ByKarly Rayner, writer at
Movie Pilot's celebrity savant
Karly Rayner

It's a well known saying in writing circuits that you should "write what you know" to create believable, well-rounded characters, and some authors and script writers really took that advice to heart!

The real life people behind the hearts and minds of some of cinema's most iconic characters are as diverse and wonderful as the representations we are all familiar with on the silver screen, and a lot of them will probably surprise you.

So, let's meet the real life individuals who were special enough to spark the creative minds of their friends, colleague and enemies to see if we can recognize them...

Hermione: Harry Potter

When she was a mere novice writer as opposed to one of the biggest selling authors of all time, J.K. Rowling stuck religiously to the rule of "write what you know."

In fact, one of the main characters in the Harry Potter universe, Hermione, was based on Rowling herself when she was a school girl!

J.K. Rowling explained that:

Hermione is loosely based on me. She's a caricature of me when I was 11, which I'm not particularly proud of. She's quite annoying in a lot of ways. I like her as a character, but I'm very aware that some people wouldn't.

Although I don't know Rowling personally, in judging the similarities I can totally see where the hair came from!


Jeffery "The Dude" Lebowski: The Big Lebowski

Jeffery "The Dude" Lebowski has won the Cohen brothers huge critical acclaim for his unique personality and zen worldview, but they didn't just dream him up from thin air.

In fact, Lebowski drew more than a pinch of inspiration from film producer, Jeff Dowd. Dowd shares the same nickname, laid-back demeanor, and fondness of shades as Lebowski does, but the similarities don't end there.

Some of the finer biographical details of "the Dude's" life were also plucked from Dowd's past experiences. For example, the 'Seattle Seven' political group that Lebowski mentions in the movie is a real life group that Dowd was once a member of.

Dowd in the Seattle seven: Third from the right
Dowd in the Seattle seven: Third from the right

Jeff Dowd himself is quoted as saying:

The body language is one hundred percent me in the movie. Do I drink White Russians all the time? No. ... The reason it was White Russians is you could have a lot more fun with a White Russian than you can with say, a vodka soda

One of the only things this pair don't have in common is the fact that Dowd actually has a job.


Alice in Wonderland

Despite being a much loved children's novel and the source material behind two wildly popular Disney movies, Alice in Wonderland has a decidedly murky past.

Author Lewis Carroll (real name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) penned the enchanting tales of Wonderland to entertain a young girl by the name of Alice Liddell.

Liddell was the daughter of the dean of Christ Church where Carroll was a mathematics tutor and he became very close to the family during their time there.

However in 1863 the family cooled their relationship with Carroll and it has been suggested this break in relations came because the author was getting a little too close to his muse who was then just 11-years-old...


Lucy Whitmore: 50 First Dates

The premise of the Adam Sandler movie 50 First Dates might seem exceptionally far fetched, but it was based on the tale of a British woman who really does lose her entire memory each and every day.

Michelle Philpots was involved in two road accidents in 1994 that irreparably damaged the part of her brain that processes long term memories.

Every morning she wakes up next to a man who has to convince her that he is her husband, and her life is governed by a succession of post it notes that tell her what to expect.

Mr. Philpots explained to The Daily Mail that:

I’ve known her for 25 years so I am lucky we met before she had the accidents because she can remember me. Luckily we have lots of photos to remind her, otherwise she would forget it all

The incredibly rare condition that Michelle and the fictional Lucy suffer from is named anterograde amnesia.



The BFG is getting a movie makeover by none other than Stephen Spielberg, which I'm sure would be a huge surprise to the unassuming builder who provided the inspiration for the friendly giant!

Roald Dahl's delightful larger-than-life character was based on a builder named Walter Saunders who was responsible for throwing Dahl's famous brick writing shack together.

According to Dahl's wife, Saunders was a "wonderful" man who had:

Huge hands like a bunch of bananas, enormous ears and a big nose. He spoke with a very strange accent and got all his words wrong

After the book was published, people in the local area immediately recognized Saunders' gentle personality and eccentricities. Or in Saunders' words:

When the book was written, I didn't know I was the BFG. It was only later that people started coming up to me and asking, 'Is it you, Wally?"

What a beautiful legacy.


James Bond

Bond is a patchwork of many inspirations, but one person in particular became a huge fascination of the character's creator, Ian Fleming.

Forest Frederick Edward "Tommy" Yeo-Thomas was a special operations executive who served in several missions during WWII and was important enough to report directly to Churchill himself.

Fleming was also involved in special intelligence for Britain, and although he worked exclusively in naval intelligence, the author very much had his eye on the exploits of Yeo-Thomas.

In fact, some James Bond scenes have been pretty much plucked directly from Yeo-Thomas' service history, for example, the torture scene in Casino Royale is pretty much what happened to Yeo-Thomas at the hands of the Gestapo.

Yeo-Thomas' military history also gave birth to iconic scenes such as the secret agents meeting on the train in From Russia with Love, and reportedly, Bond's way with the ladies!


Hazel Grace: The Fault in Our Stars

If you thought The Fault in Our Stars was tearjerking enough, you might want to go and grab a box of tissues before you learn about Esther Earl.

Author John Green was already working on a novel about teenagers with cancer when he met Ester at a Harry Potter conference, but the hopeful and plucky teenager gave a tone and a center to the bittersweet novel.

Earl, who shares a middle name with Hazel Grace in tribute, was 12 years old when she meet Green, and she unfortunately lost her battle with cancer four years later when she was just 16.

Despite the limitations of her illness, Earl remained a enthusiastic person who grabbed life with all the force she could muster until the very end.

If you want to learn more about Ester Earl, you can watch videos of her on her youtube channel and see if you think Hazel Grace does her energy justice.


Severus Snape: Harry Potter

Anyone who has been to school knows that crotchety, high-handed teachers are two a penny, so it should be no surprise that a real life Snape once terrorized J.K. Rowling's school.

While he wasn't covertly murdering more noble and honorable colleagues like Snape, John Nettleship was a notoriously strict teacher who specialized in chemistry - which, let's face it, is basically potions!

Although he was initially a bit peeved to be cast as one of the super villains of modern fiction, Nettleship grew to love the fact he had been immortalized in fiction before his death in 2011.

He spoke out and explained:

Quite a lot of my ex-pupils recognize the original character when they see the film. They come to me and say, ‘We saw you in the movie, sir’. But I just laugh about that. The great thing though is that Alan Rickman was picked to play the character and the ladies think he is good. That made things better


Did you know that these characters were based on real people?

(Source: Dorked, Cracked and Flavor Wire)


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