10 Fictional Characters Surprisingly Based on Real People

10 Fictional Characters Surprisingly Based on Real People

It's widely known that writers often base their stories on their own personal experiences and narratives they've come across. That means that even the darkest or strangest characters are not always conceived straight from the mind of the writer. In many cases, the conception of some of the greatest characters draw a little (or a lot of!) inspiration from real life people. 

Sometimes the similarities between characters and their real-life counterparts are obvious, or just clearly made known by their creators, but others aren't as blatant. Whether they're wicked, valiant, catastrophic, or somber, many of the best characters from television and film are—surprisingly—based on actual people.

10. Severus Snape is based on John Nettleship

 [Source: Warner Bros. Pictures]

[Source: Warner Bros. Pictures]

John Nettleship was a former schoolteacher at Wyedean School in Gloucestershire, England. J.K. Rowling was a student of Nettleship's during his tenure at Wyedean and she even admitted in a 1999 interview that "Snape is [a] very sadistic teacher loosely based on a teacher I myself had, I have to say." And much like his magical counterpart, Nettlship taught chemistry. 

Nettleship even described himself in a short book he published in 2009 entitled Harry Potter's Chepstow as "a short-tempered chemistry teacher with long hair...[and a] gloomy, malodorous laboratory" which, admittedly, sounds a lot like Hogwarts' very own Severus Snape.

9. Ursula is based on a drag queen named Divine

 [Source: Walt Disney Pictures]

[Source: Walt Disney Pictures]

It may come as a surprise that Ursula was based on Glenn Milstead's famed drag queen persona Divine, considering Milstead had no part of the Disney project. Lyricist Howard Ashman, who had known Divine, composed the music for The Little Mermaid (1989) and ended being a producer for the film. 

Ultimately, Divine's image became inspiration for Ursula, but unfortunately Divine passed before ever being able to see the film. Close friends of the late drag queen claimed Divine would have loved the character, and may have even been interested in being involved in the movie with Ashman.

8. Norman Bates is based on Ed Gein

 [Source: Universal Pictures]

[Source: Universal Pictures]

Serial killer Ed Gein has been the inspiration for many haunting characters, but his background especially resembles that of Norman Bates. Author Robert Bloch wrote Psycho in 1957 when he was living in Wisconsin, which was also around the time of Ed Gein's arrest. 

Gein and Bates share a number of things in common, including a dead father and abusive mother. Similarly to Gein, Bates also had a shrine to his dead mother after she passed, making it pretty hard to ignore the horrific similarities Bloch's Bates character shared with Gein.

7. Travis Bickle is based on Arthur Bremer

 [Source: Columbia Pictures]

[Source: Columbia Pictures]

Martin Scorsese's 1976 film Taxi Driver has never ceased to be praised since its release over forty years ago. The main character of one of the best films ever made, however, was inspired by a real-life man named Arthur Bremer. 

Much like Travis Bickle, Bremer had suicidal tendencies, shaved his head, and had attempted to assassinate a politician—in his case, George Wallace in 1972. It's pretty clear both the real and fictional men were similarly deranged, indeed.

6. Kramer is based on Kramer

 [Source: Columbia TriStar Television]

[Source: Columbia TriStar Television]

Seinfeld's Cosmo Kramer is one of those characters that almost seems too quirky to be real... except for the fact that he is. Show creator Larry David lived across the hall from a man named Kenny Kramer, a struggling comedian, who had many bizarre traits (like coming up with strange inventions) which inspired Cosmo's character. 

In a very Kramer-like fashion, the real Kramer started his own bus tour in New York called Kramer's Reality Tour where he takes his guests to various sites featured on the show

5. Ebenezer Scrooge is based on Jemmy Wood

 [Source: Walt Disney Studios]

[Source: Walt Disney Studios]

Scrooge's story is one of the greatest bad-guy-turned-good narratives ever told, and though his mysterious night with three ghosts isn't quite based in reality, the man himself is. In the late 1700s through the early 1800s lived a man named Jemmy Wood, and he was rumored to be the first millionaire in Britain. 

Though almost certainly the richest man in Britain during his lifetime, Wood was known for being extremely stingy with his wealth. This kind of selfishness very closely resembles Scrooge, and it's extremely possible Charles Dicken's drew a lot of character traits from Wood.

4. Shrek is based on Maurice Tillet

 [Source: DreamWorks Pictures]

[Source: DreamWorks Pictures]

Maurice Tillet was a Russian-French wrestler known for his distinct appearance caused by the condition acromegaly, which results in bone overgrowth. Although DreamWorks has not openly admitted to any likeness between the two, a simple comparison of Tillet and the animated character draws much speculation. Tillet was also reportedly a very kind, gentle man despite his large stature—which is just another similarity between him and Shrek.

3. Indiana Jones is based on Hiram Bingham III

 [Source: Paramount Pictures]

[Source: Paramount Pictures]

Hiram Bingham III is the man responsible for discovering Machu Picchu; so, needless to say, Bingham was brave and adventurous—not unlike one of our most beloved characters Indiana Jones. 

Both adventurers wore similar attire and are known for their "striking" features that made them stick out as explorers. Maybe Indy isn't quite a carbon copy of Bingham, but the inspiration is certainly evident in his character.

2. Lucy Whitmore is based on Michelle Philpots

 [Source: Columbia Pictures]

[Source: Columbia Pictures]

A woman from Spalding, Lincolnshire named Michelle Philpots survived two motor vehicle accidents between 1985 and 1990. The eventual results of these tragic crashes was a type of amnesia that causes Philpots to lose her memory regularly and regress back to her mindset in 1994. 

Just like the character Lucy Whitmore in 50 First Dates (2004), Philpots must constantly be reminded by her husband about every detail of her life that has happened since the early nineties.

1. Rocko is based on Woody Allen

 [Source: Nickelodeon]

[Source: Nickelodeon]

Arguably one of the most loved cartoon characters ever is the eponymous wallaby from Rocko's Modern Life. Rocko is portrayed as an Australian immigrant, and he is an undoubtedly wacky character and a bit of an oddball.

Rocko is also pretty neurotic, which is why it's no surprise that he was originally pitched by creators as "a young anthropomorphic Woody Allen, who has just moved away from his home into a surrealistic adult world."

Brittany K. King is a Chicago-based writer and founder of Film Daddy. She spends most of her time avoiding saying the word ‘gyro’ out loud.

Follow Brittany on Twitter @brittanykking.