TV and Movie Characters You Never Realized Have an IRL Inspiration
Not all iconic pop-culture characters are simply the product of a writer’s vision, powered by imagination and/or feverish desperation to pay off debt collectors. On more than one occasion, writers have cribbed from real life when crafting famous fictional personalities. James Bond was an amalgam of Ian Fleming’s spy buddies, Hannibal Lecter was based on an actual serial killer and most Harry Potter characters were named after a bunch of rotting corpses that sadly got no say in the matter.
This practice is so common that we’re betting that there are some popular characters who most folks have no clue were actually inspired by genuine flesh and blood human beings, like…
Dwight Schrute Was Patterned Off of a Real Paper Salesman
The beet-loving, occasionally insightful Dwight Schrute was obviously developed as an American version of Gareth Keenan, his U.K. counterpart from the original Office. But Rainn Wilson’s performance was, in part, informed by Dwight’s wardrobe, which originated from an actual paper salesman. The show’s costume designer, Carey Bennett, went to a real paper company and snapped photos of the (presumably less hilarious) office to prep for the show. It was casual Friday, and one employee wore a “wolf T-shirt,” which quickly became Bennett’s “inspiration” for Dwight.
No word on whether the real guy ever murdered a cat by locking it in a freezer.
Rose From ‘Titanic’ Was Based on a Renowned Artist (Who Never Stepped Foot on the Titanic)
Despite director James Cameron painstakingly recreating every historical detail for Titanic, even going so far as to digitally alter the stars in the night sky in subsequent releases for the sake of astronomical accuracy, he also just totally invented the two hot young twentysomethings who appear nowhere in history and are about as real as the Terminator. That said, the character of Rose, played by Kate Winslet, was inspired by acclaimed artist Beatrice Wood, who lived in the same era. Her autobiography, I Shock Myself, was read by Cameron, who also met with Wood and apparently said that he had “decided to base a character in a new movie on her.”
But importantly, Wood was never on the Titanic. And as far as we know, she wouldn’t have selfishly hogged that door all to herself, either.
The Original Ron Swanson Was a Burbank Government Employee
It might shock you to find out that one of the key inspirations behind Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson was: A) a woman, and B) lived in Los Angeles. That’s because while creating the show, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur visited government offices to make sure that their story was “grounded in reality.” While talking to one female employee in Burbank, the pair mentioned that they might make “Leslie’s boss opposed to government,” which caused her to respond: “Well, I’m a libertarian, so I don’t really believe in the mission of my job,” before adding, “Yes, I’m aware of the irony.” According to Nick Offerman, “That’s where Ron was born.”
If the same employee also had a saxophone-playing alter-ego, it has remained a secret.
Quint From ‘Jaws’ Was Inspired by a Real Shark Hunter (Who Became a Shark Conservationist)
Real-life shark hunter Frank Mundus was “widely considered the inspiration for Captain Quint,” Amity Island’s resident grizzled seaman in Jaws. However, while Quint held a fiery passion for shark murder (understandable, given how he witnessed first-hand the shark feast that was the sinking of the USS Indianapolis), Mundus eventually became “a strong proponent of conservation.”
Who knows, maybe Quint would have also come around had he not been slowly devoured like a human burrito by a Great White. As for how Mundus felt about the Spielberg classic, he “called Jaws the ‘funniest and the stupidest’ movie he had ever seen.”
Bill Hader Took His ‘Superbad’ Cues From a Cop That Once Arrested Him
In addition to getting the idea for Stefon from a local barista, Bill Hader also based his wildly irresponsible Superbad cop on a real guy: a police officer who arrested him. When Hader was younger, he made the mistake of pranking a cop, who then arrested him and forced ‘lil Barry to pick up beer cans as punishment. Years later, Hader had his revenge, basing his Superbad character on the “lame” officer who similarly wore glasses. “I can’t take a cop with glasses seriously,” Hader said.
‘The Big Lebowski’s Characters Were Based on Several Film Industry Veterans
While there are likely a ton of folks who love getting high and listening to CCR in comfy sweaters, The Dude from The Big Lebowski was specifically based on producer Jeff Dowd, who had previously worked with the Coen Brothers on their first film Blood Simple. Dowd even gave on-set coaching to Jeff Bridges during production. Meanwhile, the Coens’ friend Peter Exline inspired the famous scene in which the Dude threatens a kid after finding a scrap of homework in his car.
And Walter Sobchak? He was allegedly based on director John Milius, who made Conan the Barbarian but never publicly ranted about fucking strangers in the ass.
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