Fictional characters aren't constrained by boring old reality. They don't have to poop or pay taxes or make awkward small talk at bus stops; they just have to embody villainy, hope, or heroism in ways that no stupid mortal could aspire to. They are truly larger than life ... except for when they're equal to or less than life. Sometimes reality is indeed stranger than fiction, and the real people that inspired your favorite fictional characters are actually far more compelling. Like ...
5Crocodile Dundee, Who Was Gunned Down by Police
Crocodile Dundee is about a perfectly average Australian living a typical Aussie day. You know, knife fights and crocodile hypnosis. For example, in the 2001 threequel Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, which you didn't even know existed until just now, the protagonist's poor understanding of LA traffic laws cause him to face off against some police officers while armed with nothing but a skunk. Hilarious!
"This animal didn't even try to bite, sting, or poison me; I reckon he needs a vet."
In 1999, the real Crocodile Dundee had a similar encounter with the law which ended somewhat differently:
Via Herald Sun
Two decades before meeting his drug-fueled death, bushman Rod Ansell became popular in Australia when his boat capsized during a solo hunting expedition and he had to spend two months trapped in the wilderness -- or, more accurately, the wilderness was trapped with him. With limited resources, he survived by drinking cow blood, sleeping with snakes, and occasionally fighting and decapitating the odd crocodile. During a later BBC interview about his adventure (which he reportedly attended barefoot), Ansell mentioned that the hotel they'd put him in was very nice and all, but he'd decided to sleep on the floor. Oddly enough, it was this little detail -- not any of the animal fighting stuff -- that inspired Crocodile Dundee. Hollywood really wanted to make a movie about unconventional sleeping preferences; they just threw some high adventure in there as filler.
Also, Ansell was able to recognize the danger of knives of all sizes.
Unfortunately, Ansell didn't see a cent from the use of his story. His life and marriage fell apart. He eventually developed a drug habit and also a related belief that Freemasons wanted to kidnap his children. One day, he grabbed two high-powered rifles, shot up a farmhouse, and ambushed some police officers, killing one. At some point, a citizen broke a baseball bat over Ansell's skull, which did precisely nothing to stop him. Maybe the addiction and subsequent Terminator rampage were inevitable, or maybe it was because the production company seriously wouldn't toss him the barest bone: they even banned him from starting his own "Crocodile Dundee tour," which we're picturing as basically just the "Seinfeld Reality Tour" with significantly more platypus-stabbing.
4Captain Hook, Who Was an Ex-Pirate Preacher
Captain Hook is an evil pirate who fears nothing ... except flying boys in pantyhose. And crocodiles. And watches. Well, maybe he's a bit more fearful than your average pirate, but that's understandable -- one time Peter Pan fed Hook's watch to a crocodile, along with the appendage it was attached to.
He was called "Captain Hand" before that.
Since that day, the mere sound of a ticking watch sends the guy into 'Nam-like flashbacks. In the movie Hook, he even has a room full of broken clocks as a grim reminder of his impending doom. Good thing he also has the love and support of his faithful second in command, Mr. Smee, across all possible realities ...
"Holding hands with you just doesn't convey the intimacy I thought it would."
... except our reality, because the real-life version of Smee probably killed the guy Captain Hook is based on. John Maher was a preacher at St. George's parish in the English village of Brede, East Sussex. At first glance, Maher appeared to be no more than a regular, small town reverend, who just happened to have an ominous hook in place of his left hand. He told everyone he lost it in a coaching accident, and no one had any reason to doubt his story ... until a man named Smith came into town and revealed he lost it in his previous career as a brutal goddamned pirate. Apparently, Maher had a pretty successful career as a swashbuckler until he decided to strand his partner (Smith) in the Caribbean, relocate to Brede, and become a man of the cloth. Because the Christian church is where the real booty is at.
Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
He may have been on to something.
Eventually, Smith tracked down his old pal and set out to blackmail him with his own past. The pressure was a little too much for Maher, and he was driven insane -- so, like the movie version, his past stalked him at every turn until the paranoia drove him mad. Or perhaps the whole thing was just made up by gossipy altar boys to explain the old reverend's weird hook-hand. The point is that decades later, J.M. Barrie visited Brede, heard the sordid tale and thought, "Hey, this old priest is the perfect villain to prey on some innocent boys."
He was right, of course.