Do You Know the Tragic True Story Behind '30 Minutes or Less'? (2023)

In 2003, high school dropout, Brian Douglas Wells, was working as a pizza delivery man at the Mama Mia Pizzeria in Erie, Pennsylvania when on August 28 he was sent on a delivery that ended at a TV transmission tower site. There he received instructions to rob a bank while wearing a bomb handcuffed to his neck.

He went to the bank and, instead of getting the $250,000 he asked for, walked out with only $8,702 and a Dum Dum lollipop he grabbed from the counter.

Upon completion of this task he began a scavenger hunt to gain the information necessary to remove the bomb from his neck before the kitchen timer expired and blew up. He made it to the first clue, but before he could go any further he was apprehended by the police. The bomb subsequently exploded on national television, killing him while he and the police waited for the bomb squad to show up… they arrived three minutes after the bomb exploded.

This is the true story that led to this week’s new comedy 30 Minutes or Less though this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Screenwriters Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan may have turned the story of a pizza delivery guy who attempted to rob a bank with a bomb strapped around his neck into a comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride and Nick Swardson into a comedy, but the real story is far more disturbingly insane than that or the simple description I gave above.

A 2010 piece at Wired by Rich Schapiro details the story, which goes well beyond a man coerced into robbing a bank in order to save his life.

If you were to tell the story based on the court’s decision after eight years of courtroom trials and police and FBI investigations, you would point your finger at the incredibly intelligent, yet bipolar Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong as the mastermind of the whole thing. On February 28, 2011 Diehl-Armstrong was found guilty of participating in the crime, and was sentenced to life plus 30 years. “She was motivated by greed and completely characterized by evil,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Piccinini as quoted by CNN. She was sentenced for aiding Kenneth Barnes in the 2003 robbery that ended in Wells’ death.

Barnes was sentenced to 45 years following his testimony, which insinuated Wells was in on the plan only to be double-crossed in the end. Here is the description of his testimony as reported by Wired:

Diehl-Armstrong, Barnes said, devised the plan and enlisted a few coconspirators to help carry it out. [Bill Rothstein] was one of them. Wells was another, lured in with the promise of a payday. He certainly needed the money. It turned out that the quiet pizza man had a relationship with a prostitute. With the help of his pal Barnes, he bought crack, which he then gave to the prostitute in exchange for sex. But in the weeks before the robbery, Wells fell into debt with his crack dealers and needed cash. It was only on the afternoon of the crime, when he delivered the pizzas to the TV transmission tower, that Wells realized he had been double-crossed and that the bomb was real. He was tackled as he tried to sprint away and locked into the device at gunpoint.

Do You Know the Tragic True Story Behind '30 Minutes or Less'? (1)

Barnes was an ex-television repairman turned crack dealer and the Bill Rothstein (pictured right) mentioned above is another story altogether. Despite the fact the case has been closed with Diehl-Armstrong and Barnes behind bars, retired FBI criminal investigator Jim Fisher believes it went down differently.

Fisher believes Rothstein, a handyman with the skills to fabricate an elaborate explosive device such as the one used in the crime, was the actual mastermind behind the whole thing. Rothstein, however, died of lymphoma in July 2004 and never once, not even on his deathbed, claimed to be involved… despite the fact he made a 911 call from his home, which sat right next to the TV tower where Wells was eventually strapped to a bomb, and revealed: “At 8645 Peach Street, in the garage, there is a frozen body… It’s in the freezer.” He was referring to a freezer in his own home.

Rothstein explained how the dead body was that of Diehl-Armstrong’s live-in boyfriend, James Roden, whom she shot in the back with a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, in a dispute over money. The story held water considering at the age of 35, Diel-Armstrong was charged with murdering her boyfriend, Robert Thomas, after she shot him six times in what she claimed was self-defense. A jury acquitted her. Wired‘s Schapiro then tells us, “four years later, her husband, Richard Armstrong, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The death was ruled accidental, but questions lingered; Armstrong had a head injury when he arrived at the hospital, but the case was never forwarded to the coroner’s office.”

Fisher believes Rothstein didn’t mastermind the plan for money, but merely to prove a point. Quoted by Wired, Fisher says, “The son of a bitch ended up winning… He died with all of the secrets. He died taking all the answers with him. He gets the last laugh in that sense. He escaped punishment. He escaped detection. He left us with these idiots and a bunch of questions.”

