From Frank Bullitt to Maigret, via Vincent Hanna in “Heat” or even Inspector Harry, these movie cops have one thing in common: they are inspired, at least in part for some, by real police officers!
Frank Bullitt, Frank Serpico, Jules Maigret, Vincent Hanna, Harry Callahan, and others… Names that obviously resonate with moviegoers (and seriphiles for Maigret!). All headliners obviously having in common to be movie cops.
If Serpico does not bother with any detours since Lumet’s film takes up the name of the man who waged an unequal fight against generalized corruption in the police, many are those who are probably unaware that the character of Al Pacino in the chief -artwork by Michael Mann is inspired by a real policeman!
Steve McQueen aka Frank Bullitt
Directed by Peter Yates and released in 1968, Bullitt is a great classic of American cinema, famous thanks to a fabulous car chase through the streets of San Francisco. Steve McQueen played Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, responsible for protecting a gangster whose testimony is crucial in a trial involving a politician. His rebellious cop character is inspired by the personality of Inspector David Toschi, in charge of the Zodiac affair. The actor also asked to have the same costumes, holster and firearm as this one.
Gerard Depardieu, aka Jules Maigret
An absolute icon of detective literature, Commissioner Maigret is the fictional and popular hero of Georges Simenon’s eponymous novels from 1930. A world-famous character, his adventures have been adapted to the four corners of the globe, even in Japan! A figure so popular that it ended up crushing its authentic original model, even if Simenon is very freely inspired by it. This is Marcel Guillaume (1872-1963), divisional commissioner at the Quai des Orfèvres, he led the famous criminal brigade from 1930 until his retirement in 1937. But he had also distinguished himself in major past criminal cases. , like that of the Bonnot gang; criminal anarchists who operated in 1911-1912. Little tasty anecdote: Guillaume and Simenon will even become friends. The writer met him at the Quai des Orfèvres, where the commissioner had explained to him his methods of investigation and his fine psychology, to make confess the culprits.
Patrick Catalifo, alias Commissioner Max Brauner in “Les Lyonnais”
Directed by Olivier Marchal and released in 2011, Les Lyonnais refers to the famous Lyonnais gang, which raged in the 1970s in the Lyon region. In the film, actor Patrick Catalifo portrays curator Max Brauner. A character inspired by the former commissioner Michel Neyret, who was also an advisor on the film. Number two in the Lyon judicial police, he has displayed an impressive hunting record in nearly thirty years of career. Presenting one of the best rates of elucidation of cases in France, it is in particular he who was at the origin of the discovery of the cache of Toni Musulin, the courier of funds who left in 2009 with the 11.6 million euros contained in his van. Neyret’s fall was brutal: arrested in 2011 in a case of corruption and drug trafficking, he was sentenced in 2018 for corruption and criminal association.
Denzel Washington aka Alonzo Harris in “Training Day”
Terrific film by Antoine Fuqua irrigated by the electrifying interpretation of an imperial Denzel Washington (Oscar at the key), the actor delivered a masterful composition in Alonzo Harris, veteran and legend of the Narcotics squad posting a record conviction rate of criminals. A respectable hunting list if he hadn’t become crooked and unscrupulous in the meantime. If the actor benefited from the wise advice of San Francisco police consultant Paul Lozada on the lives of drug enforcement officers, his character is inspired by an authentic corrupt cop. Some Rafael Perezcaught in the spiral of a huge scandal that splattered the LAPD’s anti-gang unit, where Perez started by taking seized drug money for himself, then started selling cocaine himself , between 1995 and 1998.
Gérard Depardieu, alias Denis Klein in “36, Quai des Orfèvres”
In 36 Quai des Orfèvres, Gérard Depardieu embodies Denis Klein, the head of the Banditry Repression Brigade (BRB), rival of Léo Vrinks, who is meanwhile head of the BRI (Research and Intervention Brigade). The character of Depardieu is inspired by Commissioner Raymond Mertz. Under his direction, the BRB was marred by two scandals indirectly linked to each other. One concerned the shooting in the rue du Docteur-Blanche, which occurred during a police operation aimed at arresting the famous gang of hairpieces in the middle of a bank robbery in 1986. The other concerned the affair of the “gang des ripoux “. A criminal association involving at least five crooked police officers, accused of having participated in a series of assaults, burglaries and armed attacks between January 1982 and July 1985 in the Paris region.
Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, aka Jimmy Doyle and Buddy Russo in “French Connection”
A masterpiece crowned with five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for William Friedkin, French Connection obviously owes a lot to the director’s staging, but also to the alchemy of the extraordinary duo Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider. in the roles of Jimmy Doyle and Buddy Russo. They are inspired by detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, who had dismantled a major drug network in 1962, and would later be known as the French Connection. They worked on the film as technical consultants to bring it as much realism as possible. They also play the role of the superiors of the two detectives.
Al Pacino, aka Vincent Hanna in “Heat”
In Heat, a huge film by Michael Mann that we don’t present much more, Al Pacino plays the pugnacious police lieutenant Vincent Hanna, relentlessly hunting down Robert de Niro, alias Neil MCauley and his gang. The story of Heatand the LA Takedown TV movie before it, is based in part on a crime scene that took place in Chicago in the early 1960s. Neill McCauley in 1963.
Al Pacino aka Frank Serpico
honest policeman, Serpico fight against widespread corruption within the New York police. Hated by everyone, colleagues and superiors, he can only count on himself to carry out his crusade for justice… The composition of Al Pacino in Sidney Lumet’s film remains one of the greatest roles of his immense career. Faithful to the Method Acting dear to the Actors Studio, the actor had met his illustrious model to better slip into his role. The latter also wanted to be present on the set. Authorization was given to him, but Sidney Lumet asked him to leave the set quickly, because he feared that his presence would disturb the work of the actors, in particular Al Pacino. An essential witness in the Knapp commission created in April 1970 by Mayor John Lindsay to investigate corruption within the New York City Police Department, Frank Serpico left to settle in Switzerland. He is 85 years old and currently lives in Columbia County, New York.
Clint Eastwood aka Inspector Harry
A taciturn cop whose working methods are as effective as they are morally questionable, willingly misogynist, clenched jaw and .44 magnum under his jacket, Clint Eastwood played (five times) the unforgettable Inspector Harry; one of the big mouths of the 7th art. The character of Harry Callahan, like that of Frank Bullitt, actually takes David Toschi as a model. This real inspector of the San Francisco police was at the time known to the general public by the case he was dealing with, that of the Zodiac killer.