The Truth Behind Eminem’s Stan: Was He Real?

At the turn of the century, one Marshall Bruce Mathers (aka Eminem) released a musical story of a crazed fan who loved him so much that he drove himself to the brink. Dido’s voice accompanies the verses and sings the chorus with a gentleness that can make even the toughest Stan in the room tear up.

Eminem / Dr. Dre and Eminem / Eminem / Eminem and Devon Sawa
Source: Getty Images

Twenty years later, fans are still wondering whether Stan was based on a real person, whether the letters Eminem read out loud were words of an actual obsessed fan who was willing to give up his life for just one little response from the rapper.

Let’s find out.

It Came Out With No Promotion or Warning

The song “Stan” came out of the blue. In fact, the whole album “The Marshall Mathers LP,” was released on November 13th, 2000 with no promotion, build-up, or warning whatsoever. Hip hop fans began wondering whether the song was written at the last moment following an actual Stan incident that Eminem potentially suffered.

Eminem signing his new release
Photo by KMazur/WireImage/Getty Images

Stan peaked at No. 1 in 12 countries, including Germany, Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom. It was nominated for a host of awards, both for the song itself and for the video. It was placed on the lists of Best Video of the Year, Best Rap Video, Best Cinematography, and Best Direction.

The A-Ha Moment

The good news is, Stan wasn’t based on one particular person. According to the rapper, Stan was conceptual, a result of Eminem’s imagination following his experiences and interactions with fans. As it turns out, the song came about after producer Mark Howard James heard the song “Thank You” by Dido.

Eminem stands in the recording studio.
Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The producer taped the song, touched it up with a new bassline, and sent the remix to Marshall Mathers. According to Eminem, he felt an instant connection. “This is about an obsessed fan,” he claimed, discussing his ah-ha moment. “That’s all I kept thinking.”

Stan Has Become an Actual Word

Nowadays, the word “Stan” is no longer just a person’s name. It has transcended its original purpose and is now recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary which describes the word as meaning: “an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity.”

Crowds of fans clog the streets bringing traffic to a halt in Times Square.
Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect/Getty Images

Chances are, if you’re a celebrity, you’ve experienced several “Stans” in your lifetime. Stans running after you on the street, Stans stalking your house, Stans bombarding your mailbox, Stans running to the stage during one of your concerts… Stans… sigh.

The Song Is Narrated From Three Perspectives

Stan tells the story of an obsessive fan from three different perspectives. First, it begins with the anxious fan pouring his heart out to Eminem, rationalizing the fact that he hadn’t written back with stories of the post office making a mistake or something.

Stills from the Stan Music Video.
Source: YouTube

The second verse gets worse, as Stan’s anger rises and his anxiety over the rapper’s neglect begins to take over his mind. He complains about how the rapper ignored him at a concert, passed right by Stan and his little brother on the way out of the stadium.

Dear Mr. I’m Too Cool to Write My Fans

The song’s third verse features Stan’s final words. As he speeds on a stormy highway, he yells at a cassette tape, screaming at Eminem for not responding. By this point, Stan is out of his mind. He’s had it with Eminem ignoring his letters; he’s had it with begging for his attention.

Eminem parafanelia is all over the room.
Source: Pinterest

What’s the solution? Well, according to Stan, lock your pregnant girlfriend in the trunk of your car and head out on the highway. A split second before Stan’s car flies off the bridge and into the waters below, he says to himself, “Oh shit, I forgot, how am I supposed to send this sh*t out?”

The Story of Stanley Mitchell Was Far From Over

With all the interest that the song sparked, Eminem’s fans knew that Stanley Mitchell’s tragic story was far from over and that they would be meeting him again in another one of the rap god’s singles. Eventually, the rapper gave his fans what they wanted.

The cover art for The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Source: Amazon

He released his album “The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” which featured the song, Bad Guy. In it, Eminem covers the story of Stan’s little brother, Matthew, who is referred to in the second verse of Stan and can be seen throughout the music video.

Bad Guy Is Filled With Eerie Comments About Stan

Stanley Mitchell’s younger brother Matthew used to be a super fan of the rapper, just like his older brother. But the love he felt turned into hatred after Stan’s death. Between his own mental struggles and the grief of losing his older brother, Matthew decides he wants to kill Eminem.

