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

  • January 24, 2015
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  • Pop Culture
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Dorian Gray

The titular character in Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece was based on a one-time lover of Wilde’s name John Gray, who had a falling out with Wilde after discovering he’d inspired the novel.


Pete “Maverick” Mitchell

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell

Tom Cruise’s famously rebellious fighter pilot from was based on a real-life Top Gun instructor named Randall “Duke” Cunningham.



The intrepid young reporter and adventurer in the long running comic books was based on Palle Huld, who at age 15 circled the world in 44 days and wrote a book about his experiences.


Travis Bickle

Robert De Niro’s famous character from Taxi Driver was inspired by a man named Arthur Bremer, who gained notoriety for shooting Alabama governor George Wallace in 1972.


Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski

The hero of the cult favorite film The Big Lebowski, The Dude was based on a former anti-Vietnam activist named Jeff Dowd, who reportedly really does love White Russians.


Moby Dick

Hey, who said that only humans could inspire famous characters? Moby Dick was based on an albino sperm whale called Mocha Dick, who lived in the waters off the coast of Chile.