So now “these idiots” are being portrayed on the big screen in a new film from Zombieland helmer Ruben Fleischer. Matching the film’s characters to the real story goes a little something like this:

Do You Know the Tragic True Story Behind '30 Minutes or Less'? (2)

Jesse Eisenberg plays Nick, a pizza delivery guy for a gimmicky pizzeria that guarantees your order will be at your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free. His driving prowess is on display from the film’s opening moments as he must race all around town to get pizzas to the customers on time or it comes out of his paycheck.

His character drives a beat-up Mustang as opposed to the Geo Metro Brian Wells drove around in and isn’t as sad as the real life character, though he is rather pathetic. He does have at least one friend in Chet (Aziz Ansari) and he’s in love with Chet’s sister Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria) and Nick isn’t in on the robbery, but the circumstances behind why the robbery exists in the film is similar to the testimony given by Kenneth Barnes, which leads us to our villains…

Do You Know the Tragic True Story Behind '30 Minutes or Less'? (3)

Danny McBride plays Dwayne, a character similar to that of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Nick Swardson plays Travis, a character who is something of an amalgamation between Barnes and Rothstein.

Dwayne’s father won $10 million in the lottery and believes he’s just pissing through it. Like Diehl-Armstrong, Dwayne has devised a plan to have his father assassinated so he can get his hands on his money. His goal is to have him killed, inherit the money, marry the stripper who set him up with the hit man (Michael Pena) and open a tanning salon that will serve as a front for a prostitution ring. Travis is essentially an idiot along for the ride with the bomb know how thanks to some “How Tos” he read on the Internet.

So that sets the mood for the R-rated comedy, which doesn’t follow the true life story beyond the set up, but does prove to be one hell of a bizarre way to adapt a true life story. If you’ve yet to see a trailer for the film I have included it directly below and you can read my full review right here.

For more on this story you can read the complete piece from right here and I also quoted a few items from Wikipedia.


Do You Know the Tragic True Story Behind '30 Minutes or Less'? ›

The answer to this is, No, 30 Minutes Or Less is not based on a true story. However, the story does strike a resemblance to a bank robbery. A report in US Weekly reveals that on August 28, 2003, a pizza deliveryman named Brian Wells robbed a PNC Bank in Erie, Pennsylvania.

What is the true story behind 30 Minutes or Less? ›

The plot of the film bears a resemblance to a real-life bank robbery gone wrong that resulted in the death of Brian Wells in 2003. As with the film, Wells was a pizza delivery man who was forced to wear a bomb and then robbed a bank under orders from the plot's mastermind in an effort to have the bomb defused.

What is the movie about Brian Wells? ›

Jessica Hoopsick, a woman who was Wells' friend and sex worker, confessed on the Netflix documentary Evil Genius that she set Wells up to participate in the crime by providing his name and delivery schedule to one of the conspirators in exchange for money and drugs.

Is 30 Minutes or Less a good movie? ›

Enjoyable, but not as a comedy. 30 Minutes or Less takes a rather dark and yet funny premise, but then plays it more like an action movie. Eisenberg is strapped with a bomb and is told to rob a bank. What's quite peculiar about this film is that it focuses so much on the Danny McBride character.

How does 30 Minutes or Less end? ›

The ending of the film establishes two things, Nick and Chet cannot use the money because it's permanently stained with dye and will be quickly be identified as stolen cash as soon as they use it to pay for something. It also makes it clear that Dwayne and his father have somehow managed to survive the whirlwind event.

Is 30 Minutes or Less inappropriate? ›

30 Minutes or Less is rated R by the MPAA for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence.

Who is the bad guy in 30 Minutes or Less? ›

Movie Info

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a pizza deliverer who lives a fairly ordinary, boring life -- until he crosses paths with two aspiring criminal masterminds (Danny McBride, Nick Swardson), who kidnap him, strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank for them.

Where is Brian Wells buried? ›

What movie is Wells Fargo hostage? ›

In the new film "Breaking" (formerly named "892"), John Boyega plays a Marine veteran named Brian Brown-Easley who has been denied disability support from Veterans Affairs. He chooses to enter the Wells Fargo bank in Atlanta with a note saying that he has a bomb.