A portrait of Eminem.
Photo by Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty Images

Matthew Mitchell finds Eminem’s address and attempts to murder the rapper. Clearly, Matthew isn’t in his right mind, and the song is meant to highlight the dangers of mental illness and obsessions.

Lil Wayne Released His Own Sequel

Stan was all over the charts when it first came out, and it’s still beloved by hip-hop fans to this very day. But the people for whom the song hit closest to home were other famous musicians and stars who had experienced similar situations in their lives.

Lil' Wayne and Eminem perform together onstage.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Even though the general public might argue that celebrities put themselves in that exposed position in the first place, it surely doesn’t mean that they deserve to be tracked down and murdered! In any case, the message of the song hit close to home for one fellow rapper in particular – Lil Wayne.

Stan 2

Years after collaborating with Eminem on Stan, rapper and music producer Swizz Beats decided to write a sequel to the award-winning song. He called it Stan 2. When the music producer presented the song to the rapper, Eminem was quick to reject it.

Swizz Beatz, Lil Wayne, and Jabar attend an event.
Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images

Swizz Beats genuinely believed that the song had potential, so he took the song to Lil Wayne instead. After Lil Wayne tweaked it a bit, he renamed it Dear Anne. The difference here is that while Stan shows the fan’s perspective, Wayne’s sequel shows it from the perspective of an artist trying to reply to their biggest fan.

Who Plays Stan in the Music Video?

The guy who plays Stan in the music video did an incredible job. The talented actor is named Devon Sawa, a Canadian who started his career at an extremely young age. Before starring in Eminem’s music video, Devon Sawa played Junior in Little Giants.

Eminem and Devon Sawa.
Source: Twitter

Sawa also starred as Casper the Friendly Ghost in 1995’s version of Casper. Even though the Canadian actor starred in much larger roles, he was quoted saying that his favorite role of all times was playing Stanley Mitchell, Eminem’s crazy fan.

Surrounded by Greatness

When talking about the making of Stan, Sawa said that he was completely amazed by the cast and crew who created the music video for Stan. He was quoted saying that he felt like he was “surrounded by greatness.”

Devon Sawa during the filming on Stan.
Source: YouTube

According to Devon Sawa, the music video didn’t take long to complete. Even though it looks like a full-on movie, the making of Stan’s incredible music video took just three days to complete. Sawa stated that these were the most memorable days of his career.

Dr. Dre Directed It

Dr. Dre worked on Eminem’s music video for Stan, serving as its director. Everyone involved was extremely excited about the project, and their motivation ensured that everyone stayed on track and stuck to the original schedule.

Dr. Dre and Eminem pose together in the recording studio.
Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Even though Devon Sawa went on to work on many exciting projects since playing Stan, the Canadian actor is always excited to talk about his time working alongside Dr. Dre and Eminem. After Stan, Devon Sawa took on major roles in films such as Slackers (2002).

The Story Behind Cleaning Out My Closet

Stan isn’t the only song that piqued fans’ interest in Eminem’s life story. The rapper’s song “Cleaning Out My Closet,” released in 2002, also centered around some serious topics and got the public wondering whether his words were based on true events.

Eminem as a child poses beside his mother.
Source: Pinterest

The song told the story of the hatred and resentment that the rapper had for his mom due to the way she raised him and his siblings. In it, Eminem talks about things he never told the public about, for fear of insulting his mom. But in the song, he lets go of “political correctness” and speaks his truth.

Did She Have Munchausen Syndrome

Childhood memories of abuse were bubbling in Eminem’s mind, and the rapper felt that he had to let them go, write them down in order to feel better, and come to some sort of closure with his dark past. In the song, Eminem described his mom as being manipulative, going so far as to state that she had Munchausen Syndrome.

Debbie Mathers during a portrait session outside her house.
Photo by Mark Weiss/Getty Images

For those of you who don’t know, Munchausen Syndrome is a mental illness where someone acts like they have a physical ailment even though everything’s fine with them. In the song, the rapper makes claims that his mom preferred to keep him sick in order to get his attention.

He Would Go on to Regret the Song

In the track Dear Marshall, which appeared on an ID-X record, the rapper goes on to talk about the time his mom tried to justify her actions. Even though Eminem’s mom was truly neglectful and manipulative during his upbringing, the rapper would go on to regret the release of both tracks.

