After the movie had been released, Marc Schiller was shocked to find out how the character of Victor Kershaw was made out to be a mean, womanizing and horrible person who seemed to have deserved what the gang did to him. He had turned down the opportunity to have a character named after him and even play a cameo role in the film, so the producers had made the character of Victor Kershaw.
In truth, Marc went from a millionaire with a lovely wife, successful accounting firm and deli franchise to having his life completely ruined.
Although Marc wasn’t without blemish. In 1999, Marc pled guilty to a conspiracy to defraud the government and was sentenced to 46 months in prison and was slapped with an order to pay $14.6 million dollars. This charge was completely unrelated to his kidnapping.
He was released from prison in 2001 and to this day, Marc has never gotten his possessions back. He’s not a millionaire. He’s separated from his wife, and he earns about $20 an hour, less money than he made in college, just to pay the bills and try to forget what happened.
He’s admitted to not wanting to go out and claims he’s often judged in real life based on the personality of the Victor Kershaw character.
Daniel Lugo was charged with racketeering, two counts of first-degree murder for the murders of Frank and Krisztina, kidnapping, extortion, arson, burglary, robbery, grand theft and forgery on June 2, 1998. He received two death sentences, but is still alive and since his sentencing has been filing appeal after appeal to try to stay alive. His last attempt at an appeal in January 2010 is still pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.
While he waits, he’s currently serving his sentence on death row in Raiford, Florida.
Adrian Doorbal was charged with two counts of first-degree murder for Frank and Krisztina. Like Daniel, Adrian received two death sentences. And like Daniel, Adrian has filed multiple appeals. His final appeal was in November 2009, and it failed. The only way he can avoid execution is through a governor’s pardon. But Adrian is still alive and on death row in Florida.
Sun Gym’s owner, John Mese, was sentenced to 56 years in prison. He died while serving his sentence.
Carl Weekes was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released just under four years later on May 15th, 2002.
Stevenson Pierre was sentenced to seven years in prison. He was released just under two years later on May 24th, 2001.
While we didn’t really talk about him much because he didn’t have a role in the movie, another member of the gang was John Raimondo. He was sentenced to eight years and was released three years later on February 27th, 2002.
Jorge Delgado was sentenced to fifteen years. He served seven of those years before being released on September 27, 2002. In 2008, he was arrested for trying to return $7,500 worth of stolen goods to a Kmart store. He was given a year’s probation, but never served any time. Jorge and his now-wife, Jocelyn, live in Miami.
In April of 2014, Marc Schiller filed a lawsuit against Mark Wahlberg, Michael Bay, and Pain & Gain’s producers at Paramount over the film. The suit claims that his life has been ruined because Pain & Gain was “heavily marketed” as a true story. That’s why Paramount and Bay are in the lawsuit. For Wahlberg, the lawsuit claims Pain & Gain was used for Wahlberg to market his own line of fitness supplements.
The lawsuit, which is seeking $10 million in damages, claims Victor Kershaw is presented as a skirt-chasing, carefree millionaire when in truth Marc was just a victim of the brutality of the Sun Gym Gang.
Today, Marc’s lawsuit officially holds the same status as the appeal for Daniel Lugo: Pending.