13 Famous Fictional Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

  • January 24, 2015
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Through all mediums of entertainment - music, movies, books, and so forth - we get attached to the truly great, fleshed out characters who just jump off the page or screen and stick with us for one reason or another. We love characters like Han Solo or Spider-Man, but obviously we realize that people like that could never exist in the real world. But there are some famous, beloved fictional characters who have walked among us throughout history.

After all, writers and artists have to find their inspiration somewhere, right? It turns out that a lot of that inspiration comes from the people they read about or meet somewhere along the line in their lives. Here are some of our favorite fictional characters who you may not have realized were based on living, breathing beings.


Ebenezer Scrooge

The cantankerous penny pincher was based on an 18th century miser named John Elwes, a London politician who refused to spend any of his inheritance and basically choosing to live in squalor.


Severus Snape

Harry Potter’s least favorite Hogwarts teacher was based on a real life professor of JK Rowling’s named John Nettleship, who taught chemistry - hence Snape being the potions master.


Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry Callahan was inspired by real-life San Francisco detective Dave Toschi, who gained fame working on the Zodiac killer case.


James Bond

James Bond is thought to be based on several people, including Bond author Ian Fleming and, amazingly, actor Christopher Lee, who was a spy during World War II.


Krusty the Clown

Krusty, the iconic clown from The Simpsons, is based on an old Portland, Oregon kids show host named Rusty Nails who creator Matt Groening grew up watching as a child.


Sherlock Holmes

No one can say for sure who Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based Sherlock on, but all indications are that it was primarily a forensic scientist named Joseph Bell, who had a knack for deduction.



The swashbuckling Mexican hero, thought to be one of the first “superheroes” in literature, was based on a real-life bandit named Joaquin Murrieta, who became a vigilante after his family was killed.