A portrait of Eminem.
Photo by Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty Images

In 2013, he released a song called Headlights, in which he apologizes to his mom for Cleanin’ Out My Closet. He says that he cringes every time he recalls what he said on the track. As Eminem matured, he learned to cope with his own mental issues. But at the time, he felt like releasing the song would be the best way to address the issues he had with his mom.

Eminem, Slim Shady, and Marshall Mathers

Even though they look like the same person, Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers are totally different. According to the rapper, Slim Shady is a fictional character with a made-up story that’s rapped about in nearly every album that he releases.

Eminem performs The Real Slim Shady on stage.
Photo by JMEnternational/Getty Images

On the contrary, Marshall Mathers is who Eminem really is. Marshall Mathers is the person behind all the rap personas. Slim Shady is capable of committing crimes, Marshall Mathers isn’t. He’d rather help the people of the struggling city he grew up in.

He’s Incredibly Private About His Personal Life

While Slim Shady and Eminem are public personas, usually taking center stage whenever there’s a chance, Marshall Mathers is actually incredibly private about his personal life. As he’s gotten older, the division between the person and the rapper has become more noticeable.

Eminem sitting in junkyard in a scene from the film '8 Mile'.
Photo by Universal/Getty Images

When he was younger, the lines were a lot blurrier. Back in his early days, his alter egos Slim Shady and Eminem had a huge division between them. Slim Shady was the embodiment of the darkest parts in Eminem’s twisted mind.

The Public Criticized Slim Shady

Listening to Eminem’s songs, it’s clear that Slim Shady was willing to do some horrible things, things that Eminem would never allow himself to do. This allowed the rapper to rap about the most sinister of things without fearing that people would take him seriously.

A portrait of Eminem.
Source: YouTube

However, according to some critics of his music, Slim Shady was an actual danger to society. People didn’t let him off the hook simply because he hid behind a persona called Slim Shady.

He Uses Music as a Way to Cope

A recurring theme in Eminem’s songs is the intense struggles that the rapper has had to face throughout his life. He grew up with a drug-addicted mom and lived a life surrounded by abuse and violence. Tragically, he’s experienced some seriously traumatic events.

Eminem is writing while sitting in his dressing room.
Source: Flickr

Thankfully, he’s always had songwriting to turn to. Eminem jots down lyrics as a way to look back and openly express the complex feelings he has about his past. Writing lyrics about his past is just like journaling. Hopefully, the rapper has inspired others to reflect on their hardships in a healthy manner.

What Is Eminem’s Relationship With His Mom Like Today?

As of today, it looks Eminem genuinely regrets discussing his personal feuds with his mom in his songs. With the release of singles like “Headlights,” the rapper decided to put things in the past, probably so he could focus on healing those estrangements.

Eminem takes a hoto with his mother.
Source: Twitter

Nowadays, the rapper and his mom, Debbie Nelson-Mathers, have a much healthier relationship than they had in the past. Both mother and son have publicly claimed that they love and respect each other dearly, in spite of their past demons.

What Is Lose Yourself About?

Another of Eminem’s tunes is his 2002 hit song, “Lose Yourself.” It’s arguably one of his most inspirational songs. The lyrics center around a fictional guy named Jimmy Smith, also known as “B-Rabbit.”

Eminem performs a rap in a still from 8 Mile.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Universal Pictures

The character comes from the 2002 movie “8 Mile.” Lose Yourself won an Oscar for Best Original Song, making it the first-ever rap song to receive such an award. The song highlighted some of B-Rabbit’s struggles as a white man trying to make it big in the world of rap.

Similarities to His Own Life

The hardships B-Rabbit faced were pretty similar to the ones Eminem had to go through when he was a struggling new rapper. In an interview with Rolling Stone back in 1999, Eminem stated: “As soon as I grabbed the mike, I’d get booed.”

Eminem raps as Jimmy B.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Universal Pictures

“Once motherf***ers heard me rhyme, though, they’d shut up,” he continued. When talking about his writing process, Eminem stated: “When I put it down on paper, and when I say it in the studio, it’s always been therapy for me. You know? It’s like this is what I’m feeling. This is what I wanna say. And this is how I’m gonna get it out.”

