#Movies & TV

20 Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real Celebrities

by Jennifer Lafferty

20 Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real Celebrities

In addition to friends and family, It’s common for writers to be inspired by public figures like actors, musicians or politicians, when working on a project. Check out which celebs served as the basis for some of our favorite fictional characters, ranging from Holly Golightly to Captain Jack Sparrow.


Jack Sparrow



Pirates of the Caribbean anti-hero Capt. Jack Sparrow was too outrageous to come out of anyone’s imagination. The Johnny Depp character is based on rocker Keith Richards, who went on to play Sparrow’s father in two installments.


Holly Golightly



Like many characters, the worldly but childlike Breakfast at Tiffany’s protagonist Holly Golightly was reportedly a composite. Truman Capote based her on several of his socialite friends including: Gloria Vanderbilt, Oona O’Neil, and actress Carol Grace.


Bugs Bunny



Believe it or not, Bugs Bunny was partially modeled on charismatic leading man Clark Gable. The inspiration came from a scene in It Happened One Night, when Gable’s fast-talking character is leaning against a fence, munching on carrots.


Roxie Hart



Renee Zellweger’s character Roxie Hart in 2002’s Chicago was based on suspected murderess Beulah Annan, whose story was first adapted in the 1920s for stage and screen, before becoming an iconic Broadway musical in 1975.


Citizen Kane



The classic 1941 film Citizen Kane, about publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane, is reportedly based on the life of publisher/politician William Randolph Hearst. Orson Welles forged his career starring as Kane in the movie, which he also wrote and directed.


Apollo Creed



Rocky Balboa’s boxing rival-turned friend Apollo Creed, in the Rocky film franchise, was based on the real life heavyweight champ Mohammad Ali, who had the same bold, brash style as the fictional champ.


Betty Boop



Originally envisioned as a French poodle, animated flapper Betty Boop was rumored to be based on several 1920s celebrities including: actress Clara Bow, singer Helen Kane and singer Esther Jones. Kane even filed a lawsuit, which she lost.


Roy Walley



It’s pretty obvious that the head of Walley World, Roy Walley, in National Lampoon’s Vacation, is actually based on Disney-chief Walt Disney. Popular character actor Eddie Bracken is perfectly cast in the memorable role.


Chrissy Snow



Suzanne Somers actually based her most famous character, Chrissy Snow, from the hit 1970’s and 80s sitcom Three’s Company, on Dick Clark’s equally bubbly and adorable third wife, production assistant Kari Clark.


The Joker



Batman creator Bob Kane said Bill Finger had the idea to base the look of comic book/movie villain The Joker on the character Gwynplaine, played by Conrad Veidt in 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs.


Iron Man



Iron Man creator Stan Lee says Stark was based on Howard Hughes: “one of the most colorful men of our time. He was an inventor, an adventurer, a multi-billionaire, a ladies’ man and finally a nutcase.”


Blanche DuBois



A Streetcar Named Desire author Tennessee Williams told the flamboyant actress Tallulah Bankhead he wrote Blanche DuBois with her in mind, and wanted her to play Dubois on Broadway. She had to settle for playing the character in a revival.





Considering pop stars and superheroes are pretty much viewed in the same light, it makes sense that DC Comics’ John Constantine/Hellblazer was visually inspired by Sting. The character was portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the 2005 film Constantine.


Fred Flintstone



There are many similarities between classic sitcom The Honeymooners and beloved animated series The Flintstones, including the fact that Fred Flintstone was partially based on Jackie Gleason’s portrayal of Honeymooners’ lead character Ralph Kramden.


Edna Mode



The offbeat and very assertive Edna Mode of Pixar’s animated feature The Incredibles, is reportedly inspired by the famed, Oscar-winning Hollywood costume designer Edith Head, whose unique appearance and personality were strikingly similar to Edna’s.





Henry Winkler acknowledged that his portrayal of ultra cool biker Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli of TV’s Happy Days, was inspired by Sylvester Stallone, who co-starred with Winkler in the 1974 film The Lords of Flatbush.


Cosmo Kramer



The most shocking thing about Seinfeld’s wacky Cosmo Kramer, is that he was actually based on a real person: creator Larry David’s stand-up comic neighbor Kenny Kramer, who milked his association with the character in some surprising ways.





Children’s book author Kay Thompson was reportedly inspired to create the character Eloise when she observed her goddaughter, Liza Minnelli, as a precocious child, growing up in a sophisticated hotel lifestyle, while Minnelli was traveling with her parents.


Neely O’Hara



Liza Minnelli’s mother, the legendary Judy Garland, was also thought to be the inspiration for a famous character, Neely O’Hara, in the frequently mocked 1967 film Valley of the Dolls. Ironically, Garland was cast as Helen Lawson in the film but got fired.


Juliette Barnes



While many viewers assumed Hayden Panettiere’s character Juliette Barnes on the series Nashville was based on Taylor Swift, the actress herself says her portrayal “was more inspired by Carrie Underwood.” However, Underwood denies any similarities between herself and the character.