Gary Johnson, the character that Glen Powell plays in Richard Linklater’s ‘Hit Man,’ is apparently based on a real person. Just before the movie kicks off with one of Gary’s lectures, we see a brief disclaimer that reads, “What you’re about to see is a somewhat true story inspired by the life of Gary Johnson.” Similarly, when the movie ends, we get a brief montage that sort of plays on the idea of what ‘somewhat’ really means. So, in the following article, we will take a look at how much of Hit Man is actually based on a true story and if Gary Johnson is really a real person. 

Please be aware that this article may spoil some of the fun you might have while watching the current Netflix hit ‘Hit Man,’ so please proceed with caution. 

Glen Powell, the current hot commodity in Hollywood, stars as Gary Johnson, a geeky psychological professor who is forced to be a real-life undercover police officer who is shadowing as a Hit Man in order to catch people who could potentially want to murder someone.  

Glen Powell doesn’t just play multiple characters within Hit Man, but behind the screen, the star also co-wrote the screenplay along with director Richard Linklater. Based on a 2001 Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth, both Richard Linklater and Glen Powell had different reasons to take this story up. For Powell, it meant playing a challenging role that would have him act out multiple personalities, while Linklater wanted to cancel the notion that killer-for-hire movies can only follow a certain predictable trajectory. 

In debunking some popular things associated with the genre, for instance, the delusion that being a Hit Man is a proper job profile beyond movies, Linklater also steeped his shoes on the idea of how a real person being roped into the idea of the whole thing would make things even more interesting. So, let’s talk about Gary Johnson, the protagonist of Netflix’s ‘Hit Man’ and come down to the conclusion of how much of his story is actually true and how much is made up: 

Is Gary Johnson, played by Glen Powell in Netflix’s ‘Hit Man’ based on a real person?

The straight answer is Yes. The protagonist of Linklater’s movie is based on a real-life sexuality and psychology professor of the same name. However, instead of being from New Orleans like the movie shows, Johnson used to live in Houston, where he would work undercover for the local authorities whenever called in. Much like the movie, he used to wear a wire in order to get confessions out of people who were looking to get someone killed. The part about him donning multiple personalities in order to get those confessions is also true. 

Did Gary Johnson really fall in love with a woman named Madison – a potential client? 

No. That part of the movie is ‘made up’ like the final sequence instructs us. Gary Johnson did not meet up and later fall in love with a woman named Madison, who sets up a meeting with him, seeking to kill his husband (named Ray in the movie). 

The article that the film bases itself on, however, does have brief mentions of women finding Gary attractive, leading them to seduce him and have sex with him. Unlike the movie that states Gary was divorced from his only wife, the real-life Gary was divorced three times after succumbing to a quite life with his cats. 

Did Gary Johnson talk a woman out of putting a hit on her husband? 

Netflix’s ‘Hit Man’ shows that Gary had to face numerous charges by clients of manipulating them into putting a hit on their peers and getting a confession out of them. The real-life Gary, however, has stood concrete on his idea that he never once wanted these people to go down the line of crime and wished that they backed off from doing what they wanted to do. 

As far as him talking out a woman who wanted to put a hit on her husband is concerned, the original article in Texas monthly does mention Gary meeting a woman in Starbucks who wanted to get her boyfriend killed. Gary claims that he was able to talk her out of doing this. The movie uses this as a jumping off point for its central romance. However, in real-life nothing like that took place. 

Did Madison and Gary really commit murder and get away with it? 

Powell’s Gary Johnson becomes an accomplice to murder when he learns that Madison has killed her husband Ray because he tried to put a hit on her. He even went ahead and did a whole song and dance routine to put the police out of sniffing Madison out of her apartment and booking her for murder.

However, Gary’s colleague Jasper finds out what has happened and threatens to turn both Gary and Madison over to the police until they pay him the million-dollar she is supposed to get out of Ray’s insurance policy. 

But, he is unable to go any further with his threatening demeanor when Madison drugs him, and later, Gary puts a plastic bag on his face, killing him. The movie shows that the two of them were able to get away with murder with a happily ever after with their two kids. 

As far as the real-life Gary Johnson is concerned, he never killed anyone. Cue to the title card that Linklater cheekily places at the end of the movie: the real Gary Johnson was “An animal-loving Buddhist, a Vietnam War Veteran and the ‘chilliest dude imaginable.” 

According to the article, Gary Johnson was born in 1947 and died in 2022. The reasons for his death are unknown. 

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