A 2020 Reboot

Lose Yourself may have gotten the crowd pumped up back in 2002, but Eminem’s song has proved to be a timeless classic. At the 2020 Oscars, the rapper surprised the audience with a surprise performance that left half of Hollywood speechless.

Eminem performs onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

When explaining why he decided to rap the song at the 2020 Oscars, he told Variety, “I figured maybe since I didn’t get a chance to do it at the time, maybe it would be cool. Back then, I never even thought that I had a chance to win, and we had just performed Lose Yourself on the Grammys with the Roots a couple of weeks before the Oscars, so we didn’t think it was a good idea.”

Stan Was Featured on “BoJack Horseman”

In one episode of “BoJack Horseman” a popular Netflix show, the main character, a talking horse named BoJack, stumbles upon an episode of Horsin’ Around. In the episode, there’s a special guest star named… you guessed it – Stan!

A still from the episode of BoJack Horseman.
Source: YouTube

Along with his friends and mentors, Stan takes part in several shenanigans before one of their adventures ends in tragedy. The talking horse, BoJack, becomes depressed after watching the show. He decides to reflect on his life and questions whether he’s been living a life worth living.

Humble Roots

So, what hardships DID Eminem actually go through growing up? The rapper was born Marshall Mathers, a blue-eyed child of father Marshall Bruce Mathers Jr. and mother Debbie Nelson Mathers-Briggs. Sadly, his dad took off when Marshall was just 18 months old.

Debbie Mathers holds up her infant son.
Source: Tumblr

Debbie was just 15 years old at the time and had to take care of both Marshall and later his younger brother, Nathan. The rapper’s childhood involved moving around between numerous public housing systems in Detroit and Kansas City.

He Flunked Out of the Ninth Grade

Constantly being “the new kid” took a toll on young Marshall. He was often the only white guy in the class, which certainly didn’t add to the already tough situation. He became an outsider at an early age and was often bullied for keeping to himself.

Marshall Mathers poses for a school picture.
Source: Pinterest

Understandably, Marshall didn’t like going to school and ended up flunking the ninth grade three times before throwing in the towel. However, the rapper stated that he always loved English, particularly words. He loved reading the dictionary.

He Lived in a Trailer Before Becoming a Rap Star

After dropping out of school for good, Marshall started alternating between work, his love of writing, and his small gig performances. Eminem’s white skin in a predominantly Black field caused audiences to initially reject him, only to be won over the second he started to rap.

The outside of Eminems childhood home.
Source: Pinterest

In the meantime, Eminem had a baby with his high-school sweetheart, Kim Scott. The new family lived in crack-riddled neighborhoods. Kim once told Rolling Stone magazine that they had to go through five CRS in two years. Eminem recalled a drug addict who once broke into their house to make a PB&J sandwich.

8 Mile Is Semi-Autobiographical

Anyone who watched the film 8 Mile might acknowledge that while the rapper isn’t the greatest actor alive, he’s still an incredible artist. The movie’s plot was heavily from the rapper’s own struggles in life as a young Detroit rapper who tried to battle his way into the music world.

Eminem and Kim Basinger in a still from 8 Mile.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Universal Pictures

“Lose Yourself” portrays Rabbit’s struggles to write lyrics and make it big. With a rhythmic guitar beat in the background, the song talks about the experience of being intensely focused on nailing the moment of performance.

He Was Almost Investigated by Secret Services

Time and time again, Eminem has pushed boundaries with his lyrics. He’s dissed nearly every famous person out there, and not only that, but he’s also thrown in some comments about the President. In 2003, his song We As Americans surfaced and featured the lyrics:

Eminem looks shocked.
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

“F**k money / I don’t rap for dead presidents / I’d rather see the president dead / It’s never been said, but I set precedents.” Perhaps because the rapper didn’t mention a specific president, Eminem was never actually investigated nor was any legal action taken against him.

He’s Been Sober for Years

At Eminem’s worst, he would stay in bed all day and pop pills just to get out. His drub abuse wiped out a lot of his memories. The rapper once shared that he knew he hit rock bottom when he tried getting out of bed one day and fell to the ground unconscious.

