In writing a review about the movie "Moneyball" some years ago, I noted that the name of Billy Beane's assistant had been changed to "Peter Brand."
The issue was that the movie was "based on a true story," but a few factual details had been exaggerated or "altered" for dramatic effect.
This caused Billy Beane's real assistant, Paul dePodesta, to withhold permission for the movie to use his name. Everyone familiar with the facts knows who he was, but changing his name "fictionalized" his role, or at least put people on notice that acts attributed to the "assistant" were at least partly fiction, and not necessarily his.
If the story had been pure "fiction" these actions probably wouldn't have been enough to stave off a libel suit, but apparently they were enough in this context. Why is that?
Was it because the story was basically "true enough" so that truth was an adequate defense? Or did the (slight) "alternation" of dePodesta's name and personally correspond closely with the level of alteration of the underlying facts? Or was it because the things that were alleged were not really defamatory?
(This reminds me of a case of a story where "Don Rather," a nationally known newscaster, announced the (fictitious) start of World War III. Apparently, the "alteration" of the name Dan Rather sufficed to show that it was the fictitious "newscaster" and not the real man, who made the fictitious announcement.)