Fictional TV/Movies Characters Inspired by Real People

Sunday, July 14, 2024

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The silver screen and the small screen are filled with unforgettable characters. Many television and film characters leave a lasting impression. These fictional figures seem to leap off the screen and into our imaginations.

But did you know some of our favourite fictional heroes and villains are inspired by real life? Many of the popular characters you know and love were created based on real individuals or historical figures whose stories were so compelling that they transcended into the realm of fiction.

Such characters resonate deeply because they reflect real human experiences and traits. Here are some popular fictional TV/Movies characters inspired by real people.


Characters Inspired by Real People

Below are some popular fictional characters inspired by real people.

1. Dr. Evil from Austin Powers

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Dr. Evil from Austin Powers is inspired by Lorne Michaels. The writer, Mike Myers, was a cast member of the Saturday Night Live show that Lorne Michaels created and ran. Dr. Evil plays the role of a stereotypical villain obsessed with world domination.

Both Dr. Evil and Michaels are known for their strict behaviour and attention to detail. They have a dry and sardonic sense of humour. Dr. Evil’s signature pinky fingernail chewing habit is also similar to Michaels’s.


2. Jackie Chiles from The Simpsons

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Jackie Chiles from The Simpsons was inspired by Johnnie Cochran, a prominent lawyer known for his charismatic courtroom presence and successful defence of high-profile clients.

Jackie Chiles is a confident and high-priced lawyer who defends Springfield residents in outlandish cases.

Both Jackie Chiles and Johnnie Cochran have confident personalities and aggressive defence strategies. They often use theatrics and humour to sway juries and media perceptions.


3. The Roys from Succession

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The Roys from Succession is inspired by Rupert Murdoch and his Family. The showrunner of Succession has acknowledged the influence of Rupert Murdoch, a powerful media mogul who built a similar empire with his family.

The Roys are a wealthy and dysfunctional family who control a vast media empire. Both the Roys and the Murdochs are ruthless business leaders willing to do whatever it takes to maintain their power and wealth.

The family dynamics such as sibling rivalries and manipulative parents also mirror real-life reports about the Murdochs.


4. Indiana Jones from Indiana Jones 

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Indiana Jones from Indiana Jones is inspired by Roy Chapman Andrews. The creator of Indiana Jones, George Lucas is inspired by the real-life adventures of Roy Chapman Andrews.

Andrews was an explorer and paleontologist who made groundbreaking discoveries in Central Asia. Indiana Jones is a daring archaeologist and adventurer who recovers historical artifacts.

Both Indiana Jones and Roy Chapman Andrews travelled the world in search of lost treasures and knowledge. They faced danger and used their wits and resourcefulness to overcome challenges.


5. Norman Bates from Psycho

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Norman Bates in Psycho is inspired by Ed Gein. Ed Gein was a real-life murderer and body snatcher with disturbing behaviours.

Norman Bates and Ed Gein were isolated individuals having psychological issues. Both exhibited a fascination with death and displayed a bizarre collection of human remains.

However, the Norman Bates character was more complex and sympathetic than the real-life Ed Gein.


6. Vito Corleone from The Godfather

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Vito Corleone from The Godfather was inspired by Frank Costello. The character resembles Costello’s strategic mind and desire for legitimacy.

Corlene was the head of the Corleone family, a powerful Mafia clan in New York City. Vito Corleone is a calculating and diplomatic person.

He prioritizes family and loyalty, mirroring Costello’s reputation for behind-the-scenes manoeuvring.


7. Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock

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Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock is inspired by a lecturer and surgeon Dr. Joseph Bell.
The creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was impressed by his former medical school professor, Bell.

Dr. Bell was a medical professional who had a keen eye for detail. The trait was also adapted for Shelock’s character to solve crimes.


8. Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs

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Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs is inspired by Patricia Mullarkey and John Douglas. The film’s inspiration comes from published works and interviews with real-life figures.

Starling is an FBI trainee tasked to interview incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter to get insights into another active serial killer.

Patricia Mullarkey was also a trainee at the FBI who interviewed serial killers similar to the character of Clarice Starling.

Additionally, her psychological approach to interviewing mirrors techniques used by criminal profiler John Douglas.


9. Rocky Balboa from Rocky

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Rocky Balboa in Rocky is inspired by Boxer Rocco Francis “Rocky Marciano”. The underdog Philadelphia boxer was a heavyweight championship.

Director John G. Avildsen knew about Rocky Marciano through his boxing career and public image.

Both Rocky Balboa and Rocky Marciano were Italian-American boxers known for their relentless fighting spirit and underdog status.


10. London Tipton from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody

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London Tipton from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody is inspired by Paris Hilton. Tipton is a spoiled heiress living in the luxurious Tipton Hotel.

It drew inspiration from Paris Hilton’s public persona in the early 2000s and his wealthy socialite lifestyle.

