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In the 2014 historical novel Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles, chapter 29:
A black Mississippian who left his native state in the early 1950s to go to law school, Quentin Avery fought on the front lines of the civil rights movement, wherever those lines happened to be.
And in chapter 38:
During the 1960s and '70s, Quentin argued four cases before the United States Supreme Court-one a landmark civil rights case-and won them all. He became a hero to many, and his name was mentioned in the same sentences as Thurgood Marshall and James Nabrit. But by the mid-1980s, the young firebrand had turned his mind to lucre rather than to justice, taking on high-profile (and very profitable) drug cases. In the 1990s he moved on to personal injury cases, two of which made him genuinely wealthy.
Is this fictional description modeled after someone real? If so, whom?
Uhtred From The Last Kingdom Is Loosely Based On This Real Life Warrior
If you, like me, are constantly on the watch for exciting period dramas that could fill the Game of Thrones-sized hole in your life, then you've probably heard about The Last Kingdom. While there's plenty to love about this piece of historical fiction, it's the The Last Kingdom's handsome protagonist, Uhtred, I'm most interested in. Considering there are characters that draw from history on The Last Kingdom, is Uhtred based on a real person as well?
It's kind of complicated. According to a 2015 profile in The Guardian, The Last Kingdom is based on the historical fiction series written by Bernard Cornwell. Cornwell, profiled for the piece, say he was inspired by the exploits of actual Saxon king Alfred the Great. According to Screenrant, The Last Kingdom is set in ninth-century England when Alfred the Great was king and in the show, Alfred is based on him. So what about our man Uhtred, played by Alexander Dreymon?
Per The Guardian, Uhtred is described as "a Northumbrian Saxon nobleman’s son from Bebbanburg [. ] who is orphaned as a child and raised by the Danish warlord who defeated his father. He grows up to become the leading warrior of Wessex, the lone Anglo-Saxon kingdom standing up against the invading Viking settlers."
Now, there was a historical figure called Uhtred the Bold who was the Earl of Northumbria — but he was born about 100 years after the actual Alfred the Great died, so they wouldn't have known of each other. In addition to that timing issue, Uhtred's family is very different on television than it was in real life. The Last Kingdom sets Uhtred up to be both Danish and Saxon in order to have him bring the two peoples together — but in real life, Uhtred the Bold wasn't raised by Danes and definitely didn't fight with them.
So Uhtred on the show is fictional, but he's definitely at least loosely based on a historical figure. There's also the fact that, according to the aforementioned Guardian profile, Cornwell's father, William Outhred, was another inspiration for the books. Uhtred and Outhred sould a lot alike, in a way, right? It could also be that the author was paying homage to his father through his fictional protagonist in both the books and the series.
Whoever he is really based on, Dreymon has fun playing him. The actor told Syfy in 2018, "Even though he is super cheeky and he can totally be a d*ck, he's very truthful, very loyal, very trustworthy." The star added, "Even though he's being tested from both sides again and again and being distrusted, the truth is that he does do what he says, and is a man of his word."
Fans of the show are anxiously waiting for Season 4 to drop on Netflix sometime in late 2019 or early 2020, according to Den of Geek. The upcoming season will divert from Cornwell's books, which at this point would include a 10 year time jump, with Uhtred close to 50 years old. Instead, the logline makes it sound like the season will pick up just where the last one ended. But who knows — as Radio Times suggests, Uhtred could return looking a little older and with some fully grown children to look out for, as he does in the book series.
In any case, fans will be happy for the Last Kingdom's return and to continue following Uhtred and the other semi-fictional characters and their stories until the end.
This post was originally published on May 5, 2017. It was updated on June 4, 2019.
The Whole Bushel
In 1981, Thomas Harris published his second novel, Red Dragon, introducing the world to Hannibal Lecter. Three more novels, five movies, and one TV show later, and the world is still obsessed with the charming cannibal killer. However, there’s one question that’s haunted fans for a very long time. Was the character of Hannibal Lecter inspired by a real-life murderer? And if so, who? Plenty of names have been tossed around over the years, including Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish. Of course, there’s one man who knew the answer, but Thomas Harris preferred to keep his mouth shut, letting readers fight it out among themselves.
