Boy Swallows Universe: Is Gus Based on Trent Dalton’s Real Brother?

In Netflix’s ‘Boy Swallows Universe,’ young Eli Bell finds himself in a turbulent whirlwind that keeps him on his toes as his life remains unpredictable. While he loves the adults around him— his mother, his stepfather, and the ex-convict father figure Slim Halliday— they are not as constant a presence in his life as he’d like. His brother, Gus, is the only one who stays by his side throughout all the good and bad, and this brings the brothers even closer. The characters in the story are based on real people that author Trent Dalton knew, which means the character of Gus is based on the people he holds close to his heart.

Gus Bell is the Amalgamation of Trent Dalton’s Brothers

Eli Bell in ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ is a fictionalized version of Trent Dalton, who created the character of Gus to represent his three brothers— Joel, Ben, and Jesse. The four brothers went through all the ups and downs that Eli and Gus witnessed, and no matter what the situation looked like or how hard it got for them, they stuck with each other through thick and thin. Trent took this strength of the relationship and the love that he shared with his brothers and poured it into the brotherhood between Eli and Gus.

Like Eli and Gus, Trent and his brothers lived with their mother and their stepfather, who was a drug dealer but still highly loved and respected by them. At a young age, they’d seen a lot of dark things, including their mother’s drug addiction and, later, her imprisonment. When their stepfather and mother were arrested and sent to prison, Trent and his brothers were put under the care of their father, Noel Dalton, who had his own demons.

Trent revealed that through all these changes in their lives, the brothers have always looked out for each other, especially for him because he was the youngest of them. He had nicknames for his brothers based on the role they had in his life. His eldest brother, Joel, was called King Arthur because he had the role of the protector. The author revealed that as a kid, he worshipped Joel, who always kept him in line. Even though the brothers were surrounded by dark things and all sorts of crimes, it was Joel who stopped them from crossing over into that world. Trent credits him for being the good influence that kept him and the others from falling to becoming criminals.

Trent’s second brother, Ben, was named Obi-One Kenobi because he was the one who guided him and advised him on the matters that would be a turning point in his life. His third brother, Jesse, was nicknamed Oscar Wilde because he introduced Trent to poetry, opened his mind to life’s bigger questions, and expanded the horizons of his mind. The brothers also introduced him to the secret escape room in their stepfather’s house, where they also found a red telephone. Years later, when Trent sat down to write his novel, the escape room and the red telephone became instrumental in creating the tone of the story.

Whatever happened in Trent’s life, he didn’t go through it alone. It happened to his brothers, too, which is why he found it important for them to read his book before it was sent out into the world. He didn’t want them to think he’d misrepresented things or hurt their emotions in another way. When Joel read the book, he stated how differently he and Trent viewed the things that they’d been through. Trent confesses that being the youngest, he might view things from a “romanticized” lens, while for Joel, who “carried the weight of it” more than any other brother, it was seen through a darker lens.

No matter what their perspectives might have been, the brothers gave their blessing to Trent, and when he wondered what their father would have thought about the book, Ben consoled him that their father would have loved it, just as the rest of the family did. Since its release, the book has become highly popular and made Trent Dalton a household name. His brothers, however, prefer their privacy and live out of the media spotlight. Trent respects their choice, and while he talks about their past, he doesn’t divulge anything about where his brothers are now and what they are up to these days.

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