The crime-action flick American Made is not one of those films that fill up on history with fictions. Although described by the director, Doug Liman as a fun lie based on a true story, the film, released in 2017 is inspired by the life of one of American’s most notorious drug smugglers, Barry Seal, played by Tom Cruise. He was a former TWA pilot, drug smuggler and informant for the DEA, unfortunately, his double life would come crashing down on him. Read all about his life and times below.
Who was Barry Seal?
His story started in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he was born on the 16th of July, 1939. One of the three sons of homemaker, Mary Lou (née Delcambre) and a candy wholesaler, Benjamin Kurtis Seal, Adler Berriman “Barry” Seal, he developed a love of flying from the get-go. By the age of 15, he had already taken his first solo flight and in 1957, he earned his private pilot’s certificate.
He became a Trans World Airlines flight engineer in 1964 and was promoted to first officer, then captain, flying a Boeing 707 on a regular Western Europe route. Barry Seal was soon installed as one of TWA’s youngest 707 command pilots before his career ended in 1972 when he was embroiled in a conspiracy to smuggle tons of plastic explosives into Mexico.
TWA fired him in 1974 for allegedly taking medical leave to participate in the scheme. Meanwhile, he escaped prosecution and his smuggling career only took flight afterward. After working with his own team for some time and gaining a reputation in the smuggling world, his talent and sheer bravado soon attracted the attention of the infamous Medellin Cartel, most notably, the godfather, Pablo Escobar. He began working for them as a pilot and drug smuggler.
With his knowledge of aviation, he evaded law enforcement for a long time but was finally apprehended by the DEA foot soldiers on a particular heavily-loaded trip. He was indicted, tried, and charged, and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1983. It should have put him away for life but Barry saw a way out. His name was published in the newspaper but as Ellis MacKenzie, the name the cartel know him by. With his real name unknown, he considered himself in the ideal position to become a government informant — or so he thought.
After his sentencing, Seal worked out an agreement with the DEA to corporate with the government as an informant. He started working as an undercover informant in March 1984. Barry Seal carried on with business as usual, flying various smuggling routes. The DEA, in turn, loaded his plane with high-tech surveillance equipment to aid his work.
His activities led to the convictions of high profiled cartel lords. While his intel turned him into one of the most significant witnesses in the US’s war on drugs almost overnight, it did not spare him from being a sitting duck for the Cartel, and their many associates around the world. Unfortunately, his work for the law enforcement was busted by a publication by the Washington Times leading to his eventual killing on February 19, 1986, in front of the Salvation Army facility where he was sentenced to work.
What Happened to His Wife and Kids?
Barry Seal was married three times; two of which ended in a divorce. He also had six children, five from two of his wives and one from a relationship he had in between marriages.
His first marriage was to Barbara Dodson in 1963. The duo had two kids, Lisa and Alder before their union ended in 1971. Seal’s second marriage to Lynn Ross in 1971 was his shortest. Their marriage ended in a divorce the following year. He was married to his third wife, Deborah “Debbie” DuBois from 1973 until his death in 1986. Their three children are Aaron, Dean, and Christina Seal.
After Barry Seal was arrested in 1983, his properties and estates were foreclosed by the government, leaving his family with nothing, but his life insurance to fall back on.
Debbie was working in a restaurant when she met Seal. However, it is not known if she continued with the work after her husband’s death as portrayed by her character (Sarah Wright) in the American Made film. As for her children, they are just regular adults living their lives. They, along with their mother, took part in the making of the film, by providing more personal stories about Barry.