All that changed in 2013. When the 25th anniversary edition of The Silence of the Lambs novel was released, Thomas Harris included a new introduction that sent shivers up and down the spines of Hannibal fans. According to the author himself, Lecter was based on a little-known Mexican murderer he dubbed “Dr. Salazar.” The two met in the early 1960s when Harris was a journalist doing a story on Dykes Askew Simmons, an American murderer serving time in a Monterrey prison. While visiting the Mexican penitentiary, Harris learned Simmons had once been shot trying to escape. Critically wounded, the American was taken to Dr. Salazar who performed life-saving surgery. Intrigued, Harris wanted to interview the surgeon, mistakenly assuming Salazar was a prison doctor. It was an understandable assumption. Since he had medical training, Salazar worked with the poor and even had his own office inside the prison.
When the two finally met, Harris shook hands with “a small, lithe man with dark red hair.” He later described Salazar as a man who stood very still and had “a certain elegance about him.” The men began talking, but very quickly, Harris lost control of the conversation. Salazar began probing the writer, asking questions about Simmons’s victims and lecturing about the nature of torment. When the interview was over, Harris asked the warden about Salazar’s medical career. The shocked official replied, “Hombre! The doctor is a murderer! As a surgeon, he could package his victim in a surprisingly small box. He will never leave this place. He is insane.”
However, there’s one last question: Who is Dr. Salazar? According to both The Times and Mexican author Diego Enrique Osorno, Salazar’s real name was Alfredo Balli Trevino, and the evidence is pretty conclusive. Trevino was a surgeon and convicted murderer, he was in jail during the ‘60s and, most importantly, he treated Dykes Askew Simmons while in prison. But what did the good doctor do to end up behind bars?
On October 9, 1959, Trevino and his lover, Jesus Castillo Rangel, had a fight. Some say Rangel wouldn’t loan Trevino any desperately needed cash. Others claim Rangel wanted to end their relationship. Whatever happened, Trevino knocked Rangel unconscious, slit his throat with a scalpel, chopped him up into little pieces and put the bloody chunks into a box. With the help of an accomplice, Alfredo buried the remains, but he was eventually found out and sentenced to death. Fortunately for Trevino, his sentence was commuted, and he eventually left the prison in 2000. A free man, he continued his medical practice, helping the poor until he passed away in 2009. Despite his good deeds, chances are good he would’ve loved swapping stories and sharing a nice Chianti with everybody’s favorite cannibal.
Rocky Dennis was born in Glendora, California, to Florence "Rusty" Tullis and Roy Dennis, his legal but not biological father. At the age of two he was diagnosed with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, also known as CDD or lionitis, an extremely rare disease occurring in approximately one in every 220 million births, with fewer than 20 recorded cases. CDD is a bone disorder that causes calcium to build up in the skull.  Based on the small number of recorded cases, doctors predicted that the pressure from the calcium deposits would distort his face, destroy his eyesight and hearing, and eventually affect his brain, with death before his seventh birthday.  
Despite his eyesight limitations, hearing problems, and the painful headaches he endured, Dennis was eventually able to do a number of things his doctors predicted he would be unable to do. Dennis learned to read even though his poor eyesight kept him from reading books. He entered school at age six, although school authorities recommended against it  and after a slow start (he spent two years in the first grade) he was able to make academic progress before his death at 16. Dennis declined to have plastic surgery to correct his facial malformation. 
Dennis resided in Azusa, California, as well as Covina. There, along with his half-brother, Joshua, he lived with his parents and attended Ben Lomond Elementary School. Following his mother leaving the family, Dennis was raised for a time by his legal father and grandmother as well as his stepmother.
Dennis died on October 4, 1978. His official cause of death was sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, a condition of unknown origins that may or may not have been related to his craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. Dennis' body was donated to UCLA Medical Center. 
Dennis's older half-brother, Joshua "John" Mason, died in 1987 at age 32 from complications of AIDS. Joshua did not appear and was not mentioned in Mask. His mother, Rusty Tullis, died on November 11, 2006, at age 70 as a result of an infection following a motorcycle accident. 
Peter Bogdanovich directed the 1985 film Mask, adapted from Anna Hamilton Phelan's screenplay based on Dennis' life. Eric Stoltz portrayed Dennis. In one scene in the film, Stoltz's Dennis reads a poem to his mother, Rusty (played by Cher), that was written by Dennis. The movie is based loosely on Dennis' life, with most of the scenes and dialogue altered for dramatic purposes. 
