Is A Man in Full a True Story? Is Charlie Croker Inspired by a Real Businessman?

Created by David E. Kelley, Netflix’s drama series ‘A Man in Full’ chronicles the fall of Charlie Croker, an Atlanta-based real estate mogul whose empire gets threatened by his business loans. Through Croker’s fight against PlannersBanc for his survival, the show explores the commercial, political, and cultural realms that form life in the city in the state of Georgia. Croker and his intriguing saga have several roots in reality, especially since he is presented as a Georgia Tech alumnus who once made a name for himself as a football player. However, his tale is not based on a true story!

The Creation of the “Manly Man” Croker

‘A Man in Full’ is the television adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s 1998 novel of the same name. The fictional protagonist of the novel, Charlie Croker, was born when Wolfe visited the estate of his friend Mack Taylor, a prominent Atlanta-based real estate developer. For the author, the visit opened a door to an unfamiliar world where businessmen had tens of thousands of acres of land to grow quails to hunt them. These businessmen and their estates inspired Wolfe to explore the highest strata of luxury in the country. That was how he created Charlie Croker and his 29,000-acre South Georgia plantation, Turpmtine.

“It is the largest-scale expenditure of money for sheer luxuriousness that I am aware of in this country. You might say, ‘Well, private airplanes are a luxury,’ but these people also use private airplanes. So, I was going to make Charlie Croker a man who had made his money in Georgia and tried to come to New York for the big time,” Wolfe told Vanity Fair. Along with the theme of luxury, the author also wanted to explore “manhood” through his protagonist. Wolfe, in a 2018 interview, even described the real estate mogul as a “manly man.” The inspiration behind such a portrayal of Croker was an old song the writer came across that described a mythical figure.

In the series, Croker is proud of his manhood. He doesn’t tolerate conservative or traditional notions of weakness, which explains why he accepts a robotic knee in a clinical trial to become stronger. He displays his manliness by fighting a highly venomous rattlesnake and celebrating the mating of two horses. The principal conflict in the narrative, PlannersBanc’s fight against Croker, originates because Raymond Peepgrass becomes envious of the businessman’s virility. Raymond then swallows Viagra pills and has sex with the real estate mogul’s ex-wife to rival him as a “man.” Croker deals with several challenges to ensure that he will die as a “proper man,” which shows how concerned he is about his manhood.

David E. Kelley, who adapted Wolfe’s novel to the series, made certain changes to Croker, especially considering his gradual vulnerability in the final episodes. Croker decides against exposing a long-buried secret concerning a family friend to be a proud father, irrespective of its potential repercussions. He also apologizes to his young wife, Serena, in an emotional scene in which he doesn’t pretend to be a strong man. “[David] kind of steered Charlie to a little bit of humanity by the end, certainly with his son, and even with his young wife, he kind of gets to it. But that’s what makes it challenging, fun, and complicated, and not just ‘Here are the heroes and here are the villains,’” Jeff Daniels, who plays Croker, told Screen Rant about the changes.

The Real-Life Parallels

Even though Charlie Croker is a fictional character without a particular real-life counterpart, he resembles several Atlantans, starting with Mack Taylor. Perimeter Center, the edge city Taylor built within Metro Atlanta, resembles Croker’s empire in the 1998 novel and its television adaptation. Tom Cousins and his NationsBank Plaza (presently known as Bank of America Plaza) remind us of Croker and his beloved building, The Concourse. Cousins and Croker also love sports, as the former was once the owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. The fictional businessman’s football background can be paralleled with developer Kim King’s career as a quarterback.

King, like Croker, played football for Georgia Tech and was inducted into the institution’s illustrious Sports Hall of Fame. Croker is similar to Charlie Loudermilk, a renowned late Atlanta-based businessman, as they both attended Georgia Tech and sustained a severe knee injury. In Wolfe’s novel, the protagonist is a member of the Piedmont Driving Club. Interestingly, Taylor and Loudermilk were members of the same club while the author was researching for his novel. Croker’s affiliation with the High Museum of Art is noteworthy since Cousins is one of the directors of the establishment.

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