Both are wealthy socialites known for their love of luxury brands and personalities. However, London Tipton is a comedic exaggeration of this stereotype, while Paris Hilton is a real person.


11. Gordon Gekko from Wall Street

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Gordon Gekko from Wall Street is inspired by Ivan Boesky. Gekko is a ruthless corporate raider and stockbroker. The film reflects the greed and excess of the 1980s Wall Street culture that Boesky had.

Gekko is a fictionalized version of Boesky having a ruthless business style. Boesky’s ‘more money’ and ‘greed is good’ mindset is portrayed through Gekko’s character.


12. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

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Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird is inspired by Amasa Coleman Lee. Finch is a lawyer with a strong moral compass; he defends a wrongly accused man The Director.

Amasa Coleman Lee was a lawyer who famously defended a black man in a racially charged trial.

Atticus Finch is a near-mirror image of Amasa Lee. Both were lawyers known for their integrity and fight for justice even when unpopular.


13. Ari Gold from Entourage

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Ari Gold from Entourage is inspired by Ari Emanuel. Ari is an aggressive and foul-mouthed Hollywood talent agent. Doug Ellin, the creator of Entourage, met Ari Emanuel while working on another project.

Ari Emanuel and the fictional character were known for their aggressive negotiation tactics, sharp wit, and fierce loyalty to their clients. They have a relentless work ethic and a drive to succeed at all costs.

Ari Gold, like Emanuel, began his career at a major talent agency before starting his own successful firm.


14. Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire

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Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire is inspired by Enoch L. Johnson. Thompson plays the role of a powerful Atlantic City bootlegger and political boss during Prohibition.

The creator, Terence Winter, drew inspiration from historical accounts of Enoch L. Johnson’s life and influence. Both were major figures who used their political influence in the illegal alcohol trade during Prohibition.


15. Vince Chase from Entourage

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Vince Chase in Entourage is inspired by Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg was a young and rising Hollywood movie star at the time of the show.

The show’s creator, Doug Ellin had previously collaborated with Mark Wahlberg and based the character on his experiences.

Vince Chase is a fictionalized version of Mark Wahlberg’s early Hollywood career. Both are Boston natives who rose to fame quickly, dealing with the pressures and temptations of celebrity.


16. Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock

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Tracy Jordan in 30 Rock is inspired by comedian and actor Tracy Morgan. Jordan is a star of the fictional sketch comedy show TGS with Tracy Jordan.

Tina Fey created the show, which was inspired by Tracy Morgan’s time together on Saturday Night Live.

Tracy Jordan is an exaggerated version of Tracy Morgan’s public persona. He’s a successful comedian with a flamboyant personality with a history of outrageous antics.

Both are known for their comedic timing and physical humour.


17. Elaine Benes from Seinfeld

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Elaine Benes in Seinfeld is inspired by a writer and comedian, Carol Leifer. Benes was Jerry’s best friend and ex-girlfriend with strong opinions and a short temper.

Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld, drew inspiration from his ex-girlfriend, Carol Leifer, in the 1980s.

Elaine fictionalizes Leifer’s sharp wit, strong personality, and social awkwardness. Both are intelligent, independent women who can be quite critical.


18. Meyer Wolfsheim from The Great Gatsby

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Meyer Wolfsheim from The Great Gatsby was inspired by a real-life gangster, Arnold Rothstein. Wolfsheim is a mysterious fixer having connections to the underworld who helps Gatsby acquire illegal liquor.

Director F. Scott Fitzgerald was inspired by Arnold Rothstein’s reputation in the Roaring Twenties. Meyer Wolfsheim represents Arnold Rothstein’s criminal empire and involvement in bootlegging during the Prohibition Era.

Both were powerful figures in the criminal underworld known for their wealth, violence, and influence.


19. Willie Stark from All the King’s Men

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Willie Stark in All the King’s Men was inspired by Huey Long (Louisiana governor). Willie was a populist politician who rose to power with promises to help the poor but resorted to corruption and manipulation.

Director Robert Penn Warren was a journalist who covered Huey Long’s political career. Willie Stark is a scathing portrayal of Huey Long’s charismatic populism that masked a ruthless political machine.

Both charismatic leaders in reel and real life used populist rhetoric and social programs to gain support but became increasingly authoritarian and corrupt.


20. Governor Jack Stanton from Primary Colors

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The Governor Jack Stanton in Primary Colors was inspired by Bill Clinton (Former US President). Mike Nichols, the director, drew inspiration from the media frenzy surrounding Bill Clinton’s scandals.

Governor Jack Stanton is a fictionalized version of Bill Clinton’s political persona, including his charm, charisma, and vulnerability to personal issues.

Both were charismatic Southern politicians known for their ability to connect with voters but faced public scrutiny for their personal lives.

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