Real-life inspirations for iconic characters

(that are somehow nuttier than their fictional counterparts)

By now we probably all realize that what we see in movies doesn’t necessarily correspond to real life. For instance, whether or not you’re a fan of the man, is there really anyone out there who thinks Sylvester Stallone actually would have beaten Mr. T in a boxing match? We pity the fool.

While we’ve all grown accustomed to movies and books being more ridiculous and harder to believe than reality, for these three real-life inspirations for famous characters, their truth was indeed stranger than fiction.

Mocha Dick, the inspiration for Moby Dick
Mocha Dick was a 70-foot albino sperm whale that patrolled the ocean for 28 years. He was given his name because he was first encountered near the Isla Mocha in the Pacific Ocean, and because he had some, ah, behavioral issues. Though he didn’t have a singular obsessive pursuer like Captain Ahab, he made plenty of enemies in his days as he was known to purposely target ships. Over 100 whaling vessels attempted to kill him. They were all unsuccessful, while Mocha Dick took down 20 whaling vessels and was responsible for the deaths of 30 sailors.

When Mocha Dick was finally killed (while he was coming to the rescue of another whale, of course), sailors found 19 harpoons that had been lodged in him over the years.

John Elwes, the inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge
John Elwes was an 18th century British Member of Parliament that inspired Charles Dickens to write one of the most iconic characters of all time. However, Elwes differed from Ebenezer in one major way: he was actually very generous with his money when it came to friends, lending freely and never asking for repayment.

Elwes also differed from Ebenezer in a series of more minor yet more hilarious ways. He was so cheap he refused to invest in candles or a fireplace for his house, as well as a roof over his bedroom. For real. His bedroom had no roof. He never purchased clothing, instead wearing items discarded by beggars, and once reportedly fought a rat over the corpse of a hen. When the rat was the one who’d pulled the dead hen from the river! Unreal.

Rodney Ansell, the inspiration for Crocodile Dundee
How Crocodile Dundee was in all those movies without anyone mentioning this is beyond us, but here’s the real story. Rodney Ansell was an Australian bushman who gained notoriety/popularity when his boat capsized and he spent two months living in the wilderness, surviving by drinking cow blood and fighting crocodiles. That’s all fine and good.

But it turns out Ansell didn’t get a penny from all the Crocodile Dundee movies. He didn’t seem to be the most stable man to begin with, and both his marriage and life fell apart as he developed a drug habit and became convinced the Freemasons were after his children. In 1999, the Sylvester Stallone of bushmen armed himself with two high-powered rifles, shot up a farmhouse, ambushed policemen, and had a baseball bat broken over his head by a civilian trying to stop his rampage. Ansell killed one policeman, wounded three other men, and was shot dead.


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