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
Jim Sturgess plays the leader of the gang
of brilliant mathematicians, Ben Campbell,
who begins counting cards as a way to pay
Jeff Ma was the real life inspiration for
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
Bulger has such an interesting history that
he was also the subject of the 2015 film,
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.
Regan from The Exorcist
Films about demonic possession have become
commonplace but back in 1973, The Exorcist
introduced audiences to the absolutely horrifying
tale of a little girl named Regan who was
possessed by a demon after playing with a
The book and film are based on the exorcism
of Roland Doe.
Doe was a young boy living in Maryland in
He spent his time playing with his spiritualist
aunt who introduced him to a Ouija board.
The result was a claimed possession which
caused a priest to perform an exorcism on
the boy and record the events.
In the 1990s, a book was released stating
that Roland was not actually possessed by
anything supernatural but was most likely
just a disturbed boy who had suffered from
The truth will never fully be known but the
story of possession sure made for one terrifying
Rocky Dennis, Mask
The 1985 tearjerker, Mask in which Eric Stoltz
plays a teenage boy named Rocky Dennis who
suffers from Lionitis is based on a real life
boy by the same name and disorder.
While the character may not be considered
crazy, the emotional appeal of the film proves
that reality is stranger and more compelling
Rocky’s deforming disorder also known as
CDD, made his life extremely difficult and
it was nearly impossible to read or do basic
activities but he pushed through tasks and
proved his teachers wrong.
The film’s heartbreaking conclusion shows
Rocky’s mom, Rusty, enter teenage Rocky’s
room to find that he has passed on.
In real life, Rusty donated her son’s body
to the UCLA medical center.
Norman Bates, Psycho
Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960
classic Psycho, is one of the most famous
killers in cinematic history.
The voyeuristic mama’s boy may best be remembered
by the final sinister stare which closes the
The movie was based on a book by the same
name, but the character was based on killer
and all around psycho, Ed Gein.
Gein has inspired many movie maniacs including
Leather face from Texas Chainsaw Massacre
and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs.
While there was only proof that Gein killed
two people, he spent a lot of time grave robbing
and dismembering the corpses to make furniture.
He also stalked local women in town.
Just like Bates, Gein was dedicated to pleasing
his mother and even created a shrine for her
in her room after she died.
After all, a boy’s best friend is his mother.
The Dude, The Big Lebowski
Since its release in 1998, The Big Lebowski
has grown a cult following thanks to its endless
quotable dialogue and Jeff Bridges flawless
performance as Jeff Lebowski.
Lebowski, or as he likes to be called, the
Dude, is just an easygoing stoner who wants
to clear up the confusion of sharing the name
with a wanted man.
While the premise of the film is completely
made up by The Coen Brothers, the character
of The Dude is based on a real person, Jeff
Dowd is a film producer and the Coen brothers
met him while promoting their 1984 film Blood
His appearance, style of dress, and general
mannerisms fascinated the filmmakers enough
that they just had to base a film character
Even the nickname was real, something Dowd
picked up in the 6th grade that stuck with
him through his entire life.
Lucy from 50 First Dates,
Adam Sandler comedies rarely strive for realism
but the film 50 First Dates managed a semblance
The seemingly contrived plot revolves around
Adam Sandler falling in love with a woman,
played by Drew Barrymore, who suffers from
short term memory loss.
As the film progresses, the characters fall
in love, marry, and have a child.
All while she wakes up each morning forgetting
the day before.
The story is more than just a wacky comedy
premise, it is actually based on a real woman
named Michelle Philpots who suffered from
two separate head injuries resulting in irreparable
brain damage causing short term memory loss.
Just like Barrymore’s character, Philpots
has woken up each morning for the past twenty
years with no memory of the day before.
Her husband helps her each day but luckily
she does recognize him as he was around before
What do you think of our list?
Did we forget your favorite crazy character
based on a real person?
Let us know in the comments.
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