True story reveals that the real MIT Blackjack Team was led by three individuals, none of whom were professors. Massar were also very much the basis for 's Micky Rosa. Jeff Ma, the real life Ben Campbell, came from a well-to-do family.
Arguably, the most notable is Bill Kaplan, a Harvard Business school graduate who had also done his undergraduate studies at Harvard. "While [author] Ben Mezrich has been quoted as saying that Micky Rosa was a composite of myself, J. Massar, and John Chang, the fact is there is little, if anything, that resembles either of us except that he started and ran the team and was focused on running the team as a business," says Bill Kaplan. Unlike in the movie 21, his mother never offered him a life savings of over $60,000 for med school.
John Chang graduated from MIT in 1985 with a degree in electrical engineering. "I actually did want to go to Harvard Medical School," admits Jeff Ma, "but I didn't actually play blackjack necessarily to go to Harvard Medical School. One of the reasons I ended up not going to Harvard Medical School is because of blackjack and all the money I could make there." -Double Play No.
An influential member of the original team, Chang would later re-team with Bill Kaplan as a co-manager in the early 1990s. Former team leader John Chang said that the movie's scholarship interview is a plot device that "never happened" in real life.
"It's a clever technique to tell the story, but because of it, it makes the ending too predictable.
You know that Campbell never gets to keep what he made — otherwise, why would he be applying? The real Jeff Ma (Ben from the movie) says that his father is very much alive and well, unlike the character's father in the movie.
His parents and his sister were his guests at the 2008 21 movie premiere at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. In the movie, MIT team members Ben (Jim Sturgess) and Jill (Kate Bosworth) share a brief love scene and end up a couple at the end of the film.
Their real life counterparts, Jeff Ma and Jane Willis, were never a couple.
In fact, Jane and her boyfriend, who were both "math geeks," were recruited by Jeff Ma in the early 1990s.
Jeff knew them and had been friends with both of them.
Jane Willis and her boyfriend later married and divorced. Their wedding was held in a Catholic church located behind the Tropicana and across from the Mandalay Bay casinos in Las Vegas.
True story reveals that the real MIT Blackjack Team, on which the movie was based, played in the early 1990s.