Nobody pulls a fictional character out of thin air. Even the craziest, most ridiculously over-the-top characters have some basis in reality. Today we want to discuss ten of the most curious inspirations we could find. For example, did you know that …
10. Shredder was Inspired by a Guy with Cheese Graters in His Arms
Master Shredder is the eternal enemy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: a seven-foot-tall tall, armor-clad master of martial arts capable of punching clear through a man’s chest. Surely such an awe-inspiring and badass character was inspired by something equally as awesome, like a monster truck catching fire or a samurai sword made of crystal plasma?
But alas, no. Master Shredder, easily one of the most intimidating characters from any cartoon, was actually inspired by a guy shoving cheese graters on his arms. To explain, as we’ve discussed before, the guy who originally designed Master Shredder was inspired to create him while he washing his dishes and happened to put his hand through his big-ass cheese grater. At that moment he stopped to think about how radical a character would be if he had two such weapons attached to his arms all of the time. As a direct result of that moment, Master Shredder was born.
9. Dragonball Z Characters are Named After Vegtables. Goku is Based on a Monkey God
If you didn’t watch Dragonball Z as a kid, then stop reading this, set aside two hours, and go watch this fight scene. Don’t worry if anyone looks at you funny, they’re probably just confused about why you’re not fist-pumping constantly. The series revolves mostly around the adventures of Goku — a super powered alien who can destroy continents with his fists — and his various battles with other similarly-powered entities.
So of course, almost all of the main characters have names based on food puns. Goku, for example, is known as Kakarot within the show, which is a pun on the word “carrot”. His friend Krillin is based on the Japanese word for “chestnut”, in reference to his bald head. Goku’s son, Gohan, is a pun on the Japanese word for “rice”, whereas his mortal enemy-turned-friend, Vegeta, is literally a pun on the word “vegetable” because sometimes it’s easier to just be direct.
As for Goku himself, he’s based on legendary Chinese figure Sun Wukong, a monkey king/god who possessed a staff that could literally fill the entire universe if he wanted it to. Because of course the guy whose name means “carrot” is based on that guy.
8. Patrick Bateman is Based on Tom Cruise
Patrick Bateman is the main character of the American Psycho book and subsequent movie of the same name. In regards to the latter, Christian Bale was brought in to play the inimitable Patrick Bateman, a self-confessed narcissistic serial killer who butchers people he doesn’t like as and when he feels like it.
To get into the mind-set of such a fundamentally repugnant character, Bale didn’t watch interviews with serial killers or people with comparable mental issues to Bateman. Instead, he watched an interview with Tom Cruise. According to director Mary Harron, Bale called her up out of the blue one day to gush about how freaking creepy Tom Cruise was and how he was the perfect inspiration for how he’d portray Bateman onscreen. According to Harron, Bale was taken with how Cruise “had this very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes”, and he incorporated it into his portrayal of the character.
7. Michael Myers was Based on One Very Creepy Kid
Michael Myers is the star of the Halloween series of movies. He’s a merciless, unstoppable killing machine who has spent more time on camera stabbing things than Gordon Ramsey. He’s a legendary character in his own right, and he stands amongst other 80’s slasher villains as one of the most iconic characters of that era of film making. He was also based on one very scary child.
In his early life, John Carpenter, the director of the original movie, visited a mental asylum for no reason we can adequately explain. On this trip, the young director happened upon a very seriously mentally ill child of around 13 years of age. According to Carpenter himself, this child had a stare that was both deeply unsettling while simultaneously being “completely insane”. Carpenter was so shaken by this experience that he directly lifted the whole thing and incorporated into his movie when the time came to characterize Michael.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we have to go write some fan fiction about what Michael Myers would have looked like if John Carpenter saw the same Tom Cruise interview as Christian Bale did.
6. Batman is Based on Zorro, a Play, and da Vinci’s Ornithopter
Superheroes don’t come more iconic than Batman; if they did, Batman would probably just punch them through a window and look menacingly towards the sky. Now, fans of the character are probably aware that he shares several similarities with another black-clad hero called Zorro, AKA The Fox. This isn’t an accident — many of Batman’s traits, such as how he masquerades as a rich socialite during the day, are directly inspired by Zorro. Hell, in his actual origin story, the film young Bruce Wayne was watching the night his parents got shot was The Mask of Zorro.
As for why Batman dresses like a giant bat, well that was rather curiously inspired by the villain of a play called “The Bat” (later remade as a movie called The Bat Whispers) which features a murderer who stalked his prey while dressed like a big-ass bat. Finally, the wings of Batman’s cape were directly inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Ornithopter drawing, because of course they were.
In other words, Batman, one of the greatest heroes ever known, is directly based on a guy from a play who stabbed people while dressed like a giant bat. Aren’t comics fun?
5. Dory from Finding Nemo was Based on Ellen before They Cast Ellen to Play Her
Before anyone says it — yes, we know that Dory from Finding Nemo was voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, and we know that she utterly nailed that part. What we’re here to talk about is the fact that Dory was based on Ellen before Ellen even signed on to do the role.