Phelan adapted her screenplay into a stage musical of the same name, with music by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The musical premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse in California on March 12, 2008. 
Swedish pop musician Jens Lekman self-published a song titled "Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song to the Blind Girl", causing DJs to mistakenly call the musician by Rocky Dennis' name.  Lekman clarified that the song was not about himself with the release of Rocky Dennis in Heaven, an EP containing four songs about Dennis and his film portrayal.
Casting was paramount.
It was important for The Serpent to portray Sobhraj as a multifaceted character. &ldquoWe cast a net far and wide to find the right person there were so many things to get right about him, he&rsquos a chameleon so he&rsquos different things to different people,&rdquo Testar says. &ldquoHe has to be charming&mdashit was important for the dignity of his victims to show how appealing he could be to people&mdashas well as incredibly menacing and threatening.&rdquo They found their star in Rahim, whose big break came in the 2009 film A Prophet and who most recently starred in The Mauritanian. &ldquoFor us,&rdquo Testar says, &ldquoTahar was the only actor who could pull that off properly.&rdquo
When it came to casting the Canadian-born Leclerc, hitting those right notes was equally important. &ldquoJenna Coleman is one of the most talented actors in the UK, and we needed someone who could show the fragility of that character,&rdquo Testar says. &ldquoJenna&rsquos able to do so much with so few words to show the character&rsquos inner turmoil, and despite the fact that she&rsquod never spoken French before, she was able to take on the challenge of learning French from scratch. I believe she started about six weeks before we began filming and she just got better and better.&rdquo
What about the birthing scenes?
To make the birthing scenes as realistic as possible, the show employs a trained midwife to help out the actors. &ldquoOne baby being born on screen will take at least five hours to shoot, and very often the actor playing the mother will never have had a baby herself," according to producer Ann Tricklebank, who was interviewed by RadioTimes. "Our midwifery adviser Terri Coates puts the actor through the birthing process following the structure of that week&rsquos story, whether the birth is at home or in hospital or in the back of a car.&rdquo
And as for those babies, Call the Midwife takes its youngest stars seriously. The show uses real newborns (up to around 8 weeks old) to play the babies that are given birth to on the show. &ldquoWe use about 60 to 70 [babies] a series,&rdquo said Tricklebank. The babies work 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off and the set is kept quiet and comfortable to prevent stressing the little ones.
IS THE KNICK BASED ON A TRUE STORY?
While The Knick isn’t ripped right out a history textbook, it does have some solid bases in real life events. Both Owen’s character and André Holland’s characters are loosely based on real people. Owen’s character, Dr. Thackery, is a take on William Stewart Halsted, a surgeon who was one of the first to use anaesthetics on his patients. While Dr. Algernon C. Edwards, Holland’s character, is likely inspired by cardiac surgeon Daniel Hale Williams, according to Slate.
The show also made sure that the actors were well-versed in the medicine of the time period, and consulted New York’s Burns Archive for information on hospitals, surgery, and medicine of the time period. “We gave [actors] fake arms and taught them to hold a scalpel, how to tie sutures, how to hold multiple instruments,” The Knick medical adviser Dr. Stanley Burns told the New York Times. “They would joke about how they couldn’t wait for the zombie apocalypse,” Dr. Burns said. “With their training, they would be able to handle it.”
And yes, the titular Knick hospital was a real place. Formally titled Knickerbocker Hospital, it was a New York City hospital located in Harlem that was originally founded in 1862, but eventually closed in 1979 and later was turned into a senior home.
11. Twisty the Clown
The murderer who inspired Twisty the Clown did far worse than his fictional character on Freak Show. John Wayne Gacy was known as Pogo the Clown during his killing spree in the 1970’s. He would attend children’s parties and charity events and lure teenage boys to his home to rape and murder them. The twisted clown killer was eventually caught and sentenced to the lethal injection in 1994.
How Accurate is "Midway"? The Movie vs. the True Story of the Battle of Midway
Director Roland Emmerich's Midway, which is based on the true story of the Battle of Midway, covers roughly six months of the war in the Pacific, from the attack on Pearl Harbor through the decisive battle around Midway Atoll, which turned the tide of the war in favor of the U.S.
Is the attack on Pearl Harbor depicted accurately in the movie?
