Via Cheryl's Mewsings, I found this from Guy Gavriel Kay, one of my favourite writers: Are novelists entitled to use real-life characters?
He makes the distinction between peopling fiction with real people as background, and using them as point of view characters, in other words, purporting to know what they think and feel - their internal lives. He is not happy with that, saying that a line has been crossed, into a "dramatically expanded perception of entitlement, and of eroded privacy", even if the person is long since dead.
A.S. Byatt says writers who combine biography and fiction, are indulging in an "appropriation of others' lives and privacy".
I have to agree. I would in fact go one step further: I don't like the tendency of the movie industry to make films that deliberately distort real people, alive or dead, for their own purposes. Note that I realise the medium does call for a lot of adjustment to the truth e.g. taking liberties with the time involved, or shifting the place of an incident somewhere else for aesthetic reasons or time constraints and I have no problem with that, so my operative word would be "distort". I hate it when film makers deliberately distort what we suspect is the truth, for the purposes of a good film. When they put words in A's mouth, which evidence indicates he would have been horrified to utter, or make B promiscuous when evidence suggests she patently was not.
What do you think? Do we have the right to mess with real people, alive or dead, in our literary or cinematographic work, getting inside their heads or perverting what we know about their lives, just in order to make a good piece of fiction?
Kay's solution is to write fantasy!