It’s the nature of fiction that many characters, scenarios and places take inspiration from real-world things, to varying degrees, This can be a few traits taken from a person or persons, or it can be the caricature of a full personality and appearance. When writing good stories and inventing characters and places, many writers believe in writing what they know in order to facilitate inspiration and to make a story more realistic and relatable.
This is why movies, shows and even comic books have been known to take real life people, change their names, exaggerate their features or personality, and insert them right into a story. This happens in literature, too, which might later be adapted into movies, meaning a real-life inspiration might find him or herself realized and idealized multiple times across different media.
It’s bizarre and even a little unsettling to discover the inspiration for the following familiar characters, many of them are largely unknown. Take a look through this list of characters with real life inspirations and decide if they truly look the part.
10. James Bond
James Bond is known as the intelligent and dashing secret agent that always out-maneuvers the enemy. He’s a ladies’ man, but still able to kill others without a second thought. Made popular throughout the world, James Bond is an internationally-recognized icon. But he did not just spring out of Ian Fleming’s mind.
No, Bond is based on a real person named Yeo-Thomas, otherwise known as White Rabbit. Yeo-Thomas is a World War II secret agent from Britain. A war hero, his many exploits were later converted into adventures of the fictional James Bond. He reported directly to Winston Churchill in at least one instance, and was tortured by the Gestapo during his military service. In addition to this, he was also held at a concentration camp, but later escaped.
9. Snow White
Snow White, the fairest of them all, was based on a real actress. Her likeness was even traced from a picture of said actress. For ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’ which was made in 1937, a young actress and dancer named Marjorie Belcher (later, Champion) was hired.
She acted out the role of Snow White, and these are the images that created the cartoon version. She was dressed just as the fictional character, with full costume, and acted out each scene of the movie. An extraordinary dancer, she was also able to perform the scenes in which Snow White dances and prances.
8. Tin Tin
In 1928, a competition was held by a Danish newspaper. The competition was created in order to celebrate Jules Verne, and as such, the winner would circle the globe just as Phileas Fogg had done in Around the World in 80 Days. It was only open to teenage boys, however, and the winner happened to be a 15 year old, red haired boy with freckles.
The boy, Palle Huld, did as the competition commanded and went round the world in 44 days, returning to much fanfare. A year later, a character appeared in Le Petit Vingtième, a Brussel’s newspaper. The red haired, freckled boy would be known as Tin Tin and went on many adventures similar to Palle Huld, his inspiration.
7. Mr. Burns
Some may wonder how Mr. Burns from The Simpsons could be based on, well, anyone. His terribly cruel and greedy personality seems to be ridiculously cartoonish. Yet, Matt Groening has said that the inspiration for Mr. Burns came from his high school teacher Mr. Bailey, combined with a Norwegian Billionaire named Olav Thon. Thon, like Mr. Burns, is a highly reclusive billionaire. When looking at the two side by side, it is easy to see a resemblance. Though Olav Thon probably is not as mean spirited as Burns, at least his appearance and tendencies are in line with the fictional character.
6. The Joker
The Joker is one of the oldest and most popular villains from the Batman universe. For years fans had been questioning just where the inspiration for the infamous Joker came from.
Bob Kane and Bill Finger, the creators of the Joker, have gone on the record as saying that they used Conrad Veidt, the actor from The Man Who Laughs, as inspiration.
Kane states that “Finger had a book with a photograph of Conrad Veidt and showed it to me and said, ‘Here’s the Joker.’” When looking at the character next to this actor, the resemblance is clear. Later, the Joker was revamped, yet his face and personality still stayed close to its original.
5. Nacho Libre
The real life inspiration for Nacho Libre is even more interesting than the movie. The film seems like it sprang from some very imaginative writers, but the lead character is actually based on Sergio Gutiérrez Benítez. Benítez was first a drug addicted man living in Mexico City.
This drug addiction is what led to his strange and interesting story, however. One day, he had a drug-induced hallucination. He went to church and felt that God was calling him to become a priest. He quit drugs for good, going through an intensive detox program, and was soon ordained into the church. Following this, he also turned to wrestling, as it allowed him to connect with orphaned children and raise money for the orphanage.
Aladdin is shockingly drawn from a strange amalgamation of Tom Cruise and MC Hammer. Originally, Aladdin was supposed to be younger and smaller, around 13 years old. This changed however, and he became an 18 year old with more muscle tone. Tom Cruise eventually became the main inspiration for his look.
This may sound odd, but the resemblance is there when viewing the two beside each other. Aladdin’s look has been criticized as being “too white” and even “too contemporary” for the intended setting of the film. His pants are based off of MC Hammer’s look, which adds to the criticism of cultural ignorance in the movie.
Alyssa Milano is the inspiration behind Ariel, the beloved Disney mermaid. While the film was being made though, and the characters drawn up, Milano had no idea of this.
The Little Mermaid was extremely popular, though, and multiple fans pointed out the resemblance between Ariel and Milano. Glen Keane, who animated Ariel, admitted to using photos of Milano to create Ariel. He used pictures from the actress’s days on “Who’s The Boss”. In particular, Ariel’s face is modeled after the actress.
Ursula the Sea Witch is another character from “The Little Mermaid” based on a real person. The evil witch is perhaps not the most flattering character to resemble, yet she does have her own merits as a strong, sassy baddie.
A famous drag queen, called Divine, is the inspiration behind Ursula’s distinctive look. While some characters are based loosely off the appearance of actors or other people, the resemblance between Ursula and Divine is positively uncanny. From the hair and the dress, to the body and the makeup, the two are extremely similar. In fact, they even have the same mole on their faces.
1. Severus Snape
Severus Snape, the ornery professor of potions from the book series “Harry Potter,” is based on a real teacher. Rowling admitted to crafting Snape from one of her previous teachers, Mr. Nettleship. Before the movies came out, Nettleship was unaware of his role in the books.
Of his discovery he said, “The first I knew was when a someone knocked on the door and said: ‘You’re Professor Snape aren’t you’”. Though the former teacher was at first displeased with his role, he later warmed up to it, or at least accepted it.