Billy in his element

It's hard to believe that The King of Kong is a decade old now. A seminal work in the history of video game movies, it presented a thrilling David and Goliath tale which focused on humble schoolteacher Steve Wiebe's dream of being the world high score holder for Nintendo's arcade smash Donkey Kong, and the apparent attempts by (then) champ Billy Mitchell to prevent that from happening.

Billy Mitchell - one of the world's most famous high score holders - is painted as the bad guy in the film, using all kinds of underhanded techniques to hold the fresh-faced Wiebe back. Mitchell has rarely spoken about the movie and doesn't tend to give many interviews, but he's broken his silence to Kotaku and goes on to explain that he's never actually watched it:

I have not watched King of Kong, I have not watched Chasing Ghosts. I mostly don’t watch anything that I’m in. I mostly don’t read anything [about myself] either. On a very regular basis, people that I know flip their lid because somebody says something negative. And they say I gotta see it. Click. Delete. Why do I have to see it? Why? I know it, I lived it, I was there, and without the creativity of Hollywood. It was far greater to live it and enjoy it.

When [King of Kong] first came out, I got some emails that were so vile, I wouldn’t read ‘em to anybody. As time went on, they’ve certainly come full circle and I get very little of that now. Most everything’s extremely positive.

I’ve actually had people insinuating that I’m lying. On the souls of my children, I haven’t watched it. I had one guy, you might call him a very influential guy, a guy very extremely connected to the movie — extremely connected — question it. I said, well, we could always make arrangements for a polygraph. And I said, if I take a polygraph, maybe he’d wanna take a polygraph, too. And believe me, he doesn’t want to get anywhere near a polygraph. 

Mitchell then goes on to suggest that the way the movie portrays events might not be entirely accurate, something that several other people who also appear in it have claimed:

Billy Mitchell: The movie has tremendous accuracy. And it also has tremendous creativity. That’s what makes it a good movie. If you’ve ever watched anything that had 100% accuracy, you’d be watching the National Geographic. That would stink.

I’ll pick on you here, ‘cause you’re the only one on the phone. Do you really think I answer the phone at home, “World record headquarters?” Do you really think that?

Kotaku: Um —

Billy Mitchell:
 I’ll give you a hint — I don’t even have a home phone! That wasn’t a real phone!

Kotaku: So you were playing around, I guess, is what you’re saying?

Billy Mitchell:
 Let me do another one here. Standing in the kitchen of the restaurant. “Billy Mitchell always has a plan.” Do you recall that?

Kotaku: Yes

Billy Mitchell:
 Okay. So, they asked me questions, and they go, “If something were to happen, you’d probably have a plan for it.” I said, “Of course.” “Okay, well, of course what?” “Well, we’ll see what happens, we’ll see what plans I have.” “Oh no no no, do it again.” Okay, we’ll go again. “Well, I guess we’re gonna have to make a plan here.” “No, no, no. Go again.” I guess I did it about ten times. Bang, and I hit the one on the mark they wanted. That’s creativity.

Mitchell then goes on to state that he appreciates the filmmakers behind King of Kong had to tell a story with good and bad characters in it, and that he was a natural fit for the latter:

Do you really think that blond-haired, blue-eyed Steve Wiebe could play a bad guy? He’s a nice, mellow kinda guy, and that’s the way he is, and I think if you tried to ask him to do something that he doesn’t have in his personality, then it would have just looked foolish.

I’ve actually never, ever, ever, not once, ever had a negative encounter face to face. EV-ER. And I’ve had people say they’re gonna show up at a convention because they wanted to punch me. But then when they get there, after a little conversation, I guess they sort of catch themselves a little bit. I said to a guy, “Do you really think Charles Bronson makes a movie that they show in a theater, and when he’s all done he goes on the street and starts shooting people? Is that what you really think happens?” If you think about it, that’s the comparison.

It’s a hell of a lot more fun than being the good guy. ‘Cause I’ve played both. You could ask the average person about their favorite character in Star Wars. Most people are gonna say Darth Vader. Who the heck’s gonna say Princess Leia?

Mitchell reveals that he's not on bad terms with Wiebe, something which has been suggested in the past:

I see Steve at the Kong Off once a year, although last Kong Off, I didn’t see him. We say hi, I don’t express a bit of bad blood or ill will towards him or anybody. And I don’t ever get that impression from him either. I don’t know if I’ll see him again, because he didn’t go to the last Kong Off. I don’t know if his life has made a turn in a different direction. I hope the best for everybody.

The full interview is well worth a read, and if you haven't seen King of Kong before, then you need to fix that; despite the fact that it clearly manipulates certain elements to create dramatic tension, it's still a fine film.