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You’re My Inspiration

February 11, 2016

It’s always interesting to find out where the architects of pop culture get their ideas. Some of these may surprise you.

Biff Tannen

The jerk played by Tom Wilson in the 1985 film Back to the Future was named after studio executive Ned Tannen, who once acted like a jerk to director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale during a pitch meeting in the 1970s.

Matthew McConaughey“All right, all right, all right!”

Matthew McConaughey improvised his signature catchphrase in 1993’s Dazed and Confused. Shortly before the first movie scene he ever filmed, he was listening to a live Doors album. In between songs, singer Jim Morrison said, “All right, all right, all right!” and McConaughey parroted it.

Patsey the Slave

For her Oscar-winning portrayal of the childlike Patsey in 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong’o took inspiration from the late King of Pop: “There’s something very Michael Jackson–like about Patsey. She had her childhood stripped away from her suddenly as soon as she became of sexual age.”


In the 1830s, French novelist Victor Hugo spent a lot of time at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral while it was undergoing renovations. Historians believe that one of the workers—a shy bossu, which means “hunchback” in French—was the inspiration for one of literature’s most famous characters.
hunchback of notre dame film still

Dungeons & Dragons Dragons

In 1977 Gary Gygax was having trouble creating all the strange creatures for his seminal role-playing game…until he found a 99-cent bag of toy monsters made in China. His friend Tim Kask recalls that the 37-year-old Gygax “ran home, eager as a kid to open his baseball cards, and then proceeded to invent the Carrion Crawler, Umber Hulk, Rust Monster, and Purple Worm—all based on those silly plastic figures.”


Actor Tom Hiddleston drew from three Hollywood greats for his portrayal of the maligned god in the Thor and Avengers movies: “Peter O’Toole (enigmatic reckless), Jack Nicholson (edgy and near-insane), and Clint Eastwood (simmering anger).”
tom hiddleston as loki
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