There are some movie characters that are so over-the-top that it would seem impossible for them to be based on a real person. Since one of the most common devices for writers is to write what you know, it makes sense that there are so many film characters inspired by stories of real people and true events. Here are 10 Crazy Movie Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People.
Ben from 21
21 is a 2008 film about a group of MIT students who use their genius math skills to win an excessive amount of cash from casinos in Las Vegas. Jim Sturgess plays the leader of the gang of brilliant mathematicians, Ben Campbell, who begins counting cards as a way to pay his tuition. Jeff Ma was the real life inspiration for Ben. Jeff along with his number-crunching peers were the subject of the book Bringing Down the House in which 21 is based. While there was controversy surrounding the casting of the film which consisted of a mostly white cast portraying people who were Asian in real life, the film was a success
The 2006 comedy, Nacho Libre stars Jack Black as a monk turned Mexican wrestler. The film is wacky and directed by Jared Hess who also made the oddball comedy, Napoleon Dynamite. If the story sounds just silly enough to be a film starring Jack Black, audiences may be surprised to find that it is based on a real life Catholic priest named Sergio Gutiérrez Benítez who went by the wrestling name, Fray Tormenta. He spent 23 years as the masked wrestler as a way to make money for the orphanage he directed. The priest gained overwhelming support and popularity in real life. He ended his wrestling career in 2000 but dons the mask every once in a while just to entertain the children in his church.
Rocky Balboa is everybody’s favorite underdog from Philly. The film about a regular Joe who pushes himself to fight the biggest names in boxing is one of the most successful franchises in film history. Writer, Director and star, Sylvester Stallone based Rocky on real life boxer Chuck Wepner after watching Wepner go fifteen rounds with Muhammad Ali in 1975. Later when Wepner tried to sue for a portion of the money made from the Rocky movies, Stallone stated that Wepner was not the inspiration for Rocky. So while there were many differences between the character and Wepner, like Wepner being from New Jersey rather than Philadelphia, the many similarities suggest Chuck Wepner did serve as the basis for the Italian Stallion.
Frank Costello, The Departed
The character of Frank Costello in Martin Scorsese’s ensemble crime drama, The Departed seems somewhat unrealistic. How did a guy manage to groom a young man to become a mole for the Boston Police department? How did he not get arrested after years of dirty dealing? Even more unbelievable is that he was an informant for the FBI the entire time? That could never happen, but it did. At least most of it did to a man named Whitey Bulger. Bulger was an Irish mob boss in Boston and managed to get away with a whole lot of criminal activities for many years. He really did have a mole in the police department and was an FBI informant to keep himself out of prison. Bulger has such an interesting history that he was also the subject of the 2015 film, Black Mass.
The character of Dirty Harry Callahan is an intimidating police inspector for the San Francisco Police Department. Clint Eastwood’s iconic portrayal of the character exemplifies cool as he goes on the hunt for psychopathic serial killer who goes by the name of Scorpio. Scorpio is based on the similarly named Zodiac Killer who terrorized the streets of San Francisco in the 1960s and early 70s. Dirty Harry is based on the real life detective Dave Toschi who was a bit of a loose cannon for the San Francisco police department. His unorthodox behavior helped create not only Harry Callahan but even inspired Steve McQueen’s character in Bullitt. However, it was Tocshi's role in the Zodiac killer case that inspired one of the coolest characters in cinematic history.