Great artists know to borrow (or outright steal) from reality. From books to video games and the big screen, some of history’s most iconic characters were based on real people, including the following:
The Joker bears an insane resemblance to ’20s silent film character Gwynplaine, portrayed by Conrad Veidt, in The Man Who Laughs. In fact, the creators of Batman’s archnemesis basically stole the character, gave him a fresh new suit, and plopped him onto the pages of Batman #1. Since then, the Joker has grown into a character of his own, as deep and complex as the Dark Knight himself.
The Koopa-stomping face of Nintendo was born from circumstance. Wealthy property owner Mario Segale rented an office to the cash-strapped Nintendo in the early ’80s. As the U.S. release of Donkey Kong approached, the game’s protagonist remained nameless. However, the resemblance between the plump plumber and Seagle couldn’t escape the keen eye of Nintendo President Minoru Arakawa, and thus the world welcomed Mario. Apparently Seagle isn’t too fond of the story…
JK Rowling was indeed…up to something when she created Professor Snape. The villanous-at-first-glance Potions teacher was sketched from Rowling’s former chemistry teacher, John Nettleship. Nettleship didn’t find out until the screening of the first movie, where his wife and students helped deduce the truth. What’s more, Rowling’s mother worked as Nettleship’s assistant, and, given Snape’s romantic interest, we can only speculate what Rowling was hinting at.
Since the early days, Disney wanted to create magic – at a reasonable price. To dodge royalty payments, Disney took Alyssa Milano, and animated her in 2D as Ariel in The Little Mermaid. Milano didn’t find out until she agreed to host a making-of documentary. Interestingly enough, Ursula was moulded from the likeness of drag queen Divine. Coincidence? We’ll let the next character on our list decide.
Rounding up our list of fictional characters based on real people is Mr Sherlock Holmes himself. The world’s most renowned fictional detective was actually based on an equally genius man from 19th century Scotland. Dr. Joseph Bell had unstoppable wit, razor-sharp deductive skills, and knowledge that dwarfed that of his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle knew Bell in person and quickly reincarnated him onto the page. By transitivity, Dr. Bell also inspired the creation of Dr. Gregory House. Not convinced? Holmes is to House as Watson is to Wilson. Enough said.