20 Surprising Inspirations For Iconic Pieces Of Pop-Culture



Anyone who has painted a picture, written a poem or done anything remotely creative knows that the fire that fuels any idea can come from some of the most strange and often unexpected places. Even some of the most influential movies or books have their roots in bizarre or unassuming stories. You wouldn’t believe that some of your most favorite things in the world were born out of the meandering thoughts or matters of pure circumstance.

Camp Brawler

Novelist Chuck Palahniuk was got into a fight with a man over some loud music while camping one weekend. When he came back to work he realized that no would speak to him because they were too afraid to talk to a man covered in cuts and bruises – and thus was born the idea for Fight Club.

Everyone’s Favorite Spy

When Ian Fleming was working on his novel about a British spy, he wanted to give his main character the most boring name possible. Luckily, sitting on his coffee table was a copy of Field Guide of Birds of the West Indies, written by a man named Bond – James Bond.

Drawing Is A Beast

The children’s book Where The Wild Things Are made Maurice Sendak incredibly famous, but the book that everyone knows was not what was intended. The book was supposed to be Where The Wild Horses Are, but Sendak couldn’t draw horses so his editor changed the title and told the author to draw whatever he could manage.

Unoriginal Empire

While the snow walkers in the famous Hoth battle in Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back look like a lot of things, they were actually inspired by something rather ordinary. Art Director Joe Johnston took the idea from a Syd Mead’s U.S. Steel rendering of futuristic “walking” trucks.

Borrowed Gangster

Nora Ephron came up with the idea for her screenplay My Blue Heaven while her husband was researching a mobster in witness protection for a book. My Blue Heaven became a hilarious movie starring Steve Martin; the book by Ephron’s husband also became a movie – Goodfellas.

Mexican Icthyophobia

While the ultra-creepy Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth looks like it walked right out of nightmare, it actually didn’t come from such a scary place. The look for the creature came about from director Guillermo del Toro’s fear of manta rays.

Like A Boss Duck

The iconic lisp of animated character Daffy Duck was inspired by the speech impediment of loathed Warner Brothers producer Leon Schlesinger. When they asked Schlesinger what he thought of the goofy water bird, he said “That’s a funny voithe! Where did you get that voithe?

Tiny Invaders

Chris Columbus, famed director of Home Alone and Harry Potter, didn’t always lead a glamorous life. He once lived in a NY apartment that was infested with mice. Columbus was always afraid that the critters would gnaw off his fingers in the middle of the night – this fear inspired him to write the classic horror-comedy Gremlins.

Renaissance Bat

Batman is one of the most iconic characters of modern American comic book mythology, but the idea for him came from much older source material. Creator Bob Kane thought up the superhero after looking at old Leonardo da Vinci sketches of a flying contraption.

Ice Cream Of Evil

The look of Captain America’s nemesis Red Skull is both impressive and terrifying to say the least. But how did creator Joe Simon get the idea for the villain’s look, you ask – it came to him while he was looking at the hot fudge sundae he happened to be eating one day.

Hollywood Crazy

When he took on the mantle of Patrick Bateman in the cult-classic American Psycho, Christian Bale told director Mary Harron exactly who he wanted to model the villain after – Tom Cruise. After ranting about how creepy he thought the A-list actor was, he decided to bring Cruise’s “intense friendliness, with nothing in the eyes” to his Bateman performance.

All the King’s Horses

The coconut-shell clop-clopping of invisible horses in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a classic joke, but it was never intentional. The creators were forced to get creative with their story when they realized their budget wouldn’t allow for real horses.

Doodling Director

Even though the movie Batman & Robin was a total bomb, you have to admit that George Clooney had the potential to be a great Batman. Director Joel Schumacher came up with idea of casting Clooney after he drew the Bat Mask in sharpie over Clooney’s From Dusk Till Dawn poster picture.

Bad Guys With Flavor

The villainous Vorlons of “Babylon 5” move around in very eerie squid like looking ships, but the thing that inspired them was only harmful to one’s breath. The spacecraft was meant to evoke the shape of garlic cloves.

Super Self-Deprecation

When writing Spider-Man alter-ego Peter Parker’s overbearing boss J. Jonah Jameson, Stan Lee tried to think of the most irascible and self-important dummy to model him on. After a little thinking, Lee came up with the perfect inspiration – himself.

Pronoid Guitarist

Ever wonder where filmmakers came up with the complex look for the iconic Johnny Depp character Jack Sparrow? Depp dreamed up a pirate who was a cross between a grungy rockstar and self-deluded lothario – so Sparrow became a combination of Rolling Stone’s rocker Keith Richards and love obsessed cartoon skunk Pepe LePew.

Novel Cartoons

In his 1872 book Roughing It, Mark Twain wrote that starving coyotes “would chase a roadrunner.” Years later, animator Chuck Jones happened to come across the line and thought it was the perfect idea for a children’s cartoon.

Skeletal Nightmare

One night, a young James Cameron had a dream about a skeleton made of metal wreathed in flame, staring at him with red glowing eyes. While terrifying, Cameron made a note about his dream and eventually developed it into a movie – The Terminator.

Foreign Iconography

Darth Vader is one of the most recognizable figures of pop-culture, but it took a lot of careful thinking to come up with that ominous costume. That classic and iconic helmet, for instance, was designed after looking as old Kabuto, the helmets worn by Samurai warriors.

Chocolate Experience

While most of Roald Dahl’s stories seemed to plucked out of pure fantasy, his famous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a much more concrete inspiration. The seed of the story was planted when, as a child, the Cadbury candy company was testing products at his boarding school.