13 Characters that You Will not Believe Are Based on Real People

Some characters are so bizarre, improbable, or flat-out impossible that you have to wonder how their creators ever came up with them. In a surprising amount of cases, the answer is that they didn’t: They just copied a real person and called it a day.

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.


#13. Kramer (Seinfeld)

Cosmo Kramer was the most far-fetched character in a show that included a woman who died after licking too many wedding invitations and a guy who talked like Jerry Seinfeld and had sex with a different woman every week. For the entire duration of the series, Kramer never had a real job and was always trying to make money from his ridiculous schemes — like that time he rented a bus and charged people $37.50 to take them on a “reality tour” of his life. Who the hell would do that?

The Real-Life Inspiration: Kenny Kramer


Meet Kenny Kramer, the real-life former neighbor of Seinfeld co-creator Larry David who does exactly what we just described, right down to the price of the tour. Like Cosmo, Kenny enjoys cigars, golf, and, more importantly, trying to make money in ridiculous ways. In his case, this actually worked: During the disco years, Kenny came up with electronic jewelry that sold like hotcakes, allowing him to live a life of leisure.

In a Season 5 episode, Cosmo wants to play himself on the show-within-the-show, but Jerry says no. That actually happened with Kenny and David, who didn’t even let him play the guy who plays Kramer playing Kramer on Seinfeld.

This is getting rather Inception-y.

Eventually, Kenny figured out how to profit from his connection to the show anyway thanks to his reality tour, which apparently is going way better than Michael Richards’ career.


#12. Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski (The Big Lebowski)

Did you know there’s a whole movie made out of The Big Lebowski quotes? It’s called The Big Lebowski, and it’s about a laid-back slacker known as the Dude who finds himself involved in a complex kidnapping case but spends most of the movie bowling, drinking White Russians, and talking about his carpet. The Dude’s relaxed attitude has inspired a philosophical movement called Dudeism and a yearly festival, Lebowski Fest.

The Real-Life Inspiration: Jeff Dowd

The Coen brothers have a habit of putting real people in their movies, then being hailed as geniuses for creating them. The Dude, for example, is inspired by their friend Jeff Dowd, and by “inspired” we mean “it’s the same guy.” The main difference is that Dowd actually has a job (he’s a film producer), but the Dude’s personality, drink of choice, nickname, and even biography (some parts, anyway) are all borrowed from Dowd. In the movie, the Dude mentions that he was a member of the Seattle Seven, a group of political activists who were arrested in 1970 — in real life, that was Dowd.

He’s the hippie with the curly hair.

Meanwhile, some of the Dude’s misadventures were based on anecdotes told to the Coens by fellow screenwriter Peter Exline, who once had his car stolen and found a teenager’s homework inside when it was recovered. Exline and a friend tracked down the teenager and interrogated him in his living room, where his sick father (a Hollywood veteran) lived in a hospital bed. That whole story appears pretty much verbatim in the film.

Perhaps Exline can finally explain to us what “find a stranger in the Alps” means.


#11. Edna Mode (The Incredibles)

According to Pixar’s The Incredibles, Edna Mode is the woman who designed the costume for pretty much every superhero ever, meaning that despite being a self-described fashion expert, she never actually learned how underpants work. Edna was a quirky, no-nonsense character who ended up being of great use to our heroes — she’s the one who insists that no one in the family wear a cape, which is exactly what ended up causing the villain’s gruesome death.

The Real-Life Inspiration: Edith Head

Mode is apparently a Pixar reboot of Edith Head, the legendary movie costume designer who, in the course of her career, was nominated for a whopping 35 Academy Awards, taking eight of them home.

“I let my kids use them as G.I. Joes.”

Like Edna Mode, Head was incredibly prolific: She’s listed as costume designer in 436 freaking movies, including Vertigo, Rear Window, The Birds, and eight other Hitchcock classics. Incredibles director Brad Bird (who also voiced Mode) has never confirmed that they based the character on Head … but come on, just look at them. It’s also been observed that Mode’s behavior is basically an exaggeration of Head’s real personality. Head once said, “I hate modesty,” while Mode admitted that she was “the best of the best.”


#10. Popeye the Sailor

Popeye is the classic cartoon character who teaches children that they too can be strong and powerful if they get tattoos, smoke a lot, and get into fights. He’s also quite possibly the ugliest face that has ever decorated a nursery — Popeye’s impossibly deformed mug suggests that his creator only decided halfway through that he was drawing a person, not a butt. How did his mouth get all the way up there, anyway?

