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Writer reveals real people who inspired our most famous fictional characters including the Godfather and the BFG
It is well known that Roald Dahl relied on his writing shed for inspiration.

But until now it was not known by just how much.

A new book claims that one of his most famous characters, the Big Friendly Giant, was based on the man who built the brick hut.

Walter "Wally" Saunders, who died in 2004, aged 91, was said to be a "huge, sweet natured Norfolk builder with a long, pale wrinkly face".

He was employed by Dahl after he moved to Buckinghamshire in 1954 and helped with a number of building jobs including erecting the famous writing shed.

Like the BFG, his hands were said to have been like a "bunch of bananas", his ears and nose "enormous" and he spoke with a strange accent and "got all his words wrong".

The revelation is among 350 made in a new book The Godfather Was A Girl by Eamon Evans which lays bare the real people who inspired many of our most famous characters.

The title comes from the claim that Mario Puzo, author of the Godfather novel, based his main character on his mother, an Italian immigrant who single-handedly brought up 12 children in a New York slum.

Puzo is said by Evans to have described his mother as a "wonderful, handsome woman" but a "fairly ruthless person".

"Whenever the Godfather opened his mouth, in my mind I heard the voice of my mother," he is said to have added.

Evans also claims that L Frank Baum, the author who wrote the children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, received his inspiration for the Wicked Witch of the West from Matilda Gage, a radical feminist of the time – who also happened to be his mother-in-law.

The book describes her as a "courageous pioneer of women's rights" but also a "man-hating testicle eater".

Other highlights of the Evan's book include the real life character behind the muppet star Miss Piggy.

She was originally called Miss Piggy Lee after the 1940s American jazz diva Peggy Lee.

The name was originally meant to be a homage to the "breathy blonde" but as Miss Piggy's fame grew the Lee was dropped to avoid any offence, claims Evans.

There was also Draper Daniels, a great 1950s ad man who is said to be the inspiration for Don Draper in Mad Men.

Like the fictional character he was fond of a "martini lunch", smoking and attracted "women like flies to flypaper".

Along the way he also came up with a number of famous ads including the Marlboro Man campaign, according to Evans.

Basil Fawlty, the incredibly rude hotelier invented by John Cleese, was based on real-life guesthouse owner Donald Sinclair, who lived between 1909 to 1981.

According to Evans, The Monty Python team stayed at his establishment in 1970 in Torquay and witnessed for themselves the "snobby, bonkers and bad tempered" hotelier for themselves.

Mr Toad, of Wind in the Willows, was said to be based on the author Kenneth Grahame's son Alistair who enjoyed putting himself through a series of self destructive obsessions.

For the rest of the article

The Telegraph