Eminem and Elton John perform on stage at the 43rd annual Grammy Awards.
Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Later, medical experts told him he had consumed “the equivalent of four bags of heroin.” After that frightening stint, he went straight to rehab to get sober. Thanks to his sponsor and mentor, Elton John, the rapper rid himself of his detrimental habits.

Numerous Courtroom Battles

In the first 13 years of Eminem’s career, he reportedly encountered at least one major lawsuit per year. He likely spent millions of dollars in legal costs. A lot of the lawsuits actually came from family members or close friends.

Eminem enters the courtroom.
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Liaison/Getty Images

For example, his mom once sued him for $10 million for “defamation of character” based on his lyrics and the way he described her in his music as well as his interviews. She eventually won just over $1500 in damages. He was also sued by his uncle and aunt, a bully from high school, and Kim Scott.

He Pulled an Unloaded Gun on Someone

Other lawsuits included a weapon and assault charge. The first charge happened after Eminem pulled an unloaded gun on a man outside a store in Michigan. The rapper was arrested, released, and then arrested again after he saw Kim kiss a club bouncer and got violent all over again.

Eminem appears handcuffed in court.
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Liaison/Getty Images

The rapper pleaded guilty to both charges. He was sentenced to two years’ probation. At one point in his career, the rap star started wearing bulletproof vests to protect himself from all the enemies he had amassed over the years.

His Music Brings People Together

As insulting, offensive, and divisive as Eminem’s music can be, his songs can also bring people together: for example, his song “Storm,” a 4-minute bash on then-President Donald Trump. The video he shot premiered at the BET Hip Hop Award ceremony and received plenty of support from other celebrities including Snoop Dogg and Ellen DeGeneres.

Eminem raises his fist in the air.
Source: YouTube

In conclusion, Eminem’s music resonates with people. Whether he’s being angry or kind (let’s face it, most of the time he’s angry), Eminem knows how to connect with his fans, and his life story is truly inspiring. Being an outsider provided Marshal with a different, wiser overlook on life.

30 Vicodin a Day

At his worst, Eminem would pop around 60 valium and 30 pills of Vicodin each day. Oh, and a couple of Ambiens to top it all off. Apart from the pills, the rapper would stuff his face with unhealthy foods from fast food places like McDonald’s and Taco Bell.

A photo of Eminem.
Photo by Mychal Watts/WireImage/Getty Images

During that unhealthy phase of his life, Eminem gained around 80 pounds. The rapper was so unrecognizable at one point that he once overheard a conversation between two customers at McDonald’s arguing over whether it was him standing in line.

Relapse, Eminem’s Comeback

Guess who’s back again? In 2009, after five years of keeping silent, Eminem released Relapse. He was now sober and ready to come back. Sadly, his album was met with mixed reviews, most of them bad. Apparently, people felt he was trying too hard.

Eminem speaks onstage during The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards.
Photo by Michael Caulfield/WireImage/Getty Images

Still, some songs on the album made it. His single, Crack a Bottle was the second song the rapper released to make it to the top of the Billboard charts (Lose Yourself was the first). He won a Grammy for the song, as well as the album.

A Rap God

The criticism Eminem suffered for his new album didn’t impact sales that much. Over the years, the rapper has released more new music, each song proving to be better than the one before. His 2020 album Music to Be Murdered By became his 10th album to reach the top of Billboard’s 200 charts.

Eminem and Rihanna perform at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/EM/WireImage/Getty Images

The rapper also joined forces with fellow rapper Royce da 5’9.” Among their musical projects was the E.P. Hell: The Sequel (2011). Nowadays, Eminem continues to put his soul into his music and write brilliant lyrics. He’s considered a rap god by many.

He Has Insulted Numerous Celebs

By now, it’s clear that Eminem knows how to piss people off. The rapper’s lyrics not only target the general public, but he also knows how to bash specific people, most of them celebrities, including Christina Aguilera, Pamela Anderson, and Mariah Carey.

Christina Aguilera presents an award to Eminem at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards.
Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect/Getty Images

Other A-listers the rapper has offended include Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Simpson (we’re seeing a theme here, no?) The rapper has also insinuated that some celebs are gay, like Insane Clown Posse and Moby. Not that being called gay is offensive, it’s just the way Eminem laid it out…