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10 Movie and TV Characters That Are Inspired From Real Life People

Movies, series, and books are often routes of escape for most of us. But what if we tell you that the fictional characters who were way too good or bad to be real existed amongst us? It’s no news that some of the greatest paintings or stories were driven by a muse. The same applies to scriptwriters and authors who peek into the real world for inspiration. Even J.K. Rowling, whose wizarding world was far from being true, had based her fantasy characters on the people she knew in her personal life. So, find out the 10 movie characters that were inspired by real-life people. These are not biopics but merely fictional scripts with a muse.




Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky wasn’t a product of imagination, but a borrowed idea from Chuck Wepnor. He was an alcohol salesman and a boxer who fought Muhammad Ali instead of Apollo Creed for the World Champion.

Tony Stark in Iron Man

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It’s not a brain teaser to find out the inspiration behind Tony Stark. Anyone who has seen the charming, uber-rich, business magnate, innovator and philanthropist in the MCU will be reminded of Howard Hughes and Elon Musk. Even Stan Lee had admitted that Hughes, the designer of Hughes H-4 Hercules,  was on his mind while envisioning Tony. “He was an inventor, an adventurer, a multi-billionaire, a ladies’ man, and finally, a nutcase. Without being crazy, [Tony Stark] was Howard Hughes.” Stan Lee once said.

Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver

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One of the most iconic badges on the titan Robert DeNiro’s shining career was “Taxi Driver” where he starred as the chilling Travis Bickle. If this fictional character gave you goosebumps then think about the real person on whom he was based. Arthur Bremer was his counterpart in our world who had assassinated the presidential candidate George Wallace. Bremer had also attempted to assassinate former President Richard Nixon but got captured by the Secret Service.


Jabba the Hutt

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The repugnant gangster in the Star Wars universe was sketched after someone you know. Actor Sydney Greenstreet who usually played characters linked to the underworld was the muse for Jabba the Hutt.

Severus Snape in Harry Potter Franchise

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Can you imagine that the grumpy and expressionless Severus Snape was based on a real-life teacher? John Nettleship was J.K. Rowling’s chemistry teacher at Wyedean School and clearly, the author wasn’t a fan of his. Nettleship was just reading about “Harry Potter” when someone knocked on his door and revealed, “You’re Severus Snape”. Rowling has communicated her distaste for the subject and its teacher quite vividly by locating the potions class in the shady and dingy dungeons.

Dave Toschi in Zodiac

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David Fincher’s “Zodiac” was written on a real-life serial killer who had left everyone mind-boggled. But investigator Dave Toschi who had dedicated all his time and energy to apprehend the serial killer inspired more than one character. From Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry Callahan to Steve McQueen’s Lieutenant Frank Bullitt and Mark Ruffalo’s Dave Toschi, none of them stemmed from the screenwriter’s imagination.


Lucy in 50 First Dates

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Did Drew Barrymore’s romance with Adam Sandler in “50 First Dates” seem impossible and too dreamy? Probably. The story was about Lucy and Henry where the guy took the woman with memory loss on their first date every day, hoping that she would remember all of it someday. It turns out that the scriptwriters had structured it on Michelle Philpots who was suffering from the same illness. Since her husband couldn’t take her out on so many first dates like Adam Sandler, she had to refer to wedding pictures, notes, and GPS daily.

Popeye in Popeye



Yes, even a cartoon character can be based on a person from our world. The creator of this classic hero of the cartoon world took inspiration from someone from his hometown. The residents called him a tough and well-built man who was always ready to fight. Even when the kids tried to disturb him in his sleep, he would spring back on his feet with his “arms flailing, ready for a fight”.

Don Draper in Mad Men

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“Mad Men” was a fictional manifestation of how advertising agencies functioned in reality. Given how the show ran parallel with what went around in our world, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the famous Don Draper was also based on a real person. The character was reportedly written on Draper Dan Daniels, head of Leo Burnett Worldwide, a global advertising agency based in Chicago. The similarity in the names already gives it away. Out of many things that were portrayed in the series, Don Draper’s marriage life was completely fictional.


Norman Bates in Psycho

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The mere topic of sinister psychopaths reminds us of Norman Bates. Even his fictional stare sends chills down our spine and ruins our nights of sleep. But his real-life counterpart, Ed Gein was even scarier and creepier. According to reports, Gein visited graveyards to dig dead women’s bodies and presented them over his mother’s grave. He inspired another classic Hollywood villain, Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

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Written by Ipshita Barua