What is the movie about the man robbing Wells Fargo? ›

Breaking is a 2022 American thriller drama film starring John Boyega as a Marine Corps veteran, Brian Brown-Easley, who is in financial trouble and robs a bank.

What is the shortest movie of all time? ›

Fresh Guacamole
Directed byPES
Written byPES
Produced byPES
Distributed byShowtime ShortsHD
4 more rows

What movie took the shortest time to film? ›

10 Movies That Were Filmed in One Month or Less
  • 8 Moonlight (2016) – 25 days.
  • 7 Memento (2000) – 25 days.
  • 6 Birdman (2014) – 23 days.
  • 5 Halloween (1978) – 20 days.
  • 4 Whiplash (2014) – 19 Days.
  • 3 Phone Booth (2002) – 12 days.
  • 2 Before Sunset (2004) – 15 Days.
  • 1 The Blair Witch Project (1999) – 8 days.
Apr 16, 2023

How long is the shortest movie ever? ›

The shortest feature film classified is called Soldier Boy and is just seven seconds long. The story is about a couple that gets separated due to WW2.

Where did they film 30 Minutes or Less? ›

30 Minutes or Less (2011)

In 2010, the film set up shop in Grand Rapids for four months of production, and the city is referenced multiple times throughout the movie. After the bank robbery takes place, a big car chase scene rolls down South Division Avenue between Fulton Street and Wealthy Street.

What does 30 minutes before mean? ›

If you see the phrase “Please arrive no later than 30 minutes before the interview,” that means you must arrive earlier. You have to arrive before 4:30.

What car does Jesse Eisenberg drive in 30 Minutes or Less? ›

GRAND RAPIDS -- The fake Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari screeched the tires of an old Datsun 240Z down South Division Avenue, a fake black-and-white Grand Rapids police car on their tail.

Is 13 going on 30 appropriate for a 12 year old? ›

13 Going on 30 is rated PG-13.

Some sexual content and brief drug references give this movie a PG-13 rating. However, this feel-good movie would be appropriate for kids even younger. Although, little kids may not get the jokes or find it as entertaining as tweens and teens.

Is 13 going on 30 appropriate for 8 year old? ›

Because of some of the content I wouldn't recommend the movie for younger children, but teens and upwards would get a kick out of the sweet romance. Otherwise, this is a great family movie for those of y'all who have older kids.

Is 12 minutes ok for kids? ›

Twelve Minutes is rated M for Mature, and carries four ESRB content descriptors: Blood and Gore; Sexual Content; Strong Language; and Violence.

What actor is always the bad guy? ›

Easily the most iconic example of an amazing actor that always seemed like he was playing the bad guy, look no further than Sir Christopher Lee. Lee has played memorable characters in numerous famous franchises, whether he's Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, or ...

Who Framed The Bad Guys? ›

Later on in the film when the bad guys were framed at the gala by Marmalade, he uses his helicopter to steal the heart-shaped meteorite and bring it back to the lair.

Where is Hazel Scott buried? ›

In 1981, Hazel Scott died of pancreatic cancer. She was only 61 years old and survived by her son, Adam Clayton Powell III. She was buried in Flushing Cemetery in Queens, New York, near other musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hodges, and Dizzy Gillespie.

Where is Scott Muni buried? ›

Muni is included in an exhibit display of important disc jockeys at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He died at the age of 74 in New York City and is buried in St. Gertrude's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Colonia, New Jersey.

Where is Brian Jones grave? ›

Famous people laid to rest in Cheltenham

There are several graves of interest in Cheltenham cemetery grounds which include: Brian Jones guitarist of the English rock group The Rolling Stones – (Interred in grave section V / 11393)

Is Wells Fargo Breaking a true story? ›

The true story of Brian Brown-Easley, who took bank employees hostage in 2017, gets a histrionic retelling. The fact-based hostage drama “Breaking” is a kind of chamber piece, set almost entirely inside the lobby of a Marietta, Ga., Wells Fargo branch, where the pressure-cooker action simmers.

Who owns Wells Fargo Bank? ›

Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC)

Institutional investors hold a majority ownership of WFC through the 74.63% of the outstanding shares that they control. This interest is also higher than at almost any other company in the Major Banks industry.

