The Godfather was a Girl
Did you know that Crocodile Dundee was based on real-life buffalo hunter Rod Ansell? Or that most of the main characters in To Kill a Mockingbird were inspired by Harper Lee's own family, neighbours and an innocent man, Walter Lett, who was sentenced to death? Eamon Evans has collected over 400 extraordinary and entertaining examples of the real-life people who've influenced some of the most famous fictional characters from books, movies and television. Find out who was the basis for Lois Lane from Superman, or Absolutely Fabulous' Eddie Monsoon. Check out the real Mr Burns and see the original inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. And hundreds more!
The Godfather was a Girl
Author: Eamon Evans
Interview with Eamon Evans
Question: What inspired you to begin researching these extraordinary and entertaining examples of the real-life people who've influenced some of the most famous fictional characters from books, movies and television?
Eamon Evans: I suppose I became interested in the process of how writers create characters after trying and failing to create some myself. Like pretty much everyone else in the universe, I'm convinced that I've got a novel in me, but at the moment it seems to be stuck there.
Question: Which example surprised you the most?
Eamon Evans: Probably Crocodile Dundee. Back in the '70s, there really was this rugged, outdoorsy NT hunter who survived two months in Kakadu after a crocodile attacked his boat. Just like in the movie, he was flown to the 'big smoke' for media interviews and became a bit of a 'fish out of water' sensation after confessing that he'd been baffled by his hotel room's bidet and slept in a swag on the floor.
What's more interesting, though, is what happened after the movie. Rod Ansell was refused any royalties from the movies, so started growing marijuana for a career and taking speed in his spare time. This may not have been so conducive to clear thinking because he eventually came to believe that a cult of homicidal Freemasons had kidnapped his children. He shot four random and entirely innocent strangers, killing one, before finally being shot by police.
Question: Can you talk about what types of extraordinary people inspired some of our most loved fairytales?
Eamon Evans: The stand-out is probably Snow White. She's most likely based on a sixteenth-century German princess called Margarete von Waldek who had an affair with a Spanish prince but died before they could walk down the aisle. The suspicion at the time was that she was poisoned by her 'wicked stepmother', just like in the fairy tale.
Margarete's story also had plenty of dwarves. He family owned a mine in her home town of Bad Wildungen, and naturally employed children to dig in it (kiddies being cheap and able to squeeze themselves down holes). Malnourished, overworked and rarely seeing sunlight, these minor miners rarely grew very tall. Much like dwarves, in fact.
I'm not sure what other characters might constitute 'fairy tales' (other than 'Bluebeard', which is pretty obscure nowadays. Want me to say something about the Ugly Duckling? There's quite a few nursery rhymes too.
Question: Why did you decide to title the book, The Godfather was a Girl?
Eamon Evans: I guess it just emphasises how unexpected a character's real-life model can be. You'd imagine that the inspiration for the Godfather would be some Mafiosi or another, but the author of the original novel actually based the character on his mum. She apparently had that sort of icy dignity and air of quiet menace that Marlon Brando captured so well in the movie.
That certainly wasn't the only title along those lines we could have used though. Some of the others included 'Mr Toad killed himself', 'Private Ryan didn't need saving', 'Miss Piggy had a stroke', 'Jack and Jill were lovers', 'Peter Pan was gay', 'Billy Elliot doesn't dance', 'Anne of Green Gables took drugs' and 'The man from Snowy River drowned'
Interview by Brooke Hunter and Morgan Sutherland.