The Real-Life Inspiration: Frank “Rocky” Fiegel

Popeye’s creator, E.C. Segar, apparently based several of his characters on real people from his hometown of Chester, Illinois: Wimpy was supposedly inspired by his former boss, J. William Schuchert, Olive Oyl looked suspiciously like one Mrs. Dora Paskel … and Popeye himself was a local tough guy called Frank “Rocky” Fiegel. Fiegel may not have been as supernaturally strong as his cartoon counterpart, but he made up for it by being twice as ugly. The Popeye cartoon they drew on his headstone is actually doing him a favor.

“A stone for me bones, heh-heh, a post for me ghost.”

Fiegel was something of a local legend in Chester while Segar was growing up: He was known for always being prepared to dish out an ass whooping and taking on several opponents at the same time. He even acted exactly like Popeye — locals claim that children would startle him while he napped and he would “jump out of his chair, arms flailing, ready for a fight.” His official cause of death was “warships grew out of his biceps.”

#9. Tintin (The Adventures of Tintin)

Casterman/AP via news.com.au

The Adventures of Tintin is one of the most popular comic book series in the world, having sold over 200 million copies despite the fact that the main character can’t even grow metal claws and would suck in a fight against a killer robot. In fact, Tintin is just a kid who is somehow allowed to travel from country to country unsupervised, living through fantastic adventures and the occasional shocking display of racism.

What’s a children’s story without some good old-fashioned bigotry?

The Real-Life Inspiration: Palle Huld

Tintin debuted in a Belgian comic strip in 1929. As it happens, in 1928, another globe-trotting 15-year-old was causing a sensation all over Europe, except this one was real. Palle Huld, a boy scout from Denmark, had to circumnavigate the world in 44 days completely unaccompanied and without stepping on a plane as part of a competition organized by a Danish newspaper. Um, if that’s what they made the kid do when he won the competition, we don’t want to know what happened to the losers.

“… and this merit badge is for swimming, and this one is from when I circumnavigated the globe, and this one is for building a fire …”

Huld’s travels, which included war-torn Manchuria and just plain unfriendly Russia, made headlines all over Europe, so it seems likely that Tintin’s creator in Belgium would have been among those following him. When Huld made it back home, he was greeted by a crowd of 20,000 people, not unlike the one that receives Tintin at the end of his first album.

“Phineas Fogg ain’t got shit on me.”

Huld insisted until the end of his days that Tintin was him … despite having never read the comic. Hell, he didn’t have to, he already lived it.


#8. General Butt F**king Naked (The Book of Mormon)

General Butt Fucking Naked is a character in the Trey Parker/Matt Stone Broadway musical The Book of Mormon (and not in the actual book, we don’t think). Naked is the main antagonist of the story, a genocidal warlord who has a tendency to kill his enemies and drink their blood while completely in the nude. If you didn’t already know that this musical was written by the guys who created South Park, that phrase right there should have tipped you off.

The only name in publicly drenching political topics in blue humor.

And of course, at the end of the musical, the general converts to Mormonism and becomes Elder Butt Fucking Naked.

The Real-Life Inspiration: General Butt Naked

General Butt Fucking Naked isn’t just vaguely inspired by a real person — he’s pretty much the exact same guy. General Butt Naked was a Liberian warlord who was also a huge fan of genocide (he claims his squad killed 20,000 people), also pretty insane (he performed bizarre rituals and human sacrifices), and also fond of fighting in the nude, because he believed this granted him superpowers. Mr. Naked even had an army of child soldiers who were called the Butt Naked Brigade.

The only part the writers invented was the one where he repents and converts to Mormonism … in real life, it was Christianity. Seriously. He now goes by Pastor Blahyi and is the president of End Time Train Evangelistic Ministries Inc. and, perhaps more dramatically, has started wearing pants.


#7. Betty Boop

Paramount Pictures

Betty Boop is considered one of the earliest sex symbols in pop culture, because there was nothing more arousing for people in the ’30s than the head of a baby surgically attached to the body of a woman. Betty was defined by her innocent sexiness, squeaky singing voice, and liberal use of made-up words ending in “oop.” She was also considered a fairly progressive character for her era.

What with her boyfriend being a dog and all.

The Real-Life Inspiration: Helen Kane

Cartoons parody real celebrities all the time, but in Betty Boop’s case, the parody became so popular that it completely overshadowed the real thing. To put it in perspective, imagine if people in the future believed that Family Guy invented Gary Coleman, or Star Wars, or the ’80s in general.

Betty was created as a parody of Helen Kane, a popular actress and singer from the ’20s who pretty much invented the whole “I’m a sexy baby” persona. She not only looked and sounded exactly like Betty, but her catchphrase was “Boop-oop-a-doop.” In fact, one of Betty’s early cartoons was a direct homage/ripoff of a Helen Kane movie.

