Skip To Content

    Ron Burgundy, Olivia Pope, And 17 More Pop Culture Characters That Were Based On People From The Real World

    There's nothing like a little real-life inspiration.

    Sometimes the greatest inspo comes from things that are around you, and that couldn't be more true in TV and movies. Here's a roundup of fictional characters inspired by people IRL:

    1. To start, Severus Snape was one of the pillars of the Harry Potter franchise. But did you know J.K. Rowling's real-life chemistry teacher, John Nettleship, was the inspiration for him?

    Alan Rickman in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

    2. Buzz Aldrin is famous for being the second man to step foot on the moon, and he's also the reason why space ranger Buzz Lightyear got his name.

    Buzz Lightyear in Lightyear

    3. The inspiration for the fabulous Miss Piggy came from jazz singer Peggy Lee. Originally called Miss Piggy Lee, the name was shortened to avoid upsetting the vocalist.

    Miss Piggy in Muppets Most Wanted

    4. You can always count on Indiana Jones to go on a great excursion so it's no wonder the famed explorer was based on actual archaeologists like Hiram Bingham, Roy Chapman Andrews, and Sir Leonard Woolley. Bonus: creator George Lucas also drew inspo from the 1930s serials he loved.

    Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

    5. Empire creators looked to hip-hop icon Jay-Z when developing the character of Lucious Lyon, noting hard-to-miss similarities between the two.

    Terrence Howard in Empire

    6. Seinfeld co-creator Larry David revealed he based Cosmo Kramer on his former neighbor and comedian Kenny Kramer, who was paid $1000 for his last name to be featured on the show.

    Michael Richards in Seinfeld

    7. Norman Bates, the man behind the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, was based on serial killer Ed Gein. His macabre crimes also had parallels to chainsaw-wielding Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

    Anthony Perkins in Psycho

    8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams honored his late English teacher Rose Gilbert by creating Maz Kanata (voiced by Lupita Nyong'o).

    9. There's always a reason behind a name, and advertising exec Draper Daniels (best-known for the Marlboro Man campaign) left his stamp with Mad Men's Don Draper. Inspiration was also drawn from advertising tycoon, Bill Backer, famous for his work with Coca-Cola.

    Jon Hamm in Mad Men

    10. Golfer Edith Baker is at the root of The Great Gatsby's Jordan Baker's origin story as her character also plays the same sport.

    Elizabeth Denicki in The Great Gatsby

    11. Entourage's Vincent Chase (played by Adrien Grenier) had true Hollywood ties with actor Mark Wahlberg serving as the main inspiration.

    Adrian Grenier at the premiere of Entourage

    12. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood introduced us to stuntman Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt). Still, you might not have realized that Hal Needham, a real Hollywood stuntman during the '50s and '60s, was the one who inspired director, Quentin Tarantino.

    Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood...

    13. Not only was Judy Smith the muse for Scandal's Olivia Pope, but she also made history by being the first Black woman to deliver a White House press briefing.

    Kerry Washington in Scandal

    14. When Ethan Hawke was prepping for his role as Arthur Harrow in Moon Knight he looked to the personas of real-life people to bring to the screen. "For me, it was like putting Jimmy Swaggart, Leo Tolstoy, (Fidel) Castro, the Dalai Lama, and Josef Mengele into a blender," he said. "That was the fun of it: What if Steve Jobs was a bad guy?"

    Ethan Hawke in Moon Knight

    15. From the books to the silver screen, author P.L. Travers celebrated her great-aunt Helen Morehead by basing the beloved Mary Poppins on her.

    Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins

    16. Heavyweight boxer Rocky Marciano's fighting style and name are to thank if you've ever enjoyed Sylvester Stallone's performance in the Rocky film series.

    Sylvester Stallone in Rocky II

    17. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may have ditched his work in medicine to pursue writing, but his most famous character actually came to be thanks to his former profession. Dr. Joseph Bell, one of the author's medical school professors, was the basis for the witty detective, Sherlock Holmes.

    Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes

    18. Jurassic Park's Dr. Alan Grant (played by Sam Neill) was modeled after Jack Horner, who works as a paleontologist IRL.

    Sam Neill in Jurassic Park

    19. Finally, famed broadcaster Mort Crim served as the inspiration for Anchorman's Ron Burgundy (played by Will Ferrell). And yes, he too has that well-groomed hair and voice made for TV if you were wondering.

    Will Ferrell in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

    Who's your favorite character from this list? Share your pick in the comments!