For the most part, yes. It would be hard to make a movie about the Battle of Midway without putting at least some emphasis on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The December 7, 1941 surprise attack was arguably the U.S. Navy's greatest defeat. It's also what prompted the U.S. to enter the war, and it set the American Navy on a course to victory at Midway. The movie's version of the attack on Pearl Harbor is largely accurate. This includes the salvage operations we see going on afterwards.
The Midway true story confirms that the two U.S. aircraft carriers based at Pearl Harbor at the time were not there on the day of the Japanese attack. USS Enterprise and USS Lexington were out on identical missions, ferrying aircraft to island outposts. USS Enterprise had delivered 12 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats to Wake Island and USS Lexington was on its way to Midway Island with 18 Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators. The fact that the two carriers were spared would come back to haunt the Japanese fleet. -We Are The Mighty
Is Mandy Moore's character, Anne Best, based on a real person?
Yes. At 32 years old, Dick Best was older than most of the men serving around him. Though we couldn't find much information about his wife, we do know that he was married at the time and had a four-year-old daughter, Barbara Ann, similar to what's seen in the movie. The Bests were living in Waikiki, Hawaii. After retiring from the Navy in 1944 following 32 months of treatment for tuberculosis, he moved his family to Santa Monica, California where he lived for the rest of his life.
Was the situation really that precarious for the U.S. Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor?
Yes. A Midway movie fact check confirms that the U.S. was in a precarious situation. Things were really that dire for Admiral Nimitz and the U.S. Navy following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. When Admiral Nimitz took command of the Pacific Fleet following the attack, there were just a few support ships left to protect the aircraft carriers from the gigantic Japanese Navy. Morale among the U.S. Navy was low and most sailors lacked experience. At the time, the U.S. military ranked only fifth in the world, behind the UK, Germany, Soviet Union and Japan. -We Are The Mighty
If the U.S. had been defeated in the Pacific, could the Japanese have invaded the West Coast of America?
Dick Best (Ed Skrein) tells his wife Anne (Mandy Moore) this in the movie, which heightens the stakes before he goes off to battle. In reality, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were far from a land invasion of the West Coast of America, which was beyond their capability. At best, Admiral Yamamoto and the Japanese Army were considering an invasion of the Hawaiian island chain (Midway Island is part of that chain). It's also possible that Japan would have tried to bomb cities along the West Coast of America, similar to what the U.S. did to Tokyo. However, Japan's loss at Midway put a stop to their ability to do either.
Did Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton's intelligence unit crack the Japanese code?
Yes. Edwin T. Layton, who is portrayed by Patrick Wilson in the movie, commanded the intelligence unit that cracked the Japanese code. Working in an underground bunker nicknamed the "Dungeon," his unit ciphered through thousands of Japanese messages. It's true that Navy Band members were brought in to help decode. Despite the success of the codebreakers, they were only able to come up with an educated guess as to the location of the Japanese fleet. As a result, the leaders in Washington opted to instead strike the Japanese homeland, sanctioning a mission known as the "Doolittle Raid," named after the man who planned and led the operation, Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle (Aarron Eckhart). A fact check of the Midway movie's historical accuracy reveals that there was indeed a turf battle between the cryptologists in Washington, D.C. and the cryptologists in Hawaii under Layton, who were correct in their conclusions about the Japanese Navy attacking Midway. -We Are The Mighty
Why was the Battle of Midway so important?
Eventually, Edwin T. Layton's codebreakers were able to determine the likely location of the Japanese fleet. While they weren't able to decipher all of the Japanese code, the bits of information they understood pointed to Midway as the location of the fleet. Admiral Nimitz put his faith in Layton's unit and ordered the two carriers to Midway. It is believed that the Japanese were on their way to capture Midway Atoll and use it as an advance base from which to attack and destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The island is part of the Hawaiian archipelago. Midway's significance lies in the fact that it is roughly halfway between Asia and North America, making it an optimal strategic location.
The Battle of Midway marked the first decisive victory for American forces in the Pacific Theater during WWII. Following six months of bad news that began with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, which kicks off the film, Midway was the first significant step in a three-year campaign to defeat Japan. During the June 4-7, 1942 air and sea battle, American forces levied a decisive blow on the attacking Japanese fleet, securing a victory that has been heralded as the U.S. Navy's greatest comeback.
How accurate are the ships and planes seen in Midway?
