Every story you've ever watched or read includes characters that are, in reality, based on somebody the writer knew. Nobody can invent a bunch of human beings out of whole cloth, so writers take real people and change their names (note that it's much more fun when it's someone the author hated). But you'd be surprised to see how totally out of left field the real-life inspirations often are. For example ...
5Jabba the Hutt Was Based on a Renowned Film Noir Actor
It takes a particular kind of crazy person to do Hollywood creature design. Just look at something like the giant drooling slug-gangster Jabba the Hutt -- what kind of drug-addled Hollywood mind thinks up that? It turns out they started with a photo of a regular ol' fat guy and ... just kept making it weirder.
As we have mentioned previously, Jabba was almost an Irish space pimp dressed like a Braveheart extra:
Instead of dumping him in the Rancor pit, this Jabba seems more likely to challenge Luke to a drinking contest.
Thankfully, that incarnation of the character was ultimately banished from the final cut of the first movie, leaving George Lucas plenty of time to rethink the design of a character so fearsome that his name alone made Han Solo shit his pants. The wait more than paid off. By the time Return of the Jedi came out, Jabba had become the legendary disgusting pile of alien slug poop that has challenged Slave Girl Leia erections for 30 years.
The Real-Life Inspiration:
In case you're unfamiliar with that name (which is entirely possible, since the man has been dead for 60 years), Sydney Greenstreet was an English actor best known for his roles in two of the most famous Humphrey Bogart movies ever made, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon, wherein Greenstreet essentially played human versions of Jabba the Hutt:
Lucasfilm, Warner Bros.
Now that's just rude. Uncannily accurate, but rude.
For example, in The Maltese Falcon, Greenstreet played the coldblooded smuggler/criminal Kasper Gutman (appropriately nicknamed "The Fat Man"); then, in Casablanca, Greenstreet portrayed Signor Ferrari, an infamous underworld figure known throughout the city for his various criminal dealings, which incidentally included slavery, just like a certain obese space worm from the Star Wars universe.
The Ferrari character actually proved such a perfect fit for Jabba that Lucasfilm almost gave the space gangster a fez like the one Greenstreet wore in Casablanca to "indicate his 'Moroccanness,'" because Star Wars is nothing if not racist.
Warner Bros., ToyTent
Of all the slave palaces on Tatooine, he walks into mine.
Yeah, we're kind of wishing they'd kept the big red hat. Kind of a whole different movie.
4The Joker Was Based on a Silent-Film Star
The Joker is easily one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, nearly eclipsing the appeal of his nemesis, Batman. In many ways, the Joker was the best thing to happen to Bruce Wayne outside of his parents' murder. Without the constant threat of the Clown Prince of Crime, fans would've stopped reading long ago, and Batman would've had to retire and rent Wayne Manor out to One Direction.
When you've got $100 million in high end bat-tech and your opponent settles for a giant novelty
revolver, you've pretty much hit the nemesis jackpot.
The Real-Life Inspiration:
The entire look of the Joker, from his white skin to his twisted smile and the dark circles around his eyes, is taken directly from a 1928 silent film called The Man Who Laughs, specifically the main character, Gwynplaine, who has his face deliberately cut into a permanent rictus grin:
Heads up: You'll want to put down a towel to catch any terror pee about six seconds ago.
Although there's some debate over who came up with the Joker first, Batman creator Bob Kane claims Bill Finger was the one who suggested Conrad Veidt's portrayal of Gwynplaine, because Finger was a huge fan of German expressionism, a phrase that here means "terrifying shit." Kane liked the idea so much that it resulted in the Joker being nothing short of a carbon copy of Veidt's character when he appeared in Batman #1, which by all accounts is pretty much the way Bob Kane did business.
DC Comics, Universal Pictures
We're just glad he opted not to include that bottom row of teeth. There's only so much evil orthodontics we can take.
How they knew that this obscure character in greasepaint would somehow be the perfect foil to their bat-themed vigilante character is anyone's guess. After 75 years of stories featuring the two, you can't help but be reminded that sometimes creativity is just a matter of knowing what to steal.