Ah, Snape. You either loved him or hated him (until the end, when of course, you loved him, out of sympathy if nothing else). Did you know that the cold, greasy-haired potions teacher-turned-headmaster was actually inspired by JK Rowling’s old chemistry teacher, John Nettleship? Nettleship was unaware that he motivated such a character until his wife and students eventually figured it out. To make things slightly suspicious, Rowling’s mother actually worked with the chemistry teacher in the same school so we wonder if anything happened between them, Lily/Snape style! Nettleship described himself as "a short-tempered chemistry teacher with long hair... [and a] gloomy, malodorous laboratory” but claimed: "I was horrified when I first found out [I was the inspiration]. I knew I was a strict teacher but I didn't think I was that bad.”
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Johnny Depp’s legendary “arr me hearties!” alter-ego, the wacky Capt. Jack was actually inspired by the real-life English pirate captain Calico Jack (John Rackham)! Calico Jack operated in the Bahamas and Cuba in the early 18th century and has been recognised for his design of the Jolly Roger flag, which was used in “The Curse of the Black Pearl”. Rackham’s interesting calico suit and extensive list of romantic flings make Jack Sparrow seem tame! He courted female pirate Anne Bonny into his ship – she’d wear men’s clothing to spend time with him. Rackham was eventually hung in Port Royal.
Popeye, the famous cartoon character who constantly sports a pipe, matching anchor tattoos and gets into punch-ups, was actually inspired by a real person! Frank "Rocky" Fiegel was a local legend in Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Illinois. Like Popeye, Rocky was extremely strong, had no teeth, smoked and engaged in fights. He was also noted to be friendly towards kids. An engraving of Popeye decorates his gravestone.
We all know Dirty Harry as the go-getting detective who said, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”… but did you know that the whole franchise was based on former San Francisco Police Department inspector Dave Toschi? Toschi led investigations in the Zodiac murders which took place in his county. He was portrayed by Mark Ruffalo in the film “Zodiac”. The detective also inspired the title character of “Bullitt” in 1968, played by Steve McQueen.
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You may have only heard of Tintin from Stephen Spielberg’s 2011 film in which Jamie Bell voices the 3D globetrotter, but Tintin has actually been in existence since 1929 when he was created by comic writer Herge. So who inspired this world-famous character? Palle Huld, a 15-year-old Danish Boy Scout, who won a competition to reenact Phineas Fogg’s circumnavigation of the globe in the book “Around the World in 80 Days”. Huld completed his mission in 44 days in 1928.
He’s the Charles Dickens character behind the phrase, “Bah, humbug!”, hated Christmas and loved being greedy. The “A Christmas Carol” antagonist eventually recognized his errors after being paid a visit by a trio of ghosts on December 24, and we’re pretty sure that you’ve called somebody a Scrooge in your lifetime (or been called one!). This unfortunate character was actually based on 18th century politician John Elwes who, despite having more than his fair share of cash, felt the need to pull multiple Winonas and live like a homeless person. The criminal would eat food that had already gone bad and reside in abandoned houses rather than live the luxe life, in fear of losing his wealth.
“The Picture of Dorian Gray” was the only novel that poet Oscar Wilde wrote, and tells the story of a man, Dorian, who sells in soul to retain his youth and good looks while a portrait of him begins the ageing process instead. The character in the novel was based on fellow Poet John Gray. The Dorians were an ancient Greek tribe who would partake in homosexual sex. Allegedly, as a result, Gray was embarrassed that the story was based on him. His relationship with Wilde then became strained. The story was revived with Ben Barnes in the title role in the 2009 film “Dorian Gray”.
How could you forget the psycho from, erm, “Psycho”, Norman Bates? The horror film villain actually also shares a similarity with Leatherface of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and Buffalo Bill of “Silence of the Lambs”, in that they were all inspired by the same person – murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein. Horrific body parts were discovered in Gein’s property, used to create household objects (for example, bowls made from human skulls). He was also attempting to create a “woman suit” out of female skin – this disturbing aspect of his made it into “Silence of the Lambs”.
We’ve all heard of Indiana Jones, the adventurer and archeologist who travelled the globe to find lost treasures. But did you know that he was actually inspired by a number of real people, particularly Hiram Bingham III? Bingham was a professor at Yale University, treasure hunter and explorer who re-discovered Machu Picchu after revealing the Quechua citadel in 1911. The 1954 film titled “Secret of the Incas” is actually based around a man, Harry Steele, exploring the lost city, and was obviously motivated by Bingham. By extension, the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” creators drew inspiration from Bingham as they based their heroine on Steele.
It is believed that the inspiration behind Britain’s most famous secret agent was a renowned UK spy during the WWII era, a man known as Forest Yeo-Thomas. The veteran had reported directly to Winston Churchill and parachuted into occupied territory several times on secret missions (which does sound very Bond-like, can we just say). After being captured by the Gestapo, he became known to them as “The White Rabbit”.
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Zorro has come to be a recognised superhero among entertainment lovers, even appearing in films aimed towards youngsters such as “A Cinderella Story” with Hilary Duff. But who inspired this masked character made famous by Antonio Banderas? None other than the Mexican Robin Hood, Joaquin Murrieta. Murrieta was born in 1829 and became “Zorro” after his family was killed by miners in California, when he decided to commit crimes and murder as an act of revenge. He was eventually killed by Rangers and then went on to become a hero after his death.
Mr Holmes is probably the most famous detective of all time – we’re pretty sure you’re guilty of a “Sherlock” joke here and there! He was inspired by Dr Joseph Bell, an acquaintance of the mastermind behind the character, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Known to be a man of superior intelligence, Bell was extremely intuitive (or maybe had psychic powers). He could look at a man and immediately know things he couldn’t have known. He even served as an expert witness in the murder trial regarding the Ardlamont Mystery and assisted police in investigations.
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