5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People


We could go on and on about all the ways Hollywood fucks up movies supposedly based on true stories. There's nothing Hollywood does worse than realism.

But it works the other way, also. It turns out some of the most grossly unrealistic characters--from over-the-top crime bosses to gimmicky serial killers to flamboyant, wise-cracking cops--were based on real people. Characters like...

"Dirty" Harry Callahan From Dirty Harry

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

In the Badass Olympics, there is one badass who takes the competition, shoves a .44 Magnum into their face, growls something Batman-esque and proceeds to paint the sidewalk with their cranial matter. That man is Harry Callahan, and even if you've got a prostate the size of Antarctica, you can be damn sure you'll be pissing your pants when he comes to town.

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

In the first Dirty Harry film, Clint Eastwood's Callahan was an inspector for the San Francisco Police Department. When he wasn't busy killing hippies and trying to preserve what little masculinity was left in that city, he was on the trail of Scorpio, a depraved serial killer who loved to taunt the police. Since no one taunts Harry Callahan and gets away with it, he'd pretty much signed his own death warrant at that point.

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

Yeah, kind of a mismatch.

The Real Guy: Dave Toschi

As it turns out, Dirty Harry, one of the baddest motherfuckers ever to grace the screen, was inspired by this dude on the left:

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

Well, that bow tie is pretty awesome.

Dave Toschi was, like Dirty Harry, an inspector in the San Francisco Police Department and, strangely, Dirty Harry wasn't the first--or last--time somebody would work him into a movie. The flamboyant-even-for-San-Francisco cop would serve as the inspiration for 1968's Bullitt, in which the main character (Steve McQueen's Frank Bullitt) was based on Toschi, complete with an upside-down quick-draw shoulder holster.

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

It was actually in the couple of years after Bullitt when Toschi would gain nationwide fame as one of the investigators tracking down the real-life Zodiac killer. For the second time, Toschi made such an impression that a Hollywood writer ran home and tried to work him into a screenplay.

Thus, in 1971, Toschi would see another fictionalized version of himself on the silver screen, in the form of Dirty Harry, where Harry hunts down the "Scorpio" killer. The difference being that while the Zodiac case never got solved, Dirty Harry finds Scorpio and kills his fucking ass.

So were filmmakers suggesting that Toschi secretly capped the Zodiac killer in his off hours and left his body floating face-down in a quarry? Not exactly. Dirty Harry writer John Milius said the whole "shoot the fucker and save on the trial" aspect of Dirty Harry was inspired by another cop, a friend of his in Long Beach who remained unnamed, probably to avoid the wrath of Internal Affairs.

Here's where it gets bizarre: In 2007, Toschi would then see himself on screen a third time, this time under his real name, played by Mark Ruffalo in David Fincher's Zodiac.

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

That film actually portrays the character Toschi attending a showing of Dirty Harry. The real Toschi worked as an advisor on Zodiac, which means at some point the real Toschi attended a screening of a film portraying him, played by an actor, attending a screening of a different film portraying him, played by a different actor.

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

We're thinking all we need is for somebody to make a Dave Toschi biopic, where they can include a scene portraying him attending the screening of Zodiac, and then the real Toschi could attend that screening, where he would then be watching a screening of himself watching a screening of himself watching a screening of a movie about himself. Mind blown? Now imagine the Toschi biopic stars Clint Eastwood.

Frank Costello From The Departed

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

As the chief Irish mob boss in Boston, Jack Nicholson's Frank Costello had his work cut out for him. His responsibilities included overseeing a vague criminal empire, committing frequent Scorsese-style murders and making Matt "Jason Motherfucking Bourne" Damon his little bitch.

One has to wonder how he can pull all this mayhem off while still managing to evade capture from such law enforcement agencies as the Boston Police Department, the State Police and the FBI, considering the way he openly taunts law enforcement and basically lived the "larger than life" crime lord archetype.

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

Pretty much played him as the Joker minus makeup.

Of course it certainly helps that he's got a mole infiltrating the State Police. When one of the primary threats to your way of life is the interference of the cops, it's beneficial to your well-being to have one of their most trusted officers tell you exactly what they are up to.

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

"Hmm, Damon says 'Marky Mark's gunna fuk u up.' "

On top of that, Costello is (spoiler!) a secret FBI informant, creating a web of deceit and counter-deceit that seems a little ridiculous when you try to map it all out. Nobody could really keep that kind of scam going.


The Real Guy: James "Whitey" Bulger


Meet "Whitey" Bulger, a real Irish mob boss from Boston who had an agent on the inside acting as a mole, while he himself was an informant for the FBI.

Although The Departed is essentially a remake of the Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs, the role of the mob boss was expanded for the Hollywood version and the setting moved to Boston, Bulger's old stomping grounds. Some old members of Bulger's crew even served as advisors for the film.

Through decades of illegal activity and gangland slayings (accompanied, presumably, by an awesome Rolling Stones soundtrack), Bulger became the most powerful underworld force in the city. Like Nicholson's character, he became notorious to the point that everyone knew who he was and what he did. Yet he still managed to stay out of jail for quite some time.

But like Costello, he informed to the FBI on those below him, all part of his "let me see how big a piece of shit I can become" campaign. In return, John Connolly, a damn FBI agent, served as a mole, providing Bulger with protection.

It was his activities as a drug trafficker which eventually led to his downfall at the hands of the DEA. But don't worry kids, he went on the run and is still out there!

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

And apparently looks like the pedophile from Family Guy.


5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

As we have previously pointed out, before there was Batman, there was Zorro.

