15 Bonkers Inspirations Behind Popular Characters’ Names
Some names are given to people and characters because they just sound nice, like Emily or Thunderlips. Other times, creators or certain types of tech moguls will name a character or their own child in a way that’ll have people decipher the hidden meaning of said name for at least some months until they realize their lives are still as empty as the day they were born and, coincidentally, given some stupid name. No, we're not projecting at all. Names are dumb (unless your name is Thunderlips).
Sometimes, though, there will be a slightly interesting and/or amusing story behind a name …
The Eborsisk, Willow
George Lucas has been known to take out his frustrations toward critics by naming his strange and mostly evil characters after them. In Willow, General Kael was named after New Yorker critic Pauline Kael who said of Star Wars: “There’s no breather in the picture, no lyricism; the only attempt at beauty is in the double sunset. It’s enjoyable on its own terms, but it’s exhausting, too: like taking a pack of kids to the circus.”
The Eborsisk, a two-headed beast with some hilarious bumpy features, was named after both Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel (Ebert/Siskel = Eborsisk), which was pretty funny since the dragon monster was, essentially, thumbless. The two critics would later say they weren’t flattered by the film, even though Ebert did write that the dragon was pretty cool.
Michael Myers, Halloween
Believe it or not, even legendary horror master John Carpenter had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was with a small-budget movie he co-wrote with Dan O’Bannon called Dark Star. What a place to start. The film impressed a lot of people and showcased Carpenter’s skill at pulling off a sci-fi with a tiny budget, so when he wrapped up his second film, Assault on Precinct 13, British producer Michael Myers of the film distribution company Miracle Film swooped in, entered the film into the London Film Festival, and ultimately gave Carpenter his career boost.
When Carpenter did his next film and birthed one of horror’s biggest slasher franchises, he named the titular masked beefy killer after the guy who gave him a chance. N’awww.
General Roth’h’ar Sarris, Galaxy Quest
Andrew Sarris, another critic who coincidentally also worked with one Pauline Kael at the New Yorker, got a character named after him in that movie that somehow featured both Tim Allen and Alan Rickman. See, Sarris called producer Mark Johnson’s 1984 sports movie, The Natural, “a pathetic strike-out.” And that, kids, is how you get to share your name with an evil alien that ultimately gets shot up by Tim Allen.
Sarris totally laughed it off: “It probably won’t make enough money for me to sue for $10 million. I’m 70 years old. This guy wants to insult me? Oh, boohoo. As long as they spelled my name right, I’m okay.”
Klaatu and Barada, Return of the Jedi
Jabba the Hutt's two workers were named after a phrase from the 1951 sci-fi film, The Day The Earth Stood Still:
Napoleon Dynamite, Napoleon Dynamite
Writer and director Jared Hess said that the name came from an experience that happened during his Mormon missionary days.
“On my mission in Chicago, an older Italian man said, ‘Hey, church people, I want to talk to you guys. Why do you have the name Elder?’ And we’re like, ‘Well, it’s a title we carry for two years. So what’s your name, sir?’ And he goes, ‘My name is Napoleon Dynamite.’ My mind was blown. Clearly, it wasn’t his real name. But I remember writing down on a piece of paper: ‘Title of the first movie must be Napoleon Dynamite.’”
Chev Chelios, Crank
Writers-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor were working together on their first film job and with them on set was a guy who kept going on about how he drank from the Stanley Cup with Chris Chelios (the three-time Stanley Cup champion). It was so funny to Neveldine and Taylor that they kept on doing it as a bit thereafter “(‘I was just drinkin’ outta the Stanley Cup with Chelios last night, bro. Just last night! Bro, f**kin’ Chelios!’”). Taylor said he added the name to the script mostly to make Neveldine laugh.
Private Joker, Full Metal Jacket
The narrator character’s full name is Private James T. "Joker" Davis. The U.S. Army cryptologist James T. Davis was the first American casualty of the Vietnam war.
The R-rated MCU character’s sidekick cab driver has the same name as actor Ryan Reynolds’ grade school buddy, who tragically died after he was hit by lightning. Which … kind of makes the Brad Pitt scene read just a teensy bit different.
Bo-Katan, Star Wars
Director Dave Filoni named the character (originally from the Clone Wars) after both his cat (Boogie) and his wife, Anne. So that’s Boogie cat, and Anne. Bo-Katan. Making up names seems like fun for some people.
Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare on Elm Street
The diabolical fan-favorite slasher that is also absolute trash got his name courtesy of one of Wes Craven’s childhood bullies named Fred Kruger. The same bully influenced the name of the villain Krug in Craven’s Last House on the Left.
Seymour Skinner, The Simpsons
The Simpsons writer Jon Vitti said that Springfield Elementary's principal was named after famous American psychologist B.F. Skinner. Not because he was a renowned Harvard professor who considered free will to be an illusion and was one of the pioneers of modern behaviorism. No, rather because of the rumor that he used his kids as lab rats for his theories.
Sure, our favorite ca-ca talking robot can bend things, but creator Matt Groening named Bender Bending Rodriquez after his favorite film’s juvenile delinquent, The Breakfast Club’s John Bender. Phillip J. Fry was named after Canadian-American actor Phil Hartman who was cast as Zapp Brannigan before he died.
Princess Leia Organa, Star Wars
George Lucas wanted Ol’ Side Buns’ name to bring to mind Princess Dejah Thoris from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars stories, somehow. Leia’s name was also supposed to make us think of Lord of the Rings’ Lady Galadriel of Lothlorien. Okay. Sure.
Camilo Madrigal, Encanto
Not only does his name mean “chameleon” — which is fitting because he’s a “theater kid” with the literal power to shapeshift — but director Jared Bush also confirmed that they named him after the film crew’s tour guide in Colombia, Camilo García Escobar. That’s nice.
Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones
Literally named after George Lucas’ dog, an Alaskan Malamute that also inspired the creation of Chewbacca.
Thumbnail: Paramount Pictures/20th Century