Real Life People Who Inspired Classic Characters

You may think that the most famous characters of all time are just a figment of someone's imagination, but that's not entirely true. Many of the greatest television characters and the best movie characters of all time were either loosely or wholly based on real people. There are many memorable characters that you will come to realize were based on real people. You may think that you knew everything there was to know about your favorite movie characters, but this list of people who inspired your favorite characters might just change your mind.

John Nettleship: Severus Snape

Professor Severus Snape is a fictional character in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. An exceptionally skillful wizard, his coldly sarcastic and controlled exterior conceals deep emotions and anguish. He is the Potions Master who taught Harry Potter many lessons during his time at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is said to have based the character of Severus Snape on John Netteship, her chemistry teacher at Wyedean School. When he found out that he had been the inspiration for Snape, he said, "I was horrified when I first found out. I knew I was a strict teacher, but I didn't think I was that bad." Netteship died at the age of 72 and lived in the United Kingdom.

Ed Gein: Norman Bates, Buffalo Bill, Leatherface

Norman Bates(Psycho), Buffalo Bill (The Silence of the Lambs), and Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) are some of the most iconic serial killers to ever appear on film.

Unfortunately, these gruesome and murderous people were based on the real life crimes of Ed Gein. Ed Gein was also known as "The Butcher of Plainfield" and he was an American murderer and body snatcher. His crimes in his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, gathered widespread notoriety after authorities discovered that Gein had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin. He was eventually captured and spent his life serving out a prison sentence in a mental hospital. He died at the age of 78.


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Hiram Bingham III: Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones is the title character and protagonist of the George Lucas Indiana Jones franchise. The character is an homage to the action heroes of 1930s film serials.

Well, Indiana Jones was actually based on an academic explorer named Hiram Bingham III, who was an American academic, explorer and politician who lived in Honolulu, Hawaii. He made public the existence of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911 with the guidance of local indigenous farmers. He later on served as a member of the United States Senate for the state of Connecticut. He died in 1956 at the age of 81.

Jeff Dowd: Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski

The big Lebowski is a film that stars Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, a Los Angeles slacker and avid bowler. He is assaulted as a result of mistaken identity after which The Dude learns that a millionaire also named Jeffrey Lebowksi was the intended victim.

Jeff Dowd is a producer and political activist best known as a member of the "Seattle Seven" who met "The Big Lebowski" creators, Joel and Ethan Coen. The Coen brothers were so inspired by Dowd that they loosely based the character of "The Dude" on his personality traits.

Dave Toschi: Dirty Harry

"Dirty" Harry Callahan is a fictional character in the Dirty Harry film series. Callahan was the new kind of movie cop, an antihero who does not hesitate to cross professional and ethical boundaries in pursuit of his own vision of justice, especially when the law is poorly served by an inept bureaucracy. Dirty Harry was actually based on San Francisco Police Department inspector Dave Toschi.


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Dave Toschi was widely known for his efforts in the San Francisco Police Department as an inspector in the Zodiac Killer case. Dirty Harry was actually loosely based on the people and events involved with the Zodiac Killer investigation.

Palle Huld: Tintin

Tintin is a character in "The Adventures of Tintin" which is a series of 24 comic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi. The series was one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century. It's hero, Tintin, is a courageous young Belgian reporter and adventurer. He is aided by his faithful dog Snowy. The stories feature slapstick humor, offset by faces of sophisticated nature and political or cultural commentary.

Palle Huld was a Danish actor and writer who appeared in 40 films between 1933 and 2000. A Danish newspaper held a competition in honor of Jules Verne which was only open to teenaged boys. The winner would be assisted in a challenge to circumnavigate the globe within 46 days unaccompanied. It is said that Huld inspired Tintin.

Kenny Kramer: Cosmo Kramer

Cosmo Kramer, usually referred to as simply "Kramer," is a fictional character on the American television sitcom Seinfeld played by Michael Richards. The character is loosely based on comedian Kenny Kramer, Larry David's ex-neighbor across the hall. Kramer is the friend and neighbor of main character Jerry, residing in Apartment 5B, and is friends with George and Elaine.

John Gray: Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a philosophical novel by Oscar Wilde about Dorian Gray, a narcissistic young man who newly understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied and amoral experiences, while staying young and beautiful; all the while his portrait ages and recovers every sin.


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John Gray was an English poet whose works include "Silverpoints, The Long Road, and Park: A Fantastic Story." John Gray was in a relationship with Oscar Wilde, and although literary historians believe that John Gray was the inspiration for the character, John Gray continued to deny it.

Forest Yeo-Thomas: James Bond

The James Bond series focuses on a fictional M16 agent created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short-story collections. However, Bond became a worldwide phenomenon after he appeared on the silver screen.

Forest Frederick Edward was a British Special Operations Executive agent in the Second World War. His codename was "Seahorse" and "Shelley" and he was also known as "The White Rabbit." Fleming has said that Bond was based on "a compound of all the secret agents and commando types I met during the war." Yeo-Thomas is believed to be one of the men who inspired the classic character.

Helen Kane: Betty Boop

Helen Kane was an American singer who's signature song was "I Wanna Be Loved by You." She spent the early 1920s trouping in vaudeville as a singer and kick line dancer with a theater engagement called the "All Jazz Revue." She played the New York Palace for the first time in 1921. Her Broadway days started there as well with the Stars of the Future, and she also sang onstage with an early singing trio, the Hamilton Sisters and Fordyce, later known as the Three X Sisters.

Betty Boop is an animated cartoon character created by Max Fleischer with help from animators including Grim Natwick. Betty Boop was described in a 1934 court case as: "combining the appearance of the childish with the sophisticated-a large round baby face with big eyes and a nose like a button, framed in a somewhat careful coiffure, with a very small body of which perhaps the leading characteristic is the most self-confident little bust imaginable."

In 1932, Kane sued Fleischer for creating a "deliberate caricature" of her image and personality with the character of Betty Boop. The case was dismissed as Kane failed to prove her case, but many still believe she was the sinpiration behind Betty Boop.


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Peggy Lee: Miss Piggy

Peggy Lee, also known as Norma Deloris Egstrom, was an American jazz and popular music singer, songwriter, composer, and actress, in a career spanning six decades. She formed a very sophisticated persona, evolving into a multi-faceted artist and performer. During her career, she wrote music for films, acted, and recorded conceptual record albums that combined poetry and music.

Miss Piggy is a Mupper character known for her breakout role in Jim Henson's "The Muppet Show." Since her debut in 1976, Miss Piggy has been notable for her volatile diva personality, tendency to use French phrases in her speech, and practice of karate. Miss Piggy's designer, Bonnie Erickson, said that she originally called the character Miss Piggy Lee. Sh said she was inspired by Lee's strength as an independent woman when creating Miss Piggy.

Alice Liddell: Alice in Wonderland

Alice Pleasance Hargreaves was an acquaintance and photography subject of Lewis Carroll who was the daughter of Carroll's friend, Henry Liddell. The story of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" first came into fruition when Alice Liddell asked Carroll to tell her a story.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is an 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world popular by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures.