- Director David Yates explains that Emily Blunt’s character in Pain Hustlers, Liza Drake, is a composite of many different personalities and ultimately a creation of the filmmakers.
- The movie draws inspiration from the true story of Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company involved in racketeering schemes. However, the script takes creative liberties and fictionalizes the company as Zanna Therapeutics.
- By fictionalizing the characters and adding personal qualities, Liza Drake’s story becomes more relatable and compelling, allowing viewers to connect with her motivations and struggles.
Pain Hustlers director David Yates explains whether Emily Blunt’s character is inspired by a real person. The new Netflix original movie is a crime drama surrounding the story of Liza Drake (Blunt), a woman hired to work for a bankrupt pharmaceutical company who finds herself accidentally in the middle of a criminal conspiracy. Alongside Blunt, Pain Hustlers also stars Chris Evans, Catherine O’Hara, Chloe Coleman, Andy Garcia, and Jay Duplass.
Now, Yates explains the origin of Liza Drake, and whether she is based on a real person. Speaking with Forbes, he mentioned that Liza was “a composite of many different personalities.” While he and the Pain Hustlers team drew from “the characters of the Insys story,” the character of Liza was ultimately their “creation.” Check out the full quote from Yates below:
“There were various characters in this story, men and women, who all feed into Liza. She’s a composite of many different personalities and also partly our own creation as well. We wanted this woman who was ambitious, and idealistic, and perhaps a little bit naive, and who had not always been recognized for the ability that she had, because of her background, her sort of low income status, her lack of education. So there were lots of things that we created or added to Liza, that we all felt a connection to, in some shape or form, and we also cherry picked a few qualities in some of the characters of the Insys story. But yeah, she is ultimately our creation, Wells’ [Tower, the screenwriter] creation, I should say, at the end of the day.”
How Pain Hustlers Draws On Real-Life Events
Pain Hustlers was adapted for the screen by writer Wells Tower, based on Evan Hughes’ 2022 book The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Startup. Hughes’ book tells the true story of an early 2000s startup company called Insys Therapeutics. Founded by businessman John Kapoor, Insys exploded in success before it was revealed its executives were involved in various racketeering schemes, which included pushing their drugs and bribing doctors.
Pain Hustlers takes this shocking true story and adapts it into a fictional tale. As in the case with Liza Drake, the movie takes creative liberties in this adaptation process. Divorced from the real-life people, Tower’s script fictionalizes Insys Therapeutics as Zanna Therapeutics, and bases the characters loosely on those who may have worked within the controversial company.
Ultimately, the fictional flourishes within Liza Drake’s character in Pain Hustlers make her story a more compelling narrative. As Yates explains, Blunt’s character has a “low income status” and a “lack of education” that make it easy for her to get swept away in a cash-grab conspiracy, especially when motivated by the desire to make a better life for her daughter. By using real life as only inspiration and not the complete basis for her character, Liza can become someone viewers could actually relate to, rather than someone whose actual crimes are difficult to face.