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‘That’s just a blue Elon Musk!’ – the real-life people behind TV and film’s biggest baddies

You’re probably not watching Ahsoka. As far as I can tell, the only people who still watch Ahsoka are me and about 15 guys who hate my guts, one of whom is my brother.

But that doesn’t matter because, after six of eight episodes, the show has finally fulfilled its promise. The entire point of Ahsoka has been to introduce us to Grand Admiral Thrawn, the biggest, baddest baddie that Star Wars has invented since Darth Vader. Until now, a feature of every Ahsoka episode has been that all the characters have all spent a lot of their time telling one another – and therefore us – exactly how dangerous and scary Thrawn is. This, combined with his delayed entry, did a great job at ramping up our expectations no end. There are rumours that an entire Thrawn movie is being planned. That’s how terrifying this guy is.

But then we met him. And, well, he wasn’t very terrifying at all. He was softly spoken. He was very polite. He wore trousers that puffed out to a comical degree. But, more than that, he looked like Elon Musk. Specifically, he looked like what would happen to Elon Musk if he got into The Fly’s Brundlefly machine with a Smurf.

I’m not the only person to notice this. Type “Thrawn” into Twitter and it autocompletes to “Thrawn Elon Musk”. “Is no one else rattled that thrawn just looks like blue elon musk,” posted one user. “They made Thrawn look like Elon Musk eating too many blueberries at the Wonka factory,” said another. There is already fan art of Musk as Thrawn.

Hopefully, Thrawn will end up being more menacing than Musk – at the very least we should pray that he’ll never dress up as Wario on a late night comedy show – but the resemblance is so uncanny you can only assume it was deliberate. Still, it’s not the first time this has happened. Time and time again, film and TV have used the image of a real life figure to create a fictional villain.

Robert Harris waited decades to reveal the real-life inspiration for Hannibal Lecter, an elegant surgeon named Alfredo Ballí Treviño, who was imprisoned for murdering his lover and then slicing his body into tiny parts. Although the character was most famously played by Anthony Hopkins, in terms of demeanour and physical resemblance, Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Lecter in the Hannibal series came extremely close to mirroring Treviño.

Then there’s Ursula from The Little Mermaid, who was made to resemble the drag performer Divine. The vultures from The Jungle Book were modelled so closely on the Beatles that Disney initially tried to hire them to voice the characters. And it’s rumoured that Lord Farquaad, the ridiculously vain villain from Shrek was modelled on the then Disney boss Michael Eisner, a resemblance that gains traction when you remember that Eisner used to be the boss of Jeffrey Katzenberg, the film’s producer.

Obviously, you could write an entire article on all the fictional baddies created in the image of Donald Trump. The most obvious is probably Biff Tannen from Back to the Future II, who – in one of the movie’s timelines – grew up tasteless and rich and cruel and balding to such a recognisable degree that its screenwriter Bob Gale eventually came clean about how much Trump had inspired him. The villain of Gremlins 2: The New Batch is a character named Daniel Clamp, and is a transparent Trump clone. More recently, the character played by Pedro Pascal in Wonder Woman 1984 (a failing businessman with political ambitions) may as well have been played by a Trump waxwork. Gordon Gekko from Wall Street is Trump. Max Shreck from Batman Returns is Trump. King Koopa from the live-action Mario movie is Trump.

And then there’s my favourite. Barry Diller was the CEO of 20th Century Fox between 1984 and 1992, which would also make him the person who greenlit The Simpsons. Go and Google a picture of him. Now go and Google a picture of Mr Burns. It’s uncanny.

But still, Thrawn as Musk feels like a whole new level of deliberate resemblance. Maybe it even hints at the future of the character. Maybe Thrawn’s big scheme to destroy the galaxy involves him slowly rendering a social media platform unusable. Who knows.