According to Andrew Stanton, one of the film’s directors, Dory was inspired by an interview he saw Ellen take part in, in which he observed her “change the subject five times before finishing one sentence“. Building upon that, Stanton wrote the character to be more and more like DeGeneres until eventually he realized that nobody but her could accurately portray the character the way he had in mind.
In other words, before DeGeneres agreed to play Dory, the character was already written to be exactly like her in every way, only as a fish.
4. Daffy Duck is Based on a Real Guy Who Had No Idea He was Being Mocked
Daffy Duck is easily one of the most recognizable cartoon characters to have ever existed, and one of his most memorable feature is his incredibly pronounced lisp. Daffy’s uniquely irritating and oddly charming voice has endeared the character to children for decades, so you’d expect the guy who inspired that voice to have at least been aware of it. But apparently he wasn’t. According to this article about the life of Chuck Jones, Daffy’s lisp was directly inspired by a “humorless Warner Brothers producer” named Leon Schlesinger, who spoke in a similar manner. Schlesinger apparently wasn’t very popular around the studio, and the cartoon duck was given his voice as a rather unsubtle screw you. In fact, some of the animators were reportedly terrified of showing Schlesinger the first cartoon involving Daffy, fearing his wrath once he realized the character was actively taking the piss out of him.
However, Schlesinger never noticed and, according to Jone’s autobiography, he actually turned to someone after the cartoon ended and innocently asked “That’s a funny voithe! Where’d you get that voithe?” completely oblivious to the mockery.
3. The Terminator was Inspired by a Nightmare About a Robot Skeleton Carrying Knives
When someone says something came to them in a dream, they’re almost certainly lying because people don’t remember their dreams — they remember their nightmares. Which is, funnily enough, where the idea of the Terminator came from.
As recounted here, a young, illness-stricken James Cameron suffered from a terrible, horrifying nightmare as a young director, about the top half of a mechanical skeleton dragging itself across his floor. According to the various accounts Cameron has given over the years, the mechanical skeleton was carrying two knives as it edged its way towards him, because apparently his brain thought “a horrifying living skeleton” needed to be just that little bit scarier.
This nightmare was so vivid that it stuck with Cameron for the rest of his life. Eventually the director decided to flesh out the nightmare, both metaphorically and literally, by turning it into the script for The Terminator, a movie about a robot skeleton covered in human flesh hunting people down. Now if you’ve ever seen the movie, you may recall that a scene almost exactly like Cameron’s original nightmare occurs right towards the end, only instead of the skeleton hurting anyone, it’s quickly crushed by a giant mechanical press. Wait a sec — does this mean James Cameron filmed this movie just so that he could get closure on a scary dream he once had?
2. King Joffrey was Based on Emperor Commodus from Gladiator
Jack Gleeson’s portrayal of King Joffrey from Game of Thrones has been lauded by critics and fans as nothing short of amazing, almost entirely because Gleeson has such a punchable face. Seriously, George RR Martin physically penned a letter to Gleeson after he appeared on the show, just to congratulate him on being such an irritating little butthole. So how did Gleeson pull off being so objectively unlikeable? Well, according to him, he based a lot of his characterization of Joffrey directly on Joaquin Phoenix — more specifically, his portrayal of Emperor Commodus in the Gladiator movie. In fact, according to Gleeson, a lot of the times he was sat on that big iron throne, he was picturing Phoenix’s big smug face and annoying smirk from that movie and trying to emulate it. Considering how many punch holes are in our TV, we think he did a pretty good job.
1. Darth Maul was Based on a Drawing of a Guy with a Circuit Board on His Face
Because we’re not really into the habit of beating dead horses, we’re not going to discuss how terrible the Star Wars prequels were. We are, however, going to discuss how much we think Darth Maul kicks ass. The answer of course is tons: Darth Maul kicks tons of ass, if only because he settled an office argument about whether or not anyone could actually kill Liam Neeson.
Curiously, the idea for Darth Maul’s unique and rather striking visual appearance was based almost entirely on a caricature drawn by Iain McCaig. The caricature was drawn by McCaig while he was trying to design “Sith Lord” versions of his friends and colleagues as a creative exercise, and it was basically of some guys face with a circuit board pattern on it. This particular drawing just so happened to catch George Lucas’ eye, and he immediately tasked McCaig with fleshing out the idea to create Darth Maul.
Weirdly, McCaig’s initial idea was that of an undead human with red ribbons all over their face, which is what he came up with when Lucas literally told him to just “draw his worst nightmare”. For some reason of another, Lucas didn’t like this idea and he instead just let McCaig wing it, which is when he came up with the idea of drawing caricatures.
From that initial idea, Darth Maul as we know and love him today was born. So let that be a lesson to everyone out there — doodling at work is totally fine, as long as your boss happens to think your drawings looks totally boss.