15 People Who Inspired the Famous Characters We Love Today

4 years ago

While some famous characters were derived completely from their creators’ figment of the imagination, a lot of beloved characters were actually inspired by real people they knew. Lucy who suffers amnesia in 50 First Dates, for example, is based on Michelle Philpots who suffers the same fate and has a husband that reminds her every day that she is married.

Bright Side compared some well-known characters to the people they are based on and found that the lives and looks of these people are so exciting that it’s no wonder they were made into popular characters!

Miss Piggy, The Muppet Show

The creator of Miss Piggy, Bonnie Erickson, admitted that her muppet was inspired by the independent Peggy Lee who sang on the local radio station where her mother used to live in North Dakota. Like the famous jazz singer, the muppet who was initially named Miss Piggy Lee was destined for stardom.

James Bond

In From Russia With Love, Bond is trapped on a train with KGB agents and a hitman who is out for his blood, and ends up dining with an enemy agent. Similarly, F.F.E. Yeo-Thomas, also known as “White Rabbit”, was trapped on a train with SS troops and the Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie who had recently murdered one of his colleagues. He ended up having lunch with Barbie. Like Bond, Yeo-Thomas was also a lady-charmer.

Jean Valjean, Les Misérables

Jean Valjean committed a criminal act for others when he stole bread for his family and was imprisoned for it. Eugène François Vidocq was not released after his 3-month sentence in prison because he forged a pardon for a fellow prisoner. Like Valjean, Vidocq also had many successful escapes from prison, disguising himself both as a sailor and a nun.

Lucious Lyon, Empire

Fascinated by Jay-Z’s past criminal life and how he rose to become a rap sensation and a media mogul despite it all, Empire co-creator, Danny Strong based the character on Beyonce’s significant other.

Tony Stark, Iron Man

Stan Lee based the looks and personality of Tony Stark on Howard Hughes, an American business magnate, investor, record-setting pilot, and ladies man.

Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey

In Downton Abbey, Cora Crawley had a Jewish millionaire as a father and opened up Downton for soldiers returning from the field, volunteering as a co-liaison nursing officer. Biological father of Almina Herbert, Countess of Carnarvon was from the Rothschild family and Lady Carnarvon opened a hospital for war-wounded men at Highclere Castle, helping with the organization and assisting as a nurse.

Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Holly Golightly not only shares an obsession with movie magazines with Carol Grace also known as Carol Marcus Saroyan and Carol Matthau, but they both also dined at a restaurant on West 52nd Street and loved horse-riding. Carol and author Truman Capote would often head to the famous Tiffany’s jewelry shop to enjoy some breakfast outside, hence the name of the novella and movie.

Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs

Thomas Harris gave Alfredo Balli Trevino the pseudonym of Dr. Salazar when asked of his inspiration for Hannibal Lecter. When the author first met Trevino, he thought he was interviewing the prison doctor. Turned out Trevino was actually a surgeon doing time in prison for murdering his lover. Trevino’s enigmatic personality during the interview was portrayed in the infamous conversation between Hannibal and the FBI agent.

Olivia Pope, Scandal

Judy Smith’s professional background in public relations and crisis management work in Washington D.C became the inspiration for the political thriller, Scandal. Olivia Pope who is a Washington, D.C.-based crisis manager is based, for the most, part on Judy Smith.

Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ famous miser was inspired by John Elwes, an 18th-century politician. Despite being born into money, Elwes was a notorious penny pincher, preferring to live in an uninhabitable house than to pay for repairs, wear ragged clothes, and eat rotten food.

Victor Navorski, The Terminal

Tom Hanks’ character is a native of the fictional country of Krakozhia who gets stuck in JFK Airport when his homeland falls under the grip of a civil war. Similarly, Iranian refugee Mehran Karimi Nasseri also known as Sir Alfred Mehran lost his papers en route to the UK and was transferred back to Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris where he lived from 1988 to 2006.

Princess Aurora, Sleeping Beauty

Princess Aurora’s delicate physique was inspired by none other than Audrey Hepburn, a Hollywood actress during the Golden Age who was known as a fashion icon.

Rocky Balboa, Rocky

Sylvester Stallone was inspired by Chuck Wepner’s tenacity and the miracle when he knocked Muhammad Ali down by landing a punch on Ali’s chest. Although Wepner was eventually knocked out on the 15th round, Stallone was so impressed with his guts that he created Rocky.

Temperance “Bones” Brennan, Bones

Kathy Reichs wrote books based on herself. Like her, Bones is a forensic anthropologist who also writes mystery novels.


Popeye was inspired by his creator’s local legend in Chester, Illinois. Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was a strong man who often participated in fights. He smoked a pipe and was toothless, the very trademark of Popeye.

Bonus: Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory

Although the character Sheldon Cooper is inspired by a computer programmer that the creator knew personally, his name was created based on two different people. His first name was from Sheldon Leonard, an actor and producer whose work the creator admired. “Cooper” was from Leon Cooper, a physicist and Nobel Prize laureate.

Are your beloved characters based on real people? Do you have theories about who popular characters are inspired by? Tell us all about it!


My favorite character Joker was also inspired by a real person. The inspiration came from an actor Conrad Veidt
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