Hit Man: Is Jasper Based on a Real New Orleans Cop? Did Gary Johnson Really Kill Him?

‘Hit Man’ is a black comedy film directed by Richard Linklater, which dives into the life and adventures of a psychology professor, Gary Johnson, as he moonlights as an undercover hitman. After his colleague Jasper is suspended for his misconduct, Gary is handed the job out of the blue. As the latter excels in his new role, tensions flare between the two of them as they try to stake a claim for holding on to the job. Professional jealousy drives Jasper to keep a close eye on Gary’s every move, and it doesn’t take long for the latter to fall into a heap of trouble. Gary battles the disgraced New Orleans undercover cop’s schemes until the very end, only for Jasper to eventually get killed by the hitman and his love interest, Maddy! SPOILERS AHEAD.

Jasper is Not a Real New Orleans Cop

Jasper is a fictional New Orleans cop created by Richard Linklater and Glen Powell for ‘Hit Man.’ There is no mention of any officer who resembles Jasper in Skip Hollandsworth’s profile of Gary, published by Texas Monthly, which serves as the source material of the film. The character was created with a specific purpose: to add tension to an otherwise antagonist-free story. Jasper is an unhelpful and obstructive presence from the get-go. Even before Gary gets the job of an undercover hitman, their colleagues have given up on Jasper because of his aggressive nature. Also, in simple terms, he isn’t as good as Gary at getting convictions, as the latter proves to be a genius as an undercover agent.

Austin Amelio, who plays Jasper, told Esquire that the truculent cop was meant to be a sore itch that couldn’t easily be dealt with. “There’s a fine line—because it is a comedy—but this guy has a real objective. And it’s to be on the dude’s tail and figure out what’s going on.” Because there is no real-life counterpart to the character, Amelio found his inspiration on his own to ground the cop in the reality of Gary Johnson’s adventures. “The writing was there. When I saw [the role], there was this old rock ’n’ roll band member I was thinking of. And I was sort of thinking of Buffalo ’66, Vincent Gallo.”

Gallo, an American actor and filmmaker, resembles Jasper’s appearance in ‘Hit Man.’ Amelio went further in his approach to make Jasper a full-fledged character. As the troublesome presence and thorn in Gary’s side, he embodies a sketchy appearance inspired by people Amelio observed on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The look of the character, while superficial to some extent, reflects the internal machinations of his twisted intellect. As Gary gets wound up further and further into his lies and disguises in his job, Jasper is always there to keep a close eye on him and find an angle through which he can manipulate him. However, these dark, coercive games are only confined to the film’s fictional realm and do not have any bearing on reality.

Gary Johnson Did Not Kill Anyone

At the end of ‘Hit Man,’ Gary Johnson kills Jasper, as he asphyxiates the latter with a plastic bag over his head. This is a pivotal scene since it reflects Gary’s commitment to his girlfriend, Maddy, as both take on the burden of being killers. However, this is far from the reality. During his long career as an undercover hitman, Gary came across several would-be clients who wished death upon people close to them or people whose death would benefit them. As grueling as the task was, Gary never committed a single act of murder. His job was always confined to extracting information and evidence from these individuals to incriminate and incarcerate them.

In Hollandsworth’s profile, Gary described his job as revolving solely around communication skills. He did his job for the Harris County district attorney’s office. With his link to the law enforcement agency, it would be imprudent of him to meddle in the act of killing. “What I’m really there to do is assist people in their communication skills,” he told the journalist. “That’s all my job is—to help people open up, to get them to say what they really want, to reveal to me their deepest desires,” the fake hitman added.

So, even though Linklater and Powell heightened the stakes in the narrative by providing a climax in which Gary has to kill Jasper to ensure his and Maddy’s survival, the real-life experiences of the late undercover hitman were entirely different. Although he spent a lot of time around people with homicidal urges, he never hurt a colleague for his personal gain.

Read more: Hit Man: Did Gary Johnson and Maddy Masters End Up Together in Real Life? Did They Really Have Kids?