Is The Gray Man Based on a True Story? How is the Movie Different From the Book?

Image Credit: Stanislav Honzik/Netflix

Netflix’s ‘The Gray Man’ stars Ryan Gosling as the eponymous character. Best known as Six, he is forced to go rogue, when he discovers that the agency that he works for has fallen into the hands of corrupt people. While he tries to run away from it, things become personal when his mentor/father figure is used as leverage against him. There are a lot of action sequences in the film, balanced by delicate relationships, complex characters, and surprising twists. The plot is so thick that the film only manages to create a setup for a follow-up. Such intricate plotting is often derived from novels. Does this mean ‘The Gray Man’ seeks inspiration from a book? Let’s find out.

How is The Gray Man Movie Different From the Book?

‘The Gray Man’ isn’t inspired by a true story but is rather based on a book series of the same name by Mark Greaney, the first book published in 2009. With around a bunch of books to draw material from, the movie had a lot of characters and information at its disposal. Its central arc is based on the first book, however, there are a lot of things that have been changed in the adaptation.

The story begins with Sierra Six on the run from the CIA after he gets his hands on some incriminating evidence against Denny Carmichael. Lloyd Hansen is sent after him to retrieve the evidence and kill Six. In the first book as well, Lloyd Hansen is the person who chases Six. However, his motivation is very different from the one that drives Chris Evans’ character. In fact, book Hansen is not a ruthless private military contractor. He is a lawyer who is tasked with leading a team that hunts down Six, who is on the run after killing the Nigerian President’s brother.

The film also gives a different backstory to Six. In the movie, he is sent to prison after he kills his abusive father. In the books, however, they have an estranged relationship but no killing. In fact, Six’s father has a SWAT school where Six receives the training that helps him in the future when he is recruited by Fitzroy for the Sierra program. Still, Six did serve time in prison, and it was for killing three people who had nothing to do with his family.

One of the things that the film benefits from is creating a hierarchy where everyone is working for someone else. The mention of ‘the old man’ is dropped, who is pulling the strings of Carmichael. In the book, Carmichael turns out to be working for the Saudi Intelligence Service. While the movie keeps the old man’s identity a secret, it looks like the threat might be much closer to home. This is also supported by the fact that the first book doesn’t even have Carmichael and Suzanne. They are introduced in the later books when the backstory of Six has already developed a lot.

The film also places a connection between Carmichael, Suzanne, and Hansen. It turns out that the three of them went to college together and were recruited together too. They used to be friends, which is a common ground for their brutal ideologies of collateral damage. In the books, Hansen is gone long before Carmichael and Suzanne show up. Even then, we see that the three of them come from a different world, with their own set of challenges and enemies.

In the quest to give a fresh twist to the story, the movie also adds a couple of characters that weren’t in the books or were present in some other capacity at a later time. Ana de Armas’ character Dani Miranda doesn’t appear in the books. She is an original character created for the films because directors Anthony and Joe Russo wanted to rectify the situation of barely any strong female characters in the books. They were also careful not to reduce the character to a simple case of love interest.

The film also reduces the role of Fitzroy’s family. Claire becomes a driving force for Six, who returns time and again to save her from his enemies. The film relies heavily on the connection between them to further its plot. In the book, however, Hansen holds Fitzroy’s entire family captive in Normandy. It isn’t just his niece, but also his wife and children in need of saving by Six. The film condenses all of them into Claire, while also establishing a stronger connection between her and Six, to boost his motivation.

Considering all this, it is clear that the movie uses the books only as a pillar for character and universe building. With a strong foundation to stand on, it takes a lot of liberty in concocting new storylines and characters, which is what keeps things fresh for the audience, especially the fans of the books.

Read More: When and Where Does The Gray Man Take Place?