Although Kane looks decidedly less like a bulldog than her counterpart.

The more audiences fell in love with Betty Boop, the less they seemed to care about Helen Kane. Kane wasn’t happy with the trade-off: In 1932, she sued Betty’s creator Max Fleischer and Paramount Pictures, but a judge ruled against her when it was proven that someone else had said “Boop-oop-a-doop” before. Kane died in relative obscurity while her silly parody version continued making millions for other people.


#6. Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert (Les Miserables)

In the recent film version of Les Miserables (pronounced “Les *barfing noises*”), Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valjean, a thief who is relentlessly pursued by Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) for over 20 years for stealing some bread. Most of you probably know that the movie is based on a stage musical, which in turn is based on a novel by Victor Hugo … which is based on a single dude.

The Real-Life Inspiration: Eugene Francois Vidocq

We’ve talked before about Eugene Francois Vidocq, the real-life equivalent of Sherlock Holmes and every other impossibly good fictional detective, from Hercule Poirot to Batman. What we didn’t mention was that, in a Fight Club-esque twist, he was also both the protagonist and the antagonist of Les Miserables.

The first rule of Les Miserables is never admit that you don’t like it.

Like Jean Valjean, Vidocq ended up in prison as a young man, but managed to escape and was on the run for years, posing as different people. He was a successful businessman and factory owner, but his past kept coming back to haunt him. A famous scene in the book is when Valjean saves a sailor by lifting a cart off of him — it was Vidocq who actually did that.

Vidocq eventually reached an arrangement with the authorities that allowed him to use his experience as a criminal to catch other criminals, becoming a law enforcer … and that leads us to Inspector Javert, who in the novel is also a reformed criminal who now chases after his former kind. Remember how Javert would use clever disguises in order to catch criminals? That was all Vidocq, too. So, basically:

Sacrebleu! Le chauve-souris homme!

#5. Jabba 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:

The production team for Star Wars came up with the ultimate design for Jabba after they were instructed by Lucas to make the character look “alien and grotesque … just like Sydney Greenstreet.”

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:

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.

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.


#4. The Joker Was Based on a Silent-Film Star

DC Comics

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.

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.


#3. Kratos from God of War Was Modeled After Edward Norton

Sony Computer Entertainment

In God of War, you play as Kratos, a Spartan warrior/big-time asshole who accidentally kills his family in a misdirected explosion of fury and then tries to atone for it by murdering all of Greek mythology, because apparently that will cancel it out somehow.

Sony Computer Entertainment
Not that we’re theologians, but sword-murdering Zeus seems like a really sketchy path to reconciliation.

Kratos isn’t exactly a subtle, nuanced character. The only thing more cliche than his “troubled past” is his design, an angry white mountain of muscles covered in tribal tattoos. He looks like something a douchebag would pin on his dream board.

The Real-Life Inspiration:

When designing Kratos, the God of War team decided to base his appearance on Edward Norton’s character in American History X, who, in case you have not seen that film, is a muscle-bound neo-Nazi fueled by violence and rage.

One of the rare times where tribal tattoos were the less awful option.

According to God of War director David Jaffe, one specific scene from American History X, an unflinchingly intense drama about racism, is the reason Kratos looks and acts like he does. Reportedly, the God of War design team didn’t copy Norton’s appearance when creating Kratos (though the similarities are obviously there), but were primarily inspired by the “sense of power and aggression that you just see in his face.”

In case there were any doubts, the scene in question involves Norton viciously curb-stomping a young black man, an act Kratos duplicates in God of War: Ascension.

Whereas Norton’s character is sent to prison and eventually reforms, realizing the error of his ways (the film literally ends with the words “Life’s too short to be pissed off all the time”), Kratos stays psychotically angry for the entire game and its numerous sequels. Apparently the God of War team only got through half of the movie before abruptly quitting to spend the rest of the day watching wrestling.

#2. The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns Is a Cross Between the CEO of Fox and a Praying Mantis

The Simpsons is full of so many in-jokes and references that watching an episode feels like being stuck in a car with a group of your friend’s friends while they speak to each other entirely in quotes from movies you have never seen. So you might not be too surprised to learn that Charles Montgomery Burns, the cold-hearted industrial tycoon who serves as the show’s perennial supervillain, is based on a real person. What may surprise you is how insane and oddly personal that character basis is.

The Real-Life Inspiration:

While Mr. Burns’ personality is the amalgamation of several corporate moguls like Rupert Murdoch, William Randolph Hearst, and Howard Hughes, his physical appearance is based on former Fox Chairman Barry Diller.