Zorro was first introduced to the world in 1919, by Johnston McCulley. Cracked first deemed Zorro culturally significant in 1998, when Catherine Zeta-Jones appeared in The Mask of Zorro.

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

By day, Zorro is Diego de la Vega, a wealthy but boring, self-centered loser with no ambition or interests. However, by night, Master Bru- excuse us, Diego, dons his signature costume, emerges from his underground hideout and enforces justice throughout California, punishing the criminals and evading the authorities. Zorro is athletic and sly, sly like a fox ('cause that's what his name means).

The Real Guy: Joaquin Murrieta

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

In the 19th century, Joaquin Murrieta was the leader of an outlaw group known as "The Five Joaquins," consisting of--and we're serious here--himself and four other dudes name Joaquin.

The gang allegedly committed numerous thefts throughout Sierra Nevada; legend has it that the group used the money to provide the impoverished people of California with assistance. Sadly, this didn't go over too well with the governor, and he created a posse to catch Murrieta and his companions.

The posse claimed to confront Murrieta, killing him, and, in the old-school style of law and order, severing his head to prove that they did the deed. Strangely, this scene was never included in the Disney television series of Zorro, though Hollywood did give a shout-out to Murrieta by including a character by that name in The Mask of Zorro (who does in fact get killed and beheaded).


Murrieta quickly became a legend and folk hero, developing a reputation as an outlaw vigilante who fought for justice. Some stories claim that his quest started when his wife was attacked, but that the white-bread establishment of the time wouldn't let him testify against her attackers.

The writers of Zorro had their inspiration, and we don't blame them. That sounds like a superhero origin story to us, too.

Travis Bickle From Taxi Driver

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

The patron saint of punk rockers and various other fine mohawk aficionados, Travis Bickle has gone down in history as one of the most challenging characters of American cinema. A socially inept loner with delusions of grandeur and a decidedly unhealthy obsession with weapons, he's the man every crazed gunman aspires to be.

Operating his taxi cab, Travis ventures into the hellish underbelly of New York City, where he encounters pimps, drug dealers and Albert Brooks. Recoiling in disgust and anger, he records his thoughts in a journal (archaic precursor to the blog), slowly descending into madness.


He resorts to violence, eventually targeting politician Charles Palantine for assassination. But after a failed assassination attempt, Travis disposes of his excess bullets by firing them into Harvey Keitel and two other dudes who aren't as famous. Yay vigilante justice!

The Real Guy: Arthur Bremer

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

Arthur Bremer, like Bickle, was a lonely, socially awkward young man who felt distanced from normal society. In the film, when Bickle nabs a date with Cybill Shepherd, he sabotages the potential relationship by taking her to a porn film (something that should wait until at least the third date). Likewise, after years of loneliness, Bremer finally managed to get a girlfriend, but ruined it by talking explicitly about sex and showing her pornographic images.

After the break-up, Bremer stalked his ex and shaved his head, contributing two more quirks to the psychological profile that would influence the creation of Travis Bickle. He also kept a personal journal in which he outlined his plans to assassinate either Richard Nixon or George Wallace. After a failed attempt at killing Nixon, he settled on Wallace, managing to get a few bullets off before being subdued. He did this wearing dark glasses and a Wallace button.

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

That's right, at some point someone involved with the film intentionally substituted a pro-segregation presidential candidate...

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... for Harvey Keitel in a pimp hat and chest-slacks.

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

This is why movies are way better than real life, kids.

Norman Bates From Psycho

5 Badass Movie Characters You Didn't Know Were Real People

A maniacal motherlover, Norman Bates owns a motel which caters to clientele who prefer rooms with a view...


...of really creepy houses.

A good mama's boy all-around, when his dear old mom passes away, Norman opts to keep the decaying body. When Janet Leigh comes to visit and Norman sneaks a peak at her goods, Mother (who, remember readers, is fucking dead) doesn't like that very much. In response, she takes a knife to poor Miss Leigh. And by "she," we mean Norman, dressed up in his dead mommy's sleepwear.

Eventually, Norman is discovered, and a trip down to his cellar reveals Mother, relaxing in a rocking chair.


The Real Guy: Ed Gein

Like so many other horror icons, Norman took his cue from notorious serial killer Ed Gein, whose psychological profile and notoriety inspired novelist Robert Bloch, author of the book Psycho.

Growing up in the care of his fanatical mother, Ed Gein, like Norman, became dominated by her influence. She enforced a strict moral code, condemning the evils of alcohol, women, friendship and life in general. What the hell wasn't evil to this woman? Distilled water?

As one might expect, little Ed Gein didn't make many friends. His primary relationship was with his mother, and when she died, he didn't take it very well.


"Mama always said life was like that box from Hellraiser."

After a local woman went missing, police investigated Gein's home, where they found an impressive collection of decomposing human body parts, including decapitated corpses, human skulls, human noses, etc.

Of course, Gein didn't keep his mother's corpse around the house. No, instead Gein made frequent trips to local cemeteries, hoping to dig up the corpses of women who might've resembled his mother. Wait, that's actually worse.

But he didn't dress up like his dead mom to kill his victims, that part is ridiculous Hollywood fantasy. No, the real Gein skinned the women and wore their hides.

You probably guessed that was also the inspiration for the serial killer from Silence of the Lambs, but that's what makes the whole situation that much more fucked up. For Hitchcock's serial killer movie to meet the moral standards of Hollywood in his day, he had to tone down the freaking real story.

Read more from Joe at JoeOliveto.blogspot.

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To see where else Hollywood tales came true, check out 7 Completely Unrealistic Movie Plots (That Came True) and 5 Real Bank Heists Ripped Right Out of the Movies.

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