Marlowe: Is the Thriller Movie Inspired by a True Story?

Set in 1993, Los Angeles ‘Marlowe’ is a crime thriller that centers on private detective Philip Marlowe (Liam Neeson). His credibility and reputation land him a wealthy client, an alluring heiress in search of her ex-lover. She entrusts Phillip with finding her lover, which takes the brooding detective into a world of lies, deceit, and chaos. Helmed by Neil Jordan, the movie offers a near-perfect depiction of sleuths with an engaging narrative. In case you’re wondering whether there was any grain of truth to the story, we’ve unraveled all the details for your curious mind. 

Marlowe is Based on John Banville’s Novel

No, ‘Marlowe’ is not based on a true story. The movie is inspired by John Banville’s novel, ‘The Black-Eyed Blonde,’ published under his pseudonym, Benjamin Black. The main character Philip Marlowe is the creation of Raymond Chandler, a novelist and screenwriter who is well-known for writing detective fiction. In an interview with Collider, Neil Jordan spoke about working with William Monahan and polishing his script that better suit a Hollywood storyline. He commented, “Well, it’s kind of terrifying because William had written all these wonderful dialogue scenes, and I normally direct my own stuff.”

He added, “If I don’t direct my own stuff, I normally rewrite it extensively. But in this case, I didn’t. What I added to it was basically the last third of the film, I would say is mine. Do you understand what I mean? It’s more mine than William’s, let’s put it that way. But William had written all these wonderful dialogue scenes. So as a director, I have to make them live, and I have to create this dance with the camera and the characters and the dialogue that he’s written. I have to make it not only live, but I have to make it make sense. It was quite a challenge, actually. Because normally, I do my own stuff.”

Neil also spoke about William’s dense dialogues and characterizations that embodied a subtle wittiness. He described the genre as “Chandler-esque,” brimming with old Hollywood references. Neil said it was challenging for him to work through the script, but nonetheless, he loved adding his flair to it. The director also mentioned how the setting of the movie did not match the current Los Angeles, so they recreated the aesthetic in Barcelona. The team used an abandoned paper factory in Barcelona by turning it into a studio.

He added that they felt restrained at the original location, but creating and inventing the world from the ground up elevated the movie’s visual appeal. In another interview with Collider, William Monahan praised the director’s choice of filming in Barcelona and spoke about why it was an interesting selection for the movie’s plotline. He said, “He had the genius idea to do 1939 Los Angeles in Barcelona, which still has the trolley tracks, and the old buildings, and its own relics of Spanish, colonial architecture, and looks a little otherworldly in the way that LA would’ve been at the time.” 

Monahan humbly hailed Raymond Chandler and John Banville as brilliant creators when asked to pitch the movie to the audience and give them a taste of the movie’s story. He stated, “So, John Banville is one of the world’s greatest novelists, and you’ve got one of the world’s greatest novelists doing a Raymond Chandler book. I went for that immediately, and it’s from a book called The Black-Eyed Blonde, and I called it simply Marlowe in the hope of a series. If you can imagine Liam Neeson as Philip Marlowe, I can. It’s one of those things that just hasn’t happened before.”

The movie is undoubtedly a work of fiction, but real life inspires these imaginations and becomes the source of a writer’s vision. Similarly, the movie’s central theme, which revolves around an influential woman hiring a private investigator to search for her lover, is not far from reality. Employing PIs to either spy on one’s partner to find any signs of infidelity or simply for a background check before the relationship culminates is rare but still present. 

As per reports, it is speculated that several celebrity couples have hired investigators to spy on their spouses. A slightly incident is of the late Olivia Newton-John, an Australian musician and actress, who reportedly hired investigators to find her ex-boyfriend Patrick McDermott. She seemingly revealed this in her autobiography titled, ‘Don’t Stop Believin.’ Her ex, Patrick, a Korean American cameraman, went on a fishing trip in Los Angeles and was never found again.

Since the incident, several sources have claimed to find Patrick, but the evidence was never substantial. Taking the aforementioned facts into account, we can state that ‘Marlowe’ is not a true story, but it doesn’t completely stray from reality. Needless to say, the realistic portrayal of the characters and dedication to perfecting the setting of that era has done wonders for the movie. 

Read More: Best Detective Movies of All Time