They were kept just different enough to keep Diller from releasing the hounds on Matt Groening.

As chairman and CEO of Fox, Inc. from 1984 to 1992, Diller was actually the person responsible for putting The Simpsons on the air in the first place, which in normal scenarios would result in a small amount of polite gratitude before never being mentioned ever again (Diller was responsible for putting many shows on the air; he undoubtedly loses track of them at some point). You might be able to write off his portrayal on the show as a vampiric billionaire sociopath as a friendly in-joke if it wasn’t for the fact that The Simpsons goes out of its way to take a big shit on the Fox Network whenever it possibly can.

But they hide it so well.

Harry Shearer, who voices Mr. Burns, once even called the network “indisputably a force for evil.” So, seeing Diller’s animated doppelganger spend an episode making ammunition for the Nazis when the real-life Diller is Jewish is obviously less of a good-natured jab and more of a birthday card filled with diarrhea and spiders. What crosses this over into the realm of the utterly surreal is the fact that Mr. Burns’ mannerisms were based on a praying mantis, which accounts for his bulging eyes, skeletal frame, and perpetually tented fingers.


So to summarize, The Simpsons has spent decades telling literally billions of people that Barry Diller is a fiendish insectile robber baron who can always be counted on to make the most evil decision possible. That has to have made for some awkward conference calls.


#1. X-Men Villains Are Based on Several Famous Actors

Marvel Comics

The Hellfire Club is a group of flashy mutants that serves as one of the primary antagonists of the X-Men. You may remember the Hellfire Club from X-Men: First Class, where it was led by a magnificently sideburned Kevin Bacon and the curious acting style of January Jones.

Apparently supervillainy is virtually indistinguishable from the VIP room at a Vegas strip club.

With immense superpowers and a stylish, old-timey approach to both fashion and world domination, it’s hard not to view the Hellfire Club as one of the most original adversaries the X-Men have ever faced.

The Real-Life Inspiration:

Historically, “The Hellfire Club” was a nickname for 18th century “gentlemen’s” establishments where rich white men would go to get drunk and naked, though not always in that order. The idea to use such an establishment as a hive of subversive superpowered villainy came from an episode of a completely Iron Man-free British TV show called The Avengers.

What his suit lacks in iron, it makes up for in cane-based swagger.

The show followed dashing superspy John Steed, who, together with his lovely assistant du jour, Emma Peel, regularly saved the world from various science fiction and paranormal threats. It was sort of like a mashup of James Bond and Doctor Who, until it was made into the most embarrassing movie of all time in 1998, at which point it became a mashup of terrible puns and shame.

In the episode “A Touch of Brimstone,” the Hellfire Club kidnaps Emma Peel, drugs her, and forces her to become the “Queen of Sin,” which involves wearing minimal clothing and a spiked leather choker. The writers of X-Men thought that was a pretty good idea, so they introduced a new gang of villains called the Hellfire Club and had them do pretty much the exact same thing to Jean Grey.

Marvel apparently also decided that “The Avengers” was a pretty catchy title.

They even borrowed the name “Emma Peel” when they created Emma Frost, aka the White Queen, whose Eskimo bikini corset in both the comics and the movie was obviously suggested by the Queen of Sin’s fetish getup.

The fur cape makes it classy.

Since they’d gone this far, the X-Men writers decided to base the remaining members of the Hellfire Club on famous actors, because it’s way easier to just copy things when you’re facing a deadline. The Club’s leader, Sebastian Shaw, is pretty much a drawing of actor Robert Shaw, whom you probably recognize as Quint from Jaws (if you do not, close your browser immediately and go to your room).

The character also served as a constant reminder to Shaw that he should grow those kickass sideburns back out.

Another Hellfire mutant, Jason Wyngarde, is a blatant copy of the titular character from the Jason King TV series (played by Peter Wyngarde — noticing a pattern here?), right down to the outrageous facial hair that seems like it would make every meal a challenge.

Outrageous enough that the bright fuchsia formal top coat is the thing you notice second.

The Club’s pet cyborg, Donald Pierce, was modeled after Donald Sutherland and named for the character he played in M*A*S*H, Hawkeye Pierce. And finally, Harry Leland, the fat bearded member of the Hellfire Club, was based on Orson Welles, the fat bearded member of the Hollywood elite. Leland has the mutant ability to increase his mass.

Ha ha ha … Run.

That’s right — Marvel based a character on Orson Welles and made obesity his superpower. And that’s how you build a billion-dollar entertainment empire, kids!

Source: http://unique-news.com/file/fgns234

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