Sometimes the best part of a movie is the part that never even existed. And sometimes those parts can be people. Whether they are the fuel that lights the fire, or something that a character recognizes about themselves, the characters that never existed can be the most important element to figuring out a plot.
And while many movies contain twist endings or surprises you didn’t expect, these fictional characters create just as powerful an effect as a twist.
Here are five great characters in movies…who didn’t really exist.
Tyler Durden – Fight Club
Not only is Tyler Durden more than likely the coolest character that never really existed, he’s probably one of the coolest characters in any movie, period. As most of you know, Tyler Durden is the alter ego of Ed Norton’s character played by Brad Pitt. He is everything that Ed Norton wishes to be. As he says “I look how you want to look, I f&*k how you want to f&*k, I am everything you are not.” Tyler Durden “enables” the schizophrenic Norton to be able to form his army and begin his quest to erase financial history. Unfortunately, Norton realizes it was probably a bad idea and winds up shooting himself in the face to get rid of Tyler.
Parcher – A Beautiful Mind
In A Beautiful Mind, one of the greatest brains in existence is part of a man, John Nash. Nash is a mathematical genius whose mind gets in the way of who he really is: a man who loves to solve problems. In the course of the movie, Nash befriends three people, one of whom is a man named Parcher (played by Ed Harris). He presents himself as the head of a CIA-like corp, desperately needing Nash’s help in decoding Russian messages. This decoding is exactly what Nash seems to want to be a part of, until he finds out it’s all part of his imagination and Parcher isn’t a real person. He struggles the entire movie trying to remove these fictional people from his life.
*One could also argue for Nash’s roommate Charles played by Paul Bettany. However, Parcher was much cooler.
Ivan (The Guy with Sunglasses) – The Machinist
Christian Bale stars as the super-skinny Trevor Reznik, who hasn’t slept in a year. (No explanation is given.) And he looks it. Trevor stumbles through the world with only the thinnest of threads to reality. He’s lonely, haunted, and desperate. Trevor has a job as a, well, machinist, working at a sinister factory that seems like something straight out of the Industrial Revolution. At Trevor’s job he has a co-worker named Ivan. Ivan seems to drift in and out of the movie, and, more to the point, in and out of Trevor’s consciousness. It’s clear that something doesn’t quite add up with Ivan. It is believed that Ivan holds the key to Trevor’s psychosis. I don’t want to ruin the end, but let’s just say the fat man is certainly part of that psychosis.
Mystery Man in Lost Highway
For those of you who have seen Lost Highway you might remember this scene. Mystery Man is played by Robert Blake.
Fred and the Mystery Man begin an extremely cryptic conversation, in which the Mystery Man tells Fred that they have met before, and that in fact he is at Fred’s house at that moment. Fred scoffs in disbelief, but agrees to call the house using the Mystery Man’s cell phone as a proof test, only to hear the Mystery Man answer at the other end. Before Fred can learn how it is possible for the Mystery Man to be in two places at once, and how he got into the house, the Mystery Man demands his phone over the phone back and walks away.
By the way that scene was so damned freaky. In any event, Fred can’t figure out who the hell this guy is. As it turns out he’s all part of Fred’s dream in trying to recollect the murder. At the end of the movie, The Mystery Man shoots Laurent to death, whispers something to Fred, and then vanishes completely.
We don’t know if the Mystery man is real or not, but I argue that he’s all part of the subconscious.
Randall Stevens From The Shawshank Redemption
Randall Stevens is the silent partner who Andy Dufresne conjured up “from thin air.” He never existed “except on paper.” Throughout Shawshank, Andy Dufresne acts as the banker to the evil Warden Norton. Constantly Andy must filter and launder money that the Warden is earning under the table for prison labor. But where does the trail end? It ends with a fake man that Andy creates who has full ID, social security, driver’s license, you name it. Stevens is the man with the bank accounts, not the Warden. Dufresne brings the character to life when he escapes from prison and collects the money posing as Stevens.
The Penguin in Billy Madison
What better than the Penguin in Billy Madison? Hell he gives Chris Farley a hand job at the end of the movie. I’d say that constitutes being a great character.