When director Roland Emmerich set out to make Midway, he ran into a problem. None of the historic aircraft carriers and planes from that time period are in their wartime condition. "Even when you have some aircraft carrier sitting around, like one in Alameda and one in, I think, South Carolina or [the Intrepid] in New York, they were altered in the '60s," says Emmerich. "The flight deck is totally different, et cetera, et cetera. And then they have actually put modern technology in some of the flak turrets." This goes for the military aircraft too, including the Douglas SBDs (scout bombers) that still exist. They've been altered so that they're allowed to be flown. Emmerich could not find Douglas TBDs (torpedo bombers) anywhere since most were probably scrapped since they weren't stellar airplanes.
"So, we had to pretty much create everything," says Emmerich. "When you can create everything, then naturally you can be absolutely exact. Our aircraft carriers, both Japanese and Enterprise and the Hornet, what you see is super correct because there's endless research material, photographs and stuff." The filmmakers shot much of Midway indoors against a blue screen on a giant soundstage in Montreal, where they built part of a flight deck. "It's a relatively perfect re-creation of everything," Emmerich added. However, what arguably detracts from Midway's historical accuracy is the fact that many of the planes and shots of the carriers were created digitally and therefore are not authentic replications of the originals. -Military.com
Some of the payloads seen on the planes in the film are represented inaccurately. For example, while the Douglas TBD-1 Devastator could be equipped with a torpedo or bombs, the aircraft would not have been equipped with both at the same time as shown in the movie. It was an underpowered airplane that could barely make it off the carrier with the weight of just a torpedo. Furthermore, if the filmmakers had accurately researched the Midway true story, they would know that the real-life Devastator did not have wing racks that could carry two 500 pound bombs like we see it doing in the film (pictured below). -Military Aviation History
How accurate are the combat sequences in Midway?
While a Midway fact check reveals the combat sequences to be mostly accurate, the filmmakers seemed to sacrifice various details in order to get the shots they wanted. For example, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that opens the film, it appears that the torpedo bombers are attacking from the wrong angles, including when the Japanese aircraft are attacking down battleship row. The latter was very likely done to get a long tracking shot showing all of the different types of enemy aircraft.
A somewhat far-fetched scene later in the film is when we see Dick Best (Ed Skrein) performing a hammerhead stall in his Dauntless in order to make Japanese aircraft overshoot him. The maneuver involves his plane heading into a vertical climb until it almost stalls and then dropping the nose to reverse the direction of flight. Although this is an actual combat maneuver, it is not one that a pilot would have attempted in a Dauntless.
The formations of the planes and ships in the movie are often too close together. This was likely done in order to capture more planes and ships in the shot. The planes are often seen flying too low as well. An example of this can be observed during the Japanese attack on Midway Atoll.
The destruction is also exaggerated at times. For example, in one scene we see the U.S. conducting an air raid in the Marshall Islands on a Japanese-controlled air base. The Dauntlesses blow up five or so Mitsubishi G3Ms on the ground. However, in real life, it is believed they only hit one G3M on the ground. The reality of combat during that time is that many of the bombs that were dropped didn't hit their targets. However, for the purpose of a movie, the destruction is conveyed more effectively if we see an exaggerated number of successful hits, or the hits happening all at once. -Military Aviation History
Did a burning Mitsubishi G4M bomber crash into a Dauntless SBD on the carrier deck as Bruno Gaido fired at the bomber from the SBD's turret?
Yes. In the movie, we see Nick Jonas' character, Aviation Machinist Mate Bruno Gaido, jumping into a Dauntless SBD's turret while the plane is still parked on the USS Enterprise's deck. He mans the .30 caliber machine gun and fires at an incoming Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" bomber that has both engines on fire. The G4M crashes into the Dauntless SBD, cutting off the SBD's tail before the G4M cartwheels off the carrier's deck into the ocean. You might have rolled your eyes at this scene, but while researching the Midway true story, we surprisingly learned that it indeed happened in real life. The incident unfolded when the Enterprise was in the Central Pacific near the Marshall Islands on February 1, 1942. Like in the movie, Bruno Gaido lived through the incident and his shipmates later said that it was his relentless firing that caused the incoming bomber to spin at a ninety degree angle, sparing the carrier from a direct hit. After the event, Vice Admiral William F. Halsey promoted Gaido from Third Class to First Class.
Was Bruno Gaido captured and drowned by the Japanese?
