The Foreigner: Is the Movie Inspired by a Real People?

‘The Foreigner,’ a Jackie Chan & Pierce Brosnan starrer, is a 2017 political thriller film that revolves around the overlap between a father’s revenge plot and a nation’s pursuit of a terrorist organization. After a terrorist bombing in London leaves numerous dead, including 60-year-old Quan Ngoc Minh’s last surviving daughter, Fan, it launches an investigation into a group dubbed “Authentic IRA.” However, as the days pass by with no answers, Quan, with nothing left to live for, decides to unearth his skills from a long-buried past. His efforts led him to Ireland’s Deputy Minister, Liam Hennessy, a man with more secrets than he divulges.

The film presents an enthralling cat-and-mouse chase between a grieving but lethal father and a corrupt politician. With the primary storyline revolving around the socio-political tensions between Britain and Ireland and the subsequent terrorism born from it, the film utilizes the intense political backdrop to infuse its narrative with a sense of realism. Therefore, viewers are bound to wonder if the film has any true story behind it.

The Foreigner is an Adaptation of a 1992 Fictional Novel

The film is based on a 1992 novel ‘The Chinaman,’ written by Stephen Leather, and derives most of its inspiration from the same. Regardless of the obvious disparity between the novel and the film’s chronological setting, much of the story structure, characters, and plot sequences remain consistent between both stories. Nonetheless, screenwriter David Marconi, who had been working on the film since 2011, brought his unique perspective to the script, setting it apart from the novel.

In fact, it was Marconi’s idea to bring leading man Chan into the project. During a press conference for the film, Chan discussed who he’d started to feel typecasted into his roles lately. As such, even before ‘The Foreigner,’ Chan has been wanting to break out of his “action hero” mold in Hollywood and prove his skills as an actor.

Recalling his conversation with his manager regarding this film, Chan said, “A couple of years ago, suddenly, I got a phone call from my American manager. [He said] That’s the script. It’s called ‘The Foreigner,’ and he tells me the story. I said wow, yes, can I act in this [film]? He said the writer [Marconi] said only Jackie Chan [can play this role]. Otherwise, no one can act [in the film].” Concluding the story, the actor expressed his excitement at being offered the role, “I have been waiting for so many years [for such a role]!”

Marking Chan’s arrival into the grounded genre of political thriller, his character Quan certainly allows the actor to highlight another aspect of craft. Through Quan’s tormented father character, Chan expresses deep emotion, compelling viewers to empathize with his authentic plight.

Likewise, the film also benefits from the creative vision of Director Martin Campbell, best known for his previous collaboration with Brosnan that brought the iconic James Bond tale, ‘GoldenEye.’ In an interview with Monsters & Critics, Campbell discussed the details behind the story, steeped in IRA conspiracy and terrorism.

Having lived in London for 21 years, Campbell was no stranger to the IRA. “I was there while the IRA were doing their bombing campaign and everything else, so there was a certain element of that that attracted me to it [The Foreigner] because I knew a lot about the Irish and about the Irish problems,” said the Director.

As such, although the exact events that unfold within the narrative of ‘The Foreigner’ are fictionalized, they still have some roots in reality. For instance, the Authentic IRA terrorist group remains reminiscent of certain terrorist organizations, such as the New IRA, that have been suspects in numerous bombings across Britain and Northern Ireland.

Similarly, people familiar with Britain-Ireland politics will recognize Brosnan’s character, Liam Hennessy, to share a stark physical resemblance with an Irish politician, Gerry Addams. Like Hennessy, Addams also led the Sinn Féin party, and many claim Addams was a part of the IRA despite his vehement refusal. Nevertheless, regardless of this similarity, Hennessy’s character, like the rest of the film, is a work of fiction that only occasionally references real-life events or people.

Read More: The Foreigner Ending, Explained