When was the last episode of Tales of Wells Fargo? ›

After a change in management at Universal (the studio financing the series), Tales of Wells Fargo was canceled due to high production costs. The final episode aired on September 8, 1962.

Where is David Ghantt now? ›

It all went down in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the man at the center of that heist, David Scott Ghantt, now lives in Jacksonville.

What was the famous Wells Fargo robbery? ›

The Wells Fargo robbery, one of the biggest in U.S. history at the time, took place outside the Food 'n' Things deli at 850 Bay St. in Clifton on Dec. 19, 1978. The theft came just eight days after the famous Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport that netted $6 million and was immortalized in the film “Goodfellas.”

How much did Cain Dyer steal? ›

He walked out of the bank with $33,000 in cash stuffed into his rucksack, then made his getaway. Over the following two years, Dyer claims, he looted more than 100 banks across the United States.

What is the oldest full movie ever? ›

Roundhay Garden Scene is a short silent motion picture filmed by French inventor Louis Le Prince at Oakwood Grange in Roundhay, Leeds, in northern England on 14 October 1888. It is believed to be the oldest surviving film.

What is the 1 longest movie in the world? ›

1. Background Information: Introducing "Logistics" The longest movie ever made is titled "Logistics" and was first released in 2012. This experimental film was conceived and directed by two Swedish artists, Erika Magnusson, and Daniel Andersson.

What is the world's longest movie ever? ›

Avatar: 162 minutes (2 hours 42 minutes) True Lies: 141 minutes (2 hours 21 minutes) The Abyss: 139 minutes (2 hours 19 minutes)

What movie took the most money to make? ›

The priciest movie, adjusted for inflation or otherwise, is a “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. “On Stranger Tides,” the fourth movie in the series, cost $378.5 million to make. That's $430 million adjusted for inflation.

What is the fastest movie to reach $1 billion? ›

Titanic became the first movie to gross over $1 billion worldwide on March 1, 1998, in 74 days of release. The list below is restricted to the 10 movies that reached the milestone the fastest.

What movie is age every 30 minutes? ›

After the children rapidly turn into teenagers and Agnes suddenly dies, the families conclude that the beach is aging them, with the occupants undergoing the equivalent of one year of aging every 30 minutes. At least one member of each family has an underlying medical condition.

What was the worst rated movie ever? ›

  • 1.1 Maniac (1934)
  • 1.2 Reefer Madness (1936)
  • 1.3 The Terror of Tiny Town (1938)

What is the shortest Disney film? ›

Saludos Amigos was popular enough that Walt Disney decided to make another film about Latin America, The Three Caballeros, to be produced two years later. At 42 minutes, it is Disney's shortest animated feature to date.

How long is the longest movie ever filmed? ›

The 85-hour experimental film was directed by John Henry Timmis IV. It was played in its entirety Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, 1987 at the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, according to Guinness World Records.

What is the longest movie in the world 30 days? ›

Shot in the same region of Sweden where Ingmar Bergman filmed “The Seventh Seal,” “Ambiancé” is an experimental film starring two performance artists on a beach. There are no cuts.

What is the longest film ever 30 days? ›

The same phrase was used in the description of the film's trailer in relation to Weberg quitting directing after having finished Ambiancé. Weberg's own website lists the film in its filmography, listing a runtime of 43,200 minutes, which totals to exactly 30 days.

Is it better to eat before or after a shower? ›

Digestion requires a lot of energy and a good amount of blood flow toward the stomach. When you take a bath or shower right after eating dinner, it causes a slight decrease in body temperature. It is advisable to wait at least 30 to 45 minutes after any meal before bathing.

What is the meaning of 30 minutes? ›

Definitions of 30 minutes. a half of an hour. synonyms: half-hour. type of: time unit, unit of time. a unit for measuring time periods.

What does 30 min past mean? ›

Since an hour equals 60 minutes, half of an hour is the same as 30 minutes. So half past the hour also implies 30 minutes past the hour. Let's look at some half past the hour examples to understand this better. For example, When we say half past 3, we mean that half hour i.e 30 minutes past 3.

How many cars Gone in 60 Seconds? ›

Gone in 60 Seconds is a 2000-action film about a retired car thief who is forced to steal 50 cars in one night to save his brother's life. The main character, Randall “Memphis” Raines, is a skilled thief who retired from his criminal lifestyle to lead a normal life.

What car is the old Gone in 60 Seconds? ›

The First Gone in 60 Seconds Eleanor

It was actually a yellow 1973 Ford Mustang that appeared in the original 1974 film Gone in 60 Seconds by H. B. Halicki.

Who is Kate from 30 Minutes or Less? ›

30 Minutes or Less (2011) - Dilshad Vadsaria as Kate - IMDb.

What town is 30 Minutes or Less filmed in? ›

30 Minutes or Less (2011)

In 2010, the film set up shop in Grand Rapids for four months of production, and the city is referenced multiple times throughout the movie. After the bank robbery takes place, a big car chase scene rolls down South Division Avenue between Fulton Street and Wealthy Street.

What is the movie about Marjorie Diehl Armstrong? ›

Netflix bills Evil Genius as the true story of America's most diabolical bank heist, in 2003 in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Was 30 Minutes or Less filmed in Michigan? ›

Filming locations
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Helpful•19. ...
  • Ludington, Michigan, USA. Helpful•12. ...
  • Michigan, USA. Helpful•9. ...
  • Taco Boy, 75 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. (The restaurant where Dwayne and Travis are eating tacos) ...
  • Vito's Pizza, 658 Fulton Street, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

Who is Kate engaged to? ›

Justin Long and Kate Bosworth are engaged and sharing private details about their love story.

Who is the female TV presenter Kate? ›

About Kate Garraway...

Most famous for her role on ITV breakfast show, Good Morning Britain, Kate currently presents the show alongside Susanna Reid, Piers Morgan and Ben Shephard. Kate also spent many years presenting Daybreak, GMTV and ITV News. Kate also hosts Mid-Mornings with Kate Garraway on Smooth Radio.

Who is the female lead in Kate? ›

The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, Woody Harrelson, Tadanobu Asano, Michiel Huisman, Miyavi, and Jun Kunimura. The film follows Kate (Winstead), an assassin, whose mentor and handler (Harrelson) assigns her to kill a high-ranking yakuza boss.

What is the most filmed location in Canada? ›

Niagara Falls was named Canada's most-filmed location, with 142 movie credits on IMDb. Movies like The Long Kiss Goodnight, Superman II, Canadian Bacon, and Niagara starring Marilyn Monroe have all been filmed at this iconic destination.

Where in Canada was New in Town filmed? ›

New in Town is a 2009 American-Canadian romantic comedy drama film, directed by Jonas Elmer, starring Renée Zellweger, Harry Connick Jr., and Siobhan Fallon Hogan. It was filmed in Winnipeg and Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada, and in Los Angeles and South Beach, Miami, Florida.

What is the shortest time a movie was filmed? ›

1 The Blair Witch Project (1999) – 8 days

Yes, The Blair Witch Project is a found-footage horror, but filming one isn't easy.

What is the movie about gas station abduction? ›

When his wife suddenly vanishes at a gas station, an ordinary man takes extraordinary measures to find her even as he himself falls under suspicion. Watch all you want. Gerard Butler stars in this tense action thriller with Jaimie Alexander, Russell Hornsby and Ethan Embry.

What is the movie about diver French? ›

The Big Blue
The Big Blue Le Grand Bleu
Directed byLuc Besson
Screenplay byLuc Besson Robert Garland Marilyn Goldin Jacques Mayol Marc Perrier
Story byLuc Besson
Produced byPatrice Ledoux
13 more rows

Is there a movie about Marjorie Post? ›

American Empress is a sweeping history of the dramatic life of heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, daughter of breakfast-cereal magnate C. W. Post.

What is the most filmed street in America? ›

Hollywood Boulevard is the Most Filmed Street in the US

So, across the years, the Boulevard has offered not just convenience for location scouts but a ripening charisma. And that's to say nothing of its secret alleys.

What is the most filmed location? ›

1 Los Angeles, California

Far and away the most popular location in the world for filming movies and television shows, Los Angeles has been the cultural center for the film industry since the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s.

Why are so many movies filmed in Detroit? ›

While Detroit is not the most filmed location in the world, it does make an appearance in a myriad of movies. Largely thanks to a film incentive program that provided tax credits to movies shot here, there was a brief window when several blockbusters did much of their principal photography here.


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