Was pilot Dick Best instrumental in the sinking of two Japanese aircraft carriers?
Yes. Lieutenant Dick Best scored hits on the Akagi and the Hiryu, two of the four Japanese aircraft carriers that were sunk during the Battle of Midway. Things really were that dangerous for the dive bomber pilots, who faced anti-aircraft fire and an onslaught of Japanese fighter planes. During Best's first mission on the morning of June 4, 1942, the bomb he dropped on the Akagi went through the flight deck and exploded in the upper hanger, delivering a catastrophic blow to the carrier and the 18 Nakajima B5N2 planes parked there. When Best's squadron return to the USS Enterprise, only three planes out of fifteen arrived in good condition.
It's true that Dick Best's military career ended following the first day of fighting at Midway. While flying on his first mission, he breathed in caustic soda to clear out a faulty oxygen canister. Later that day, he began coughing up blood and started with a fever. After being transported from the Enterprise to the hospital in Pearl Harbor, X-rays revealed cloudy spots on his lungs. It was determined that breathing in the caustic soda activated latent tuberculosis. He endured 32 months of treatment and then retired from the Navy in 1944. He never flew again. -Los Angeles Times
What were the Japanese and U.S. casualties at the Battle of Midway?
The WWII Battle of Midway lasted from June 4, 1942 until June 7, 1942, though the bulk of the fighting took place on June 4. In the end, 307 U.S. servicemen lost their lives. The United States also lost 145 aircraft, 1 destroyer and 1 aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown. Japan suffered more devastating losses, including 2,500 servicemen, 292 aircraft, 1 heavy cruiser and 4 aircraft carriers.
Was the U.S. Navy involved in the making of Midway?
Yes. Defense Department historians from the Naval History and Heritage Command were involved throughout the entire process, both during script development and production. The screenplay for the film was written by Navy veteran Wes Tooke. Each scene of the Midway movie was carefully reviewed to make sure it was historically accurate. "Despite some of the 'Hollywood' aspects, this is still the most realistic movie about naval combat ever made," commented retired Navy Rear Adm. Sam Cox, who oversaw the fact-checking. "It does real credit to the courage and sacrifice of those who fought in the battle on both sides."
The actors were equally concerned about Midway's historical accuracy. Woody Harrelson, who plays Admiral Chester Nimitz, discussed the character with Navy Rear Admiral Brian Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii. Harrelson wanted a better understanding of who Nimitz was and what led him to make the decisions he made. Harrelson also headed out into the Pacific to spend time on USS John C. Stennis as the ship carried out operations at sea. Actor Patrick Wilson, who portrays naval intelligence officer Lt. Commander Edwin Layton, met with retired intelligence officer Navy Captain Dale Rielage to talk about Layton and his relationship with Nimitz. -U.S. Department of Defense
Have any other movies been made about the Battle of Midway?
Add to your understanding of the Battle of Midway's significance by watching these videos that outline what happened during the battle, including code-breaking, carrier movements, and air attacks.
The actual Commodus was worse than the Gladiator character
Joaquin Phoenix's Commodus was sinister in a charming, soft-spoken, sociopathic kind of way, but the real Commodus was far more in-your-face about his maniacal lust for power, blood and sex. As the LA Times reports, some believe that Commodus really did kill his father, beloved full-time emperor and part-time philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who may indeed have had doubts about his son's ability to rule. However, if true, the deed was apparently done with poison, not suffocation.
After becoming emperor, Commodus spent his 12-year reign indulging in hobbies like gambling, drinking and chariot-racing, but his two greatest passions seemed to be sex and pretending to be a gladiator — apparently the irony of an emperor wanting to trade places with a slave was lost on him. Commodus' warrior-inspired costume of choice was a lion skin, accessorized with a club and the blood of his human and animal victims. For every one of his 735 appearances in the arena, Commodus charged the empire's treasury 25,000 pieces of silver. He was a sure victor in every combat, as his opponents all submitted rather than facing the consequences of wounding the emperor.
Much like the movie, Commodus did have a sister named Lucilla. Unlike in the movie, there's no record of incest, but she apparently did want him dead. Marcus Aureilus' daughter led an unsuccessful coup with the Senate, resulting in her death and many of theirs. The historical Commodus died not on the arena floor but in the bathtub, strangled by his wrestling partner Narcissus.