Artists can take their inspiration from almost anything. That could include painters, musicians, and actors. They can draw on personal experience, other artistic works that they have found moving, or maybe they just make it all up on the spot and hope for the best. Whatever the case may be, it’s always interesting to learn that sometimes the inspiration for a character or performance is something you never expected.
10. Melissa McCarthy Based her Bridesmaids Character on Guy Fieri
The 2011 movie Bridesmaids was a pretty big hit and helped Kristen Wiig’s star to rise in her post SNL career. However, the breakout star of the movie was actually Melissa McCarthy. She has gone on to have a very prolific career in comedy since that time.
In the movie, McCarthy’s character is kind-hearted, but also a little brash and inappropriate at the best of times. She’s like a bull in a China shop and provides a lot of the movie’s most over the top comedy.
McCarthy has said in interviews that her inspiration for the character was Guy Fieri, the Food Network chef known for his spiky, bleach blonde hair and boisterous personality. According to McCarthy, she actually wanted her character to have the same hair as Fieri but the producers shot her down because they felt it would be a little too obvious what they were doing.
9. Dr. Evil Was Based on Lorne Michaels, Which Dana Carvey Claimed he Came Up With
When Austin Powers came out back in 1997, it was one of those cultural moments that overtook polite society. It happens once in a blue moon with a rare comedy that people just can’t get out of their heads. Ace Ventura did it, Anchorman did it, and Austin Powers was no different. And by that we mean people couldn’t stop quoting it. Everyone had an Austin Powers impression, or a Dr. Evil one. For a solid year you couldn’t escape people yelling “Yeah, baby!” or “Oh, behave!”
It turns out that Dr Evil himself was an impression that Mike Myers was doing. The character was based on notorious Saturday Night Live head Lorne Michaels.If you ever listen to an interview with Lorne Michaels speaking and keep this in mind, you’ll never be able to not hear it from now on.
In a strange twist, Dana Carvey, who was Mike Myers co-star on SNL and in the Wayne’s World movies, came out to say that the impression was actually his. He claims to have done the impression back in the day as the first SNL cast member to make fun of Michaels, but Myers stole it from him to make the Dr. Evil character.
8. Christian Bale was Inspired to Portray Patrick Bateman by Tom Cruise
It’s hard to say if this one qualifies as a compliment or not, but probably not. Christian Bale, who is maybe most famous for being Batman these days, is also known for his role as Patrick Bateman in the movie American Psycho.
The director Mary Harron and Christian Bale had been looking at Bateman as though he were a Martian. The idea was that he was viewing Humanity like it was something he didn’t understand, so Bale needed to make his character into something alien and inhuman that was trying its best to fit in.
According to Bateman, he saw Tom Cruise on David Letterman’s talk show one night and described him as having “a very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes.” So he used that as inspiration for his dark and disturbed performance.
7. Jabba the Hutt is Based on Actor Sydney Greenstreet
Few film series’ have more behind-the-scenes lore and drama than the Star Wars universe. You’d be hard-pressed to argue that any film series in history has more fanatical fans. Part of that is because there’s so many interesting and unexpected things to learn about them. Like how Jabba the Hutt, the intergalactic space slug crime boss from Return of the Jedi was actually based on real life actor Sydney Greenstreet.
Back in the day, Greenstreet was huge, literally and figuratively. At his peak he weighed 350 lbs and was described as an “urbane fat man” and one of cinema’s most classic villains. The team that designed Jabba the Hutt was reportedly told by George Lucas to make him Look “alien and grotesque” so they settled on Greenstreet.
6. Bram Stoker Based Dracula, in Part, on Walt Whitman
Odd sources of inspiration is not a new thing by any means. We merely have to look at Bram Stoker’s most famous character, Count Dracula, to see that. Most of us know Dracula from Stoker’s book and the dozens of movies that have featured the character. And, it’s generally known in a historical context that Dracula was based partially on Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian prince from the 1400s. Less well known is that Dracula was also inspired by the poet Walt Whitman.
Stoker was a massive fan of Whitman’s poetry. He kept up a correspondence with Whitman, and if you read his letters it’s clear that Stoker thought the world of the man. It has also been speculated that his feelings went beyond professional and were perhaps romantic, though the two never met so it was more of a parasocial relationship than anything else.
Elements of sensuality in Dracula have been attributed to Whitman’s influence and the physical description of the vampire matches the poet as well.
5. Chewbacca was Based on George Lucas’ Dog
Hollywood has immortalized many dogs over the years. From Lassie to Benji to Santa’s Little Helper, people like dogs in their stories as much as they like real dogs in their real lives. And why not? It’s not unfair to say that a lot of dogs on screen have more personality than the humans who act alongside them sometimes.
George Lucas is clearly a man who loves dogs. In fact, his own dog has been the inspiration for two of Hollywood’s most iconic characters ever. Lucas used to have an Alaskan Malamute that he named Indiana. You may recall in the movie Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade, Jones is asked about his nickname and what it means. There’s a joke that Indiana was their dog’s name, and therefore Jones himself is named after a dog. That comes directly from George Lucas and his sidekick Indiana.
The real life dog dates back much earlier. Lucas has said he used to drive around with the dog in the passenger seat and go everywhere with him. He had her as a pet while he was writing Star Wars, and because she was his co-pilot next to him, and she was a large shaggy dog, she became the inspiration for Chewbacca the Wookiee.
Actor Peter Mayhew would go on to study the movement and behavior of zoo animals to perfect the character and bring him to life as a sort of pet, sort of sidekick.
4. Gary Oldman was Inspired by Ross Perot and Bugs Bunny for his Fifth Element Character
Gary Oldman has had some amazing roles in his career ranging from Dracula to Commissioner Gordon to an intergalactic supervillain/fashionista. That last one, Zorg from The Fifth Element, was a standout if for no other reason than he was visually bizarre and Oldman hammed up the character to match the aesthetic. So how does one of the greatest actors of a generation create the persona of a space dictator? To hear Oldman tell it, all he had to do was draw inspiration from two of the most disparate sources you could think of. He based Zorg on politician Ross Perot and also Bugs Bunny.
Despite being a despotic space villain, Zorg has an over the top southern drawl drawn straight from Ross Perot. And as far as Bugs go, if you can’t find his cadence or delivery in Oldman’s performance, which is a little more subtle, the teeth are there as well.
3. Nic Cage based Big Daddy on Adam West
You would be hard pressed to find an actor with a more eclectic and baffling career than Nic Cage. He’s gone from Academy Award-winning performances to straight to streaming movies that are complete head scratchers, and everything in between. No matter what Cage does, however, you can absolutely guarantee that he is going to give it 110%. No one throws themselves into a role like Nic Cage.
In the movie Kick-Ass, he had a supporting role as the character called Big Daddy. Big Daddy was an obvious homage to Batman, so it’s no wonder that Cage, who was a well-known comic book enthusiast, looked to the history of Batman for some inspiration. He has said that he drew on the original Batman, Adam West, to inspire that performance.
Adam West’s Batman was already kitschy, and when mixed with Nic Cage’s brand of acting, the character came out very over the top and a lot of fun. Cage revealed he met West after the movie and asked him if he knew he had been channeling West’s performance to create the character. According to Cage, West replies that he saw him try to channel him.
2. Fonzie from Happy Days is Based on Sylvester Stallone
Henry Winkler first appeared on TV as Arthur Fonzerelli back in 1974. The character is still fairly well-known today even by younger generations, thanks to the Jumping the Shark meme if nothing else. For an entire generation and then some, the Fonz represented what it meant to be cool. So how did Winkler come up with the character? Thank Sylvester Stallone.
Winkler had made the movie Lords of Flatbush back in 1974 which also starred Stallone. When he was looking to channel coolness for his Fonzie character, he just put himself in the Stallone headspace. He’s even demonstrated in interviews how he would start subtly changing his voice to sound more and more like Sylvester Stallone, and then just guess what he thought Stallone would do in any situation.
1. Seth Green Based his Family Guy Character Voice on Buffalo Bill
Animated series Family Guy has been on TV since 1999. That’s a heck of a long run for any show and speaks to the appeal and endurance of the comedy. Several of the voices of the characters are provided by series creator Seth MacFarlane, this includes Peter Griffin, Stewie, and Brian the Dog. Chris Griffin is voiced by actor Seth Green, and he took his inspiration from a very off-putting source.
In interviews, Green has explained that he auditioned for the role using a basic sort of surfer guy voice. But then he tried it again with something that he had made up with a friend. It was his impression of the Buffalo Bill character from the movie Silence of the Lambs, only a little higher pitch to make him sound younger.
He and a friend had developed the voice as a joke, when they were wondering what kind of personal life the character might have outside of the confines of his creepy serial killer life. With his voice and mannerisms, the joke was that he had to be awkward and weird all the time. They made jokes about how he would deal with other real life situations like a drive thru and that gave birth to the Chris Griffin character. In so many words, Chris Griffin is supposed to sound